In response to the growing need for legal resources by Hurricane Sandy victims, Touro Law Center has launched a disaster relief clinic.
Visiting professor Benjamin Rajotte, recently hired as the clinic's director, is working with students to represent clients pro bono. They are providing legal help with insurance claims, environmental remediation, government assistance, insurance and consumer fraud concerns, and other storm-related legal matters. Students working in the clinic interview and counsel clients, negotiate on their behalf and prepare cases for presentation to courts.
Many of the clients are referrals from the school's hurricane emergency assistance and referral hotline, a free service for individuals and small businesses the school started with the Suffolk County Bar Association in the days after Sandy. The hotline has received more than 500 calls and emails since the Oct. 29 storm, mostly from Long Island residents.
"The legal questions are getting more complicated," Touro Law Center Dean Patricia Salkin said in an interview. "Now the issues that are coming in require more interaction and advocacy on clients' behalf and may ultimately result in litigation."
This semester Rajotte is also teaching a course on disaster law, open to all Touro Law students.
The clinic is funded through donations totaling $130,000 so far. Of that, $80,000 came from the Robin Hood Foundation's Sandy-specific relief fund, and $50,000 came from Reva and Martin Oliner. Mr. Oliner, an international tax attorney, is a member of Touro College's executive board and has taught at the law school.