New Mexico Lawyers Mobilizing to Provide Free Legal Assistance to Fire Victims

The State Bar of New Mexico has two disaster response teams trained to provide legal assistance in disasters such as the Cerro Grande Fire in northern New Mexico and the Cree Fire in southern New Mexico, and the Bar is ready to activate its emergency plan. At the current time, a volunteer lawyer network is being organized and will be deployed when appropriate.

Following the immediate emergency, and at such time as residents and businesses are ready to deal with the aftermath of the disaster, volunteer attorneys will be prepared and available to assist in a number of ways. Initially, lawyers can provide free legal assistance to those residents who have been displaced and who have lost property.

"The emotional distress that occurs in a tragedy of this nature makes it difficult for victims and their families to make informed decisions about matters of pressing importance," said Stephen E. Doerr, president of the State Bar. "We urge caution to those who may be vulnerable during the disaster, and the State Bar will provide pro bono (free) legal assistance during this time of distress."

In addition, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar, in cooperation with the American Bar Association and FEMA, may also join forces to mobilize volunteer attorneys to implement a disaster legal assistance program to address immediate legal problems on-site at designated FEMA centers when and if those services are requested by a FEMA Regional Director.

In the meantime, the State Bar has offered to set-up another phone bank for the American Red Cross, and is collecting monetary donations from its members to contribute to the fire relief effort. Lawyers and other interested individuals may contribute to the fund by making checks payable to the "State Bar Fire Relief Fund," account number 1351339582 to deposit at any Wells Fargo Bank nationwide, or mail checks to Charlie Wilkinson-macs4500-050, Wells Fargo Bank NM, P.O. Box 1081, Albuquerque, NM 87103-1081, c/o account #1351339582.

While the State Bar offices cannot provide legal advice to individuals, its staff may be able to answer general questions or to provide other assistance and resources, according to State Bar Executive Director Cheryl Bruce. For more information, call the State Bar offices at 797-6099, 797-6050 or 797-6032.