A Year Later: Victims of Sandy Still Struggling with Legal Issues Stemming from Superstorm's Arrival in N.J.

Top Quote Newark-Based Volunteer Lawyers for Justice Providing Critical Pro Bono Legal Aid to Storm Victims Around the State. End Quote
  • Newark, NJ (1888PressRelease) October 26, 2013 - Although almost a year has passed since Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey residents are still dealing with its wrath. For many, that includes struggling with legal issues directly related to the epic storm including insurance matters, FEMA appeals, and contractor disputes, among others. Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) established its Disaster Legal Response Program (DLRP) shortly after the storm hit to provide critical legal assistance to victims. VLJ's DLRP includes legal aid clinics and extended representation for those who qualify.

    One such N.J. resident is a small business owner whose deli was flooded during Sandy, forcing her to close its doors. She applied for federal unemployment benefits, but was denied. After her landlord advised that he was not certain whether the building in which her deli operated could reopen, she indicated on her application to appeal the decision that she was unsure if she planned to seek new employment. Consequently, she was denied benefits for failure to seek new employment in a timely fashion. This small business owner was matched with a volunteer attorney through VLJ, who successfully argued that it was unreasonable to expect her to look for a job at that time, and that she had been wrongfully denied unemployment benefits. VLJ's client ultimately received all of the benefits she was owed.

    "The client expressed to VLJ how grateful she was to have someone represent her, and emphasized how helpful, committed and caring her volunteer was," said Jessica Limbacher, Esq., staff attorney with VLJ's DLRP. "She couldn't have asked for a better outcome."

    Free Legal Clinics

    During the last year, VLJ has hosted free legal clinics in Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Monmouth and Ocean Counties. In total, VLJ has held more than 50 clinics and provided legal advice to 275 clinic attendees. For a list of upcoming clinics this fall and winter, visit http://www.vljnj.org/.

    Volunteer attorneys are from top law firms and businesses. Those include Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP; Duane Morris LLP; Gibbons P.C.; Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, PC; Hewlett-Packard Company; Jackson Lewis LLP; McCarter & English LLP; Patton Boggs LLP; Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti LLP; and UBS Financial Services, Inc. VLJ is honoring these "Heroes of Sandy" at its annual Arts & Eats for Justice Gala on December 3.

    "Our volunteers have provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal aid to victims through our Disaster Legal Response Program. These efforts will continue and expand with the aim of resolving legal matters for those continuing to be affected by the storm," added Karen Sacks, Esq., founding executive director of VLJ.

    One such volunteer attorney is Adam Budesheim, Esq., an associate in the Newark office of McCarter & English LLP. Since last December, Budesheim has volunteered at six clinics in Hoboken, assisting 18 participants from the city and nearby areas. At McCarter, Budesheim focuses his legal practice on insurance.

    "I immediately knew many N.J. residents would face insurance issues stemming from Sandy and that my experience, and that of other attorneys, would be of value to storm victims," said Budesheim.

    All Sandy victims with legal issues in New Jersey stemming from the storm, regardless of their income and assets, are eligible to meet with a volunteer attorney at the legal clinics for advice and/or brief service. Clients needing extended representation are screened for financial eligibility, and VLJ will attempt to locate a volunteer attorney for those who qualify. The DLRP's toll-free main line is (855) 301-2525.

    A statewide 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, VLJ works to ensure fair and equal treatment within the legal system. Programs include free legal counsel and advice, educational seminars on various legal matters, and direct representation for at-risk individuals facing critical civil legal issues.

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