Leslie Turk

Neuner named Distinguished Alumnus for hurricane work

by Leslie Turk

In large part due to his efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Laborde & Neuner Managing Partner Frank Neuner Jr., a 1976 LSU Law Center graduate, has been named the 2008 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

Neuner will be honored Thursday, Oct. 30, at a ceremony in New Orleans, joining the likes of former U.S. Sens. Russell Long and J. Bennett Johnston and two Acadiana-area recipients -- former U.S. Sen. John Breaux in 2000 and Patrick A. Juneau Jr. in 2006. The award is given annually to an alumnus who exemplifies the highest quality and ethical standards of the legal profession and also recognizes personal and professional achievements.

In the days, weeks, and months after the 2005 storms, the welfare of the Louisiana legal system was probably not one of the concerns keeping people awake at night. Yet Katrina’s reach did extend that far, displacing lawyers and affecting those who needed legal aid. Lafayette had escaped the carnage of Hurricane Katrina and shortly thereafter, Hurricane Rita. Seeing a need in the legal community, Neuner and his associates stepped up.

“My law firm was up and running. We had available office space, and we were able to house most of the [Louisiana State Bar Association] here at our office for more than two months following Hurricane Katrina,” Neuner says. “I also realized that more than half of the practicing lawyers in the state were displaced from their homes and offices for more than 30 days after the storm.

“I saw a real need to assist them with communication and eventually with small stipends to get them back on their feet.”

Says Lafayette attorney Jim Roy, who also graduated from the LSU Law Center in 1976 and is a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors: “For more than three months, I’d be surprised if the majority of Frank’s waking hours, seven days a week, weren’t spent on helping lawyers and preserving an effective legal system.”

Neuner was recently appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal to chair the Public Defender Board, continuing to improve the criminal justice system throughout the state with a primary emphasis on New Orleans and other areas affected by the two devastating storms.