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Local legal aid commended for work with Gita victims

American Samoa Legal Aid staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Bar Association (ABA) has commended the American Samoa Legal Aid (ASLA) for its work in helping survivors of Tropical Storm Gita, which impacted the territory in February this year.

“The work of the ASLA has never been more needed and applauded,” wrote association president Robert M. Carlson in a Nov. 7th letter to ASLA executive director Fainu’ulelei L.P.F Ala’ilima-Utu, on behalf of the American Bar Association.

Carlson said he learned of ASLA’s “dedicated involvement” through the ABA Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program.

He points out that the “prominent role” of the ASLA in the disaster relief outreach enabled many in American Samoa to be educated on resources available to disaster survivors. Additionally, the ASLA has not only risen to the occasion but also gone that extra mile to provide the legal assistance to those most in need in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Gita.

“You have brought light and hope to your clients as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives,” he points out. “Your work makes you a role mode for others in the legal profession.”

In a brief statement on Wednesday this week, Ala’ilima-Utu explained that ASLA’s  Gita  disaster  legal  services  program  was  a  joint  effort  among  ASLA,  ABA  Young  Lawyers  Division  Disaster  Legal  Services,  Pro  Bono  Net,  Legal  Services  Corporation  and  other  ASLA  Partners. 

On  behalf  of  the  ASLA  board  and  management, he thanked  ASLA’s  staff  for  their  hard  work  in  assisting  Gita  victims  with  their  direct  appeals  to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

Furthermore,  ASLA  is  grateful  to  the   many  stateside  volunteer  attorneys  who  ASLA  and  ABA  referred  FEMA  and  SBA  appeals  to  for  filing. 

“We  are  humbled  by  the  ABA  President’s  recognition  and  commendation  of  ASLA’s  work,  which  I  understand  is  being  used  as  a  model  by  another  legal  aid  program  in  a  U.S.  territory,” he said.

In the aftermath of Gita, the ASLA and its partners provided free legal and recovery assistance to affected residents. It also held meetings and outreach to explain legal service available to help impacted residents.

Samoa News had heard from some residents impacted by the storm of the “excellent free legal service” provided by ASLA and its partners, that help residents make recovery efforts less painful to a family. (More info on ASLA on: