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FEMA Trailer Evictions Stopped; Court Ruling in McWaters Class Action against FEMA

Thursday, June 22, 2006

  • Organization: Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Source: New York

The following two important developments in FEMA disaster relief assistance cases happened this week:

(1) As reported in the New York Times and LA Times, FEMA has suspended eviction actions against some 400+ applicants in FEMA trailers in Mississippi while it re-evaluates their eligibility. Lawyers' Committee and other continue to urge reforms in how FEMA is proceeding, particularly FEMA's failure to clearly explain its determination and provide guidance to applicants about how to challenge erroneous evictions.

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/22/us/22trailers.html

LA Times:
http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-na-trailer21jun21,1,973791.story?coll=l&ctrack=1&cset=true


(2) The class action McWaters v. FEMA case received our decision from the District Court last Friday; a copy of the opinion is available at www.FEMAanswers.org <http://www.femaanswers.org/> . Basically, the decision reached the landmark conclusion that FEMA was amenable to suit for failing to perform its mandatory duties under the Stafford Act to the extent it failed to provide aid impartially and fairly, and for violations of Constitutional rights. The judge found two ways in which FEMA had breached these obligations (including its requirement that families apply for SBA loans prior to receiving transitional housing assistance), but rejected plaintiffs' other claims. However, there was significant dicta criticizing unwise, cruel and ineffective FEMA policies that the Court proposed Congress could address.

For those interested in media coverage of the decision, a blurb in the Washington Post highlights the choice parts of the opinion where the federal judge criticizes FEMA's shortcomings:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/21/AR2006062101793.html

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