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Katrina Victims in Baton Rouge Obtain Court Order Authorizing Continued Stay in Hotel; Capitol Area Legal Services Provides Assistance to Victims

Friday, October 28, 2005

  • Brennan Center's Legal Services E-lert
  • Source: Katrina (Decommissioned)
Seven families who fled the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina will have a roof over their heads and a place to sleep after obtaining a preliminary injunction against the hotel where they have been staying. The management at Crestwood Suites in Baton Rouge told the families that they would have to leave to make room for guests willing to pay "football rates," equal to roughly three times the rates paid by the evacuees with their Red Cross vouchers.

With help from LSC grantee Capitol Area Legal Services Corporation (CALSC) of Louisiana, the families obtained a preliminary injunction against the hotel from a state district court judge, and the hotel's management announced that it would continue accepting the vouchers and would allow the families to remain indefinitely. The plaintiffs had claimed that the hotel could not evict them because they had prepaid for the month of October, and because Governor Kathleen Blanco had issued a statewide stay of all legal proceedings until October 25. Relatedly, now that the governor has lifted the stay, Louisiana residents are facing a different sort of storm. Landlords promptly posted notices to vacate on the doors of abandoned homes in New Orleans after the stay elapsed: "It's a tough situation right now because of the huge increase of folks from Katrina in Baton Rouge," says Jeffrey Wittenbrink, a supervising attorney with CALSC who helped represent the families. "We want people to know that legal help is available. Hurricane victims certainly are not in the position to pay a lawyer to protect their rights. They've already been through enough tragedy."

After Katrina hit, CALSC attorneys joined other legal aid attorneys in Louisiana to form the Hurricane Katrina Housing Taskforce. California and Florida attorneys with extensive experience providing legal assistance to low-income people in the wake of earthquakes and hurricanes trained Wittenbrink and other CALSC attorneys to help evacuees handle housing problems.

Adrian Angelette, Judge Blocks Try by Hotel to Evict Storm Evacuees, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), Oct. 21, 2005, at 13A; also based on original reporting by Brennan Center Staff.
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