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Jonathan Thomas ’24L Selected for Equal Justice Works Fellowship Jonathan Thomas, a member of the Law Class of 2024, has been chosen for a 2022 Disaster Resilience Program Fellowship through Equal Justice Works.

JonathanThomas-800x533 Jonathan Thomas '24L Selected for Equal Justice Works FellowshipJonathan Thomas ’24L

Jonathan Thomas, a member of the Law Class of 2024, has been chosen for a 2022 Disaster Resilience Program (DRP) Student Fellowship through Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law.

The DRP program mobilizes full-time lawyers and law students to provide free civil legal aid in disaster-prone areas of the country to ensure vital legal services are accessible to rebuild and stabilize communities. Thomas will be working remotely with Disability Rights Louisiana on a summer project to serve Louisianans with disabilities who were impacted by disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida.

Thomas’s work so far has involved researching the obligations and authorities of federal, state, parish, and municipal officials and agencies in the event of a disaster or emergency, such as when a government agency or official might be compelled to order an evacuation and whether the government can be held liable at any level for their acts or omissions during a declared state of emergency.

“I have also just finished a preliminary outline concerning whether the state or municipal government has the ability to forcibly remove people from their homes during a declared state of emergency despite there being no imminent emergency or threat of harm,” said Thomas. “My supervisor was quite interested by my findings, so in the coming week, I’ll likely be looking deeper into some issues of liability and constitutionality regarding potentially improper forced evacuations.”

Thomas says his research could lead to working with people who have been subjected to such action and could have real ramifications moving forward.

“I enjoy the work, and appreciate what my supervisors at DRLA have already taught me,” he added.

Thomas is one of eight law students who will spend eight to ten weeks during the summer working alongside DRP staff to help underserved communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Students are working on projects based in California and New Mexico in addition to Louisiana.

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