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. The clinical program also offers assistance on family law, bankruptcy, foreclosure and other matters.
Potential cases are being funneled to the Disaster Relief Clinic through a phone hotline that Touro Law opened days after Sandy struck Long Island, for victims to call in for legal advice.
Although many that called in were able to receive help from volunteer lawyers and other legal services organizations, there are still a great number in need of legal counsel, said Benjamin Rajotte, a visiting professor of law at Touro Law and the director of the Disaster Relief Clinic.
"We’re in the process of reviewing cases that haven’t been taken, and taking those on," he said.
The clinic, which officially opened last week, will prioritize cases where imminent legal action is necessary. Rajotte said most cases he has reviewed are related to issues with housing, insurance, contractors, FEMA and the environment.
The clinic is being funded by a donation to the university, and Rajotte said he hopes to run it 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 storm, he noted.
There are currently seven Touro law students in the program, but Rajotte anticipates more will join as the new semester kicks off, since "many have a personal connection to areas that have been affected."