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December 23, 2006

D.C. Circuit to Katrina Victims: Merry Christmas. Now Go Jump in a Lake.

Thanks to the D.C. Circuit Court, and it's nose-thumbing response to last week's ruling that FEMA honor its promise on housing assistance, thousands of dispersed Hurricane Katrina victims will remain uprooted from their homes at their own expense -- at least for the next three months.

The ruling suspends Judge Richard Leon's order, which had included a strong admonition of FEMA's "kafka-esque" bureaucracy, and the charge that the agency's confusing, contradictory instructions to evacuees were an unconstitutional hindrance to appealing the denial of housing payments. So, FEMA gets to pop the champagne corks until a trial over the payments begins in March. The circuit court relented on only one aspect of Leon's ruling -- that FEMA clear up the language of the original instructions. Nice gesture. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate into needed dollars, and so, the evavuees remain in limbo and in dire straits. Considering that thousands of Louisianans spent Thanksgiving in temporary trailers, Christmas should be a lot of fun. And this week New Orleans is again under water, due to heavy rains that overflowed pump systems still not properly repaired since the hurricane.

What chance is there that the circuit court will ultimately rule in favor of the people, instead of the bureacracy? Part of the answer may be found by looking at the bios of those who serve on the court. Its current makeup reflects a tilt to the right, with both the conservative and (somewhat) liberal judges racking up an impressive array of judicial and prosecutorial experience. The one glaring exception is Janice Rogers Brown, whose appalling display of intellectual vacuity during her Senate confirmation hearings is cause for concern. People for the American Way and the NAACP offer details on her judicial history that reinforce the impression of a woman zealously tied to extreme views of libertarianism and the rights of corporations over citizens. If her lone dissents on rent control and displacement of low-income residents in California are any kind of a bellwether for her vote in the upcoming FEMA case, I'm guessing that social service agencies in the towns where evacuees now hang their hats may start to see a deluge of pleas for help.

And New Orleans? It's entirely possible the city's population will remain where it is -- at less than half of its original number. Heckuva job, FEMA. And, oh yeah -- Merry Christmas.

Update: The D.C. Circuit Court website doesn't allow direct linking to the bios. Click the supplied hyperlink to their home page, then click on "judges and managers" and then click on the bios.

Posted by shoephone on December 23, 2006 at 03:46 PM | Permalink

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