Quote of the Day - I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.
Did you know you're entitled to federal disaster relief if you've been a victim of a disaster? New Orleans Federal Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. thinks so. A property interest, that is. Presumably given that ruling, if the federal government failed to provide disaster relief, then victims would be entitled to file an eminent domain case against the government.
Admittedly, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was the defendant in the class action suit filed last year by thirteen homeowners whose homes had been destroyed but not received any disaster relief, so victory was probably a foregone conclusion. No one in the country wants to see the government abuse citizens like that, especially since we all pay taxes to provide just that kind of assistance.
But a property right?
MIPTC is unaware of any other case ruling that victims are entitled to federal benefits, and hasn't been able to find this opinion online. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, most taxpayers would assume FEMA freely made payments to people who suffered losses, so while we may think victims are entitled, most would likely not assume the right to financial assistance was automatic. FEMA argued its decisions whether to award financial assistance was discretionary, and it was immune from suit based on sovereignty. It also argued victims were required to first apply for small business loans and meet other criteria before receiving free financial aid.
Judge Duval's ruling also recognized FEMA had provided sufficient due process to the victims, but elevated disaster assistance to a property right. MIPTC applauds the court for sticking up for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and later FEMA, but wonders whether this determination went too far. You can bet we'll see an appeal of this case, and this property interest portion of the ruling will be overturned.