Touro Law Students Provided Disaster Relief in Gulf Coast Region
Students Spent Winter Break in Louisiana and Mississippi Providing Legal Assistance
February 3, 2011
Central Islip, NY – Touro Law Students recently traveled to the Gulf Coast region to provide legal assistance to those in need. During the week of January 9, 2011 members of the Student Disaster Relief Network (SDRN) provided legal assistance to residents in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi. Both gulf coast regions have been devastated by hurricanes in recent years, and most recently by the BP oil spill. As a result of the disasters that recently befell this region, tens of thousands of regional residents have incurred financial ruin, and have been thrust into the need for civil legal assistance.
Two groups of SDRN students worked for local legal services organizations to provide civil legal assistance under the immediate supervision of local legal services attorneys. The students conducted legal research and analysis, client intake, attended court hearings, and provided other vital legal assistance to these overburdened legal service providers, all the while being exposed to the distinctions between Louisiana’s unique civil law-based legal system from the common law-based legal systems found in the other 49 states. The areas of law in which the students assisted range from major federal equal protection claims under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in an effort to reopen a Biloxi elementary school; to more direct client-based representation in social security appeals, family law issues, and landlord/tenant rights claims for residents of New Orleans; to assisting in community outreach and development, regarding a proposed expansion of the Port of Biloxi. The students' assistance was invaluable in relieving some of the strain that these legal services offices have been dealing with in the aftermath of the region's recent devastating events. Concurrently, the students improved the quality of services provided, and expedited the rate at which local residents are being served.
A third group of SDRN students worked with a local grassroots organization, "Common Ground". Under the guidance of faculty advisor, Jack Evans, Esq., the students provided legal assistance to the Algiers community of Orleans Parrish and the lower ninth ward through investigating claims of misappropriation of federal funds, and unlawful discriminatory practices by federally funded housing organizations. Further, the group examined the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Restoration Plan proposal, and inspected it in light of federal environmental laws for possible comment. Students also met with the National Wildlife Federation to gain more scientific and legal knowledge concerning this complex legal analysis. This group of dedicated students is continuing to assist in applying for funding to support the Algier's community cultural arts, and attempting to procure modern computers for the Algier's community center, which provides residents with GED courses as well as other educational, health, and social assistance.
“Touro Law students really made a difference through their efforts and volunteer work in the Gulf Coast region,” said Jack Evans, Esq. faculty advisor for the trip and staff attorney in Touro Law’s Public Advocacy Center. “It is wonderful to see so many students dedicated to advocating for the rights of underrepresented communities and individuals in this country, and using their specialized skills and knowledge to make a substantial positive impact.”
Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center’s 185,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is located adjacent to both a state and a federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York. Touro Law’s proximity to the courthouses, coupled with programming developed to integrate the courtroom into the classroom, provide a one-of-a kind learning model for law students, combining a rigorous curriculum taught by expert faculty with a practical courtroom experience. Touro Law, which has a student body of approximately 750 and an alumni base of more than 5,000, offers full- and part-time J.D. programs, several dual degree programs and graduate law programs for US and foreign law graduates. Touro Law Center is part of the Touro College system.
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Touro is a system of Jewish-sponsored non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was established in 1971 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American community. More than 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has branch campuses, locations and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem, Moscow, Paris and Florida. Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus, as well as Touro College Los Angeles, are separately accredited institutions governed in common by the same Board of Trustees as Touro College.
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