Touro Law Disaster Clinic, Formed in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy, Leading National Effort to Provide Legal Help to Harvey VictimsAugust 31, 2017
Within hours after Superstorm Sandy unleashed its fury on Long Island in October 2012, Touro Law Center, based in Central Islip, NY, launched the Touro Law Center Hurricane Emergency Assistance and Referral Team (TLC-HEART), a hotline staffed by legal experts to provide free help to local residents and small businesses affected by the storm. That effort soon grew into the school’s full-time Disaster Relief Clinic, which has since handled over 1600 cases and recovered over $4 million for Sandy victims. The clinic is one of only a handful in the country that specializes in emergency legal response to natural disasters.
Now that effort is paying off 1,700 miles away, as Touro faculty and students are using the expertise hard won in the Sandy catastrophe to organize efforts to relieve the suffering in Houston and surrounding communities. Led by Disaster Relief Clinic Director Melissa Luckman, the clinic is coordinating legal response to Harvey with the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a national non-profit that provides civil legal aid for low-income Americans. The effort will focus on the three law schools based in Houston (University of Houston, South Texas College of Law and Thurgood Marshall), and also involve law schools from around the country, as well as volunteer attorneys from the ABA Disaster Legal Services team, of which Luckman is a member.
Luckman, a 2010 Touro Law grad, has been with the Disaster Relief Clinic since 2015, and took over as Director the following year. Her advice to victims in the immediate aftermath of the storm is, “Returning home after a storm is emotionally devastating. Unfortunately, homeowners don’t have much time to grieve before they must take immediate action to ensure they are protected from fraud and also to prepare for filing both homeowners and flood insurance claims. Once it is safe to go back home, photograph everything. Do not throw out anything until a photograph or video is taken of the entire property. This is a must, and can make or break a flood insurance payment. Homeowners will also be advised to take out Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans. These loans have both pros and cons, so it is imperative to research thoroughly before you sign anything. Lastly, storm-chasers will start showing up in flooded neighborhoods. Beware of “contractors” who knock on your door and offer to charge you for cleanup, demolition or repair work. Make sure they are licensed. And get receipts for everything, especially cash transactions.”
Touro Law has also distributed a consumer advice sheet to service agencies in the region with extensive information on what to do to preserve flood claims. A copy is available on the Touro Law website, at www.tourolaw.edu/floodrecovery.
Touro Law Dean Harry Ballan said, “The Law Center is committed to using its resources to relieve suffering and solve legal problems in emergencies whether they are around the corner or across the country. The work of the Disaster Relief Clinic is a model of a law school responding to human need and fulfilling the Biblical commandment to help strangers with their burdens.”
Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law 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 experience for law students, combining a rigorous curriculum taught by expert faculty with a practical courtroom experience. Touro Law is dedicated to providing hands-on learning that enables students to gain experience while offering much-needed legal services in the community.
Touro Law, which has an alumni base of more than 6,000, offers full- and part-time J.D. programs where students can earn a degree in 2, 3, 4 or 5 years and provides four areas of concentration. Touro Law offers several dual degree programs and graduate law programs for US and foreign law graduates, including a new online LL.M. in Aging & Longevity Law. Touro Law Center is part of the Touro College system.
About the Touro College and University System
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 30 campuses and locations in New York, California, Nevada, Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to: http://www.touro.edu/news/.
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