The Touro Law Center in Central Islip has opened a Disaster Relief Clinic to offer superstorm Sandy victims free legal aid from law students and volunteer lawyers.
The effort is part of Touro Law's clinical program, which allows students to take on real cases while being supervised by professors as part of their law studies.
Potential cases are being funneled to the Disaster Relief Clinic through a phone hotline that Touro Law opened days after Sandy struck Long Island on Oct. 29.
Although many who called have already received help from volunteer lawyers and other legal services organizations, there is still a great number of people in need of legal counsel, said Benjamin Rajotte, a visiting professor of law at Touro and director of the new clinic.
He said he hopes to run the clinic as long as there is a need in the community. A similar clinic that opened at the law school at Loyola University in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina operated for four years after the 2005 storm, he noted.
"We're in the process of reviewing cases that haven't been taken, and taking those on," he said, adding that there are more than 100 potential cases. The clinic, which officially opened last week, will prioritize cases where imminent legal action is necessary. Most cases coming in are related to issues with housing, insurance, contractors, FEMA and the environment, Rajotte said.
Funding to open the clinic came from a donation by Reva and Martin Oliner. Martin Oliner, an attorney who serves on the executive board of Touro College, is also mayor of the Village of Lawrence, an area hit hard by Sandy.
There are currently seven Touro law students in the program, but Rajotte anticipates more will join as the new semester kicks off, as "many have a personal connection to areas that have been affected."
To contact the hotline, call 631-761-7198.