National Law Journal Recognizes Weil's Pro Bono Efforts For Sandy Victims, Described As Truly Heroic By Legal Aid Chief Attorney

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP was recognized by the National Law Journal for its outstanding pro bono efforts on behalf of 1,000 children and adults left homeless after Hurricane Sandy. Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, described Weil's work as "truly heroic."

Weil served as pro bono co-counsel with the Society in a class action against the City to prevent these Sandy evacuees from becoming homeless when the City decided to summarily terminate a program to house the families and individuals in hotels until they could return to their prior housing or relocate to alternative housing. Together with the Society, Weil also helped Sandy victims secure federal disaster relief rental assistance to obtain alternative permanent housing.

The National Law Journal
Aid for the Homeless After Sandy
By Jenna Greene
January 6, 2014

When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, Weil, Gotshal & Manges lawyers sprang into action. Its lawyers led the way in helping storm victims secure relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, then teamed up with the Legal Aid Society to file a class action against the city of New York that prevented about 1,000 people left homeless by Sandy from being cast out on the streets.

"Very gratifying" is how litigation partner Konrad Cailteux described the project, which has involved more than 80 lawyers firmwide. "When you do this type of work, you're dealing with individuals — it's their lives. They're going to be homeless if you don't help them."

Weil lawyers honed their FEMA expertise following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when they helped pro bono clients in the Gulf region obtain federal relief. When Sandy hit New York on Oct. 29, 2012, firm lawyers were already up to speed on the ins and outs of working with FEMA.

They put that expertise to use, helping more than 40 pro bono clients appeal denials of FEMA aid. They offered a free training session that was broadcast nationally on Pro Bono Net to teach any interested lawyers outside the firm how to handle FEMA appeals. After the storm, authorities relocated some displaced New York families to hotel rooms. But on April 27, 2013, city officials announced that hotel rental assistance for nearly 200 families would be cut off in three days. Another 292 households would lose the assistance in May.

A team of Weil lawyers led by Cailteux along with lawyers from Legal Aid worked through the weekend, and on Monday, April 29, they filed a lawsuit in New York state court.

They asked for an immediate temporary restraining order suspending the evictions to give the families a chance to look for alternative housing. They won the order, followed by an injunction that remained in place until September, giving the families a chance to make other arrangements.

Michael Cardozo, former New York City corporation counsel who worked on the other side of the case, said in an email that the program was "never intended to be a permanent solution." Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society, called Weil's efforts "truly heroic."