Houston's flooded streets due to Hurricane Harvey. Photo: IrinaK/Shutterstock.com

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced the formation of a task force to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and to assist Houston-area courts in their recovery.

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order temporarily allowing lawyers from other states to provide assistance to needy clients through legal aid, pro bono programs and bar associations.

The task force will be co-chaired by John Kiernan, president of the New York City Bar and a senior litigation partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, and Sharon Katz, the special counsel for pro bono at Davis Polk & Wardwell.

The New York State Task Force on Legal Assistance Related to Hurricane Harvey will work with the Texas government and the legal community to “coordinate the pro bono efforts of New York legal volunteers to best address the needs of Texans affected by the storm, who may require help with home insurance claims, FEMA benefits, mortgage matters and other pressing legal issues,” a news release from the New York State Unified Court System said.

Members of the taskforce will also help Houston-area courts by offering technical assistance, and will “coordinate with Texas court administrators to help meet the increased public safety demands faced by Houston-area courts in the storm’s aftermath, standing ready to send a contingent of uniformed officers from New York to fill in for their Texas counterparts who may need time off to sort out their own losses and other hurricane-related issues,” according to the release,

Late last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered New York Air National Guard personnel and aircraft to assist Texas and Louisiana as flooding from Hurricane Harvey continued to pummel the region (NYLJ Aug 28).

Lawyers who worked on Hurricane Sandy-related litigation anticipate an influx of cases related to insurance claims and flooding to inundate the federal court system in the Houston area (NYLJ Aug. 30).

With Hurricane Irma pounding the Caribbean on Wednesday morning with winds reportedly above 150 miles per hour and the possibility that it may make landfall in Florida this weekend, a spokesman for DiFiore left the door open for a similar task force for Hurricane Irma victims if needed.