Ernest B. Abbott

Of Counsel
901 K Street, N.W.
Suite 900
Washington, District of Columbia 20001
T: 202.508.3425
F: 202.220.2225

Ernest Abbott, of counsel in the Firm's Washington, D.C. office, concentrates his practice in the areas of emergency management and disaster recovery. Mr. Abbott has extensive experience with the laws, regulations, policies and procedures relating to eligibility for federal disaster and mitigation assistance, the coordination of federal, state, local, non-profit and private sector responders in catastrophic events, and the elements of the National Flood Insurance Program, including insurance, floodplain mapping and floodplain management. Mr. Abbott assists his clients with issues pertaining to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program, homeland security, the Hazard Mitigation Disaster Grant Program, flood insurance rate maps, public health emergency laws, disallowance and Office of Inspector General (OIG) audits. He is well versed in the administrative appeals process under FEMA's Public Assistance program, and he regularly represents applicants for public assistance in the arbitration process promulgated by Section 601 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Mr. Abbott is a former general counsel of FEMA. In that role, he managed all FEMA regulatory development and coordinated the legislative program for all FEMA agencies. He led expedited development of regulations to implement the Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Act, which created a new $500 million FEMA compensation program. Mr. Abbott developed and implemented an integrated litigation and regulatory program to protect the National Flood Insurance Program from punitive damage awards. He also created the FEMA Office of Dispute Resolution in the Office of General Counsel, which received special mention by the Justice Department. He has extensive regulatory experience with the management of critical infrastructure.

Prior to his role at FEMA, Mr. Abbott worked as managing deputy general counsel of a $3 billion diversified natural gas company, where he led negotiations on a 275 billion cubic-foot international natural gas purchase contract and on the gas processing and liquids transportation aspects of the $500 million sale of a gas liquids business. He has experience in toxic tort litigation and environmental corporate compliance programs. Mr. Abbott has also worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Publications & Speaking Engagements

  • Presenter – "Disasters and Public Health Emergencies on Campus – Planning and Preparing for New and Emerging Risks," Baker Donelson Webinar, September 16, 2015
  • Moderator – "National Response and Recovery Framework: Legal Considerations in Emergency Management," 10th Annual ABA Homeland Security Law Institute, Washington, D.C., August 27 – 28, 2015
  • Presentation – "Ensuring Reimbursement by FEMA," American Public Power Association' 2015 National Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 9, 2015 
  • Panelist – 2015 National Hurricane Conference in Austin, Texas, on FEMA's Public Assistance Program, March 2015
  • Author – "Flood Insurance and Climate Change: Rising Sea Levels Challenge the NFIP," Fordham Environmental Law Review, Volume XXVI, Symposium 2014, No. 1 
  • Co-author – "Court Orders FEMA to Reinstate $21.8 Million in Federal Disaster Assistance Funds," Baker Donelson FEMA Law Alert, October 2, 2014 
  • Presentation – "Update on De-obligation of FEMA Funding," National League of Cities, September 9, 2014
  • Facilitator – Hospital Executives and Disasters: A Stakeholder Meeting, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthcare Preparedness Activity and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, November 2013
  • Panelist – "Disasters: Thinking About the Unthinkable," American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law, Section of Litigation, Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness, October 2013
  • Review of "Disaster Law," in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, BEPress, 2011
  • Author – "An Electric Cooperative's Introduction to FEMA," The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 2012 (first edition 2003)
  • Co-author – "Homeland Security and Emergency Management for State and Local Governments: A Legal Guide (2nd Edition)" ABA Press, 2010; 1st Ed., 2005
  • Author – "Law, Emergencies, and the Constitution: A Review of Outside the Law: Emergency and Executive Power," Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (Vol. 7 [2010], No. 1, Article 17)
  • Ernest B. Abbott and Douglas Brosnan, "Legislative Authorities and Regulatory Issues", in K. Koenig and C. Schultz (ed.), "Disaster Medicine," (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Program Coordinator, Report Author – "The Law and Catastrophic Disasters: Legal Issues in the Aftermath," Institute for Public Safety and Justice of the University of the District of Columbia, 2009
  • Keynote Speaker – Symposium on Public Health Emergencies and California Law, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 2009
  • Author – "Constitutional and Legal Tensions in Disaster Law," St. Louis University Law School, 2008
  • Presentation – "Contracting Following a Disaster," ABA Public Contract Law Section, 2008
  • Presentation – "Floods, Flood Insurance, Litigation, Politics and Catastrophe: The National Flood Insurance Program", The Sea Grant Law and Policy Inaugural Symposium, The University of Mississippi School of Law, Oxford, Mississippi, 2008
  • Author – "Floods, Flood Insurance, Litigation, Politics and Catastrophe: the National Flood Insurance Program," University of Mississippi Sea Grant Law & Policy Journal, Summer 2008
  • Author – "Law, Federalism, the Constitution, and Control of Pandemic Flu," Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, Summer 2008
  • Keynote Speaker – "Why Care About Law and Lawyers in Public Health Emergencies?" Public Health Emergency Law Training Program, Connecticut Department of Health, 2007
  • Author – Review of "Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security," Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, BEPress, 2007
  • Co-author – "Hurricane Katrina Task Force Report," American Bar Association White Paper, February 2006
  • Co-author – "Public Health Emergency Law," Public Health Law in Public Health Practice, Oxford Press, 2nd Ed., 2006
  • Author – "FEMA Guidebook For Public Power Managers," American Public Power Association, 2006
  • Presentation – "Legal Trends in Emergency Management and FEMA Appeals," International Association of Emergency Managers, Orlando, Florida, 2006
  • Presentation – "Lawyers, Disasters, and Federalism," Edwin L. Crawford Lecture on Municipal Law, Albany Law School, 2006
  • Presentation – "A Short History of the Development and Operations of FEMA," Rural Electric Statewide Managers Association. Phoenix, Arizona, 2005
  • Announcer, Moderator, and Content Director – "Are You Ready? What Lawyers Need to Know About Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery," ABA Center of Continuing Legal Education and ABA Section of State and Local Government Law, 2005
  • Co-author – "A Checklist for State and Local Government Attorneys to Prepare for Possible Disasters," 37 Urban Lawyer 489, 2005
  • Co-editor – "A Legal Guide to Homeland Security and Emergency Management for State and Local Governments," ABA Press, 2005 and author or co-author of various chapters
  • Author – "Representing Local Governments in Catastrophic Events: DHS/FEMA Response and Recovery Issues," 37 Urban Lawyer 467, 2005
  • Author – "Homeland Security in the 21st Century: New Inroads on the State Police Power," 36 Urban Lawyer 837, Fall 2004
  • Author – "Availability of Disaster Assistance from FEMA: Health Care Emergencies," K.J. Mcglown (Ed.) Terrorism & Disaster Management: Preparing Healthcare Leaders for the New Reality, 2004
  • Author – Book Review of "Terrorism, Freedom, and Security: Winning Without War," Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, BEPress, 2004
  • Author – "Final Report on Legal Issues": Appendix A of study prepared for the FEMA on "Evaluation of Alternatives in Obtaining Structural Elevation Data," July 2003
  • Author – "Limiting Liability When Warning About Risks," Seismic Risk Communication Conference of Western States Seismic Council, 2001
  • Author – "Laws and Lawyers: Enabling Coordination," NATO Partnership for Peace Seminar on Legal Issues in International Emergency Management, Stockholm, 2000

Professional Honors & Activities

  • Professorial Lecturer in Law, Disaster Law Course – George Washington Law School, Washington D.C., 2011 – present
  • Editorial Board Member – Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM), 2008 – present
  • Member – American Bar Association
    • Special Advisor – Special Committee on Disaster Response and Recovery, 2006 – present
    • Council Member – Section of State and Local Government Law, 2003 – 2007 and Chair of its Committee on Emergency Management and Homeland Security, 2002 – 2009
    • Chair – Multi-Section Task Force on Homeland Security, 2005 – 2007
    • Member – Hurricane Katrina Task Force, 2005 – 2006
  • Associate Member – National Emergency Management Association
    • Private Sector Liaison, Legal Committee
  • United States Soccer Federation
    • Referee, 1989 – present
    • Associate Referee Instructor, 2003 – 2014
  • Cathedral Choral Society
    • President
    • Chair of Music and Program Committee of the Board of Trustees
    • Second Bass
  • Great Falls United Methodist Church
    • Treasurer, 2002 – 2006
    • Chair, Personnel Committee, 1997 – 2001
  • Trustee – Arlington Temple United Methodist Church, 2007 – present


  • District of Columbia Bar, 1977
  • Massachusetts Bar, 1977
  • Texas Bar, 1985


  • Harvard University School of Law, J.D., 1976, magna cum laude
  • Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, M.P.P., 1976
  • Swarthmore College, B.A., 1972, with high honors