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Puerto Rico’s Access to Justice Community to Provide Free Legal Support for People Affected by Hurricane María

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

  • Access to Justice Working Group

For immediate release

 

SAN JUAN- As part of the initiative “Ayuda Legal Huracán María” (Legal Assistance Hurricane María), a number of organizations and individuals committed with access to justice, from both Puerto Rico and the US, have come together to provide free legal support to those affected by the hurricane. This initiative unites members of a far-reaching Puerto Rican community, with one objective: that island residents receive timely and effective legal information and assistance. This three-pronged initiative will: (1) offer free and accessible legal information about claims and rights that could be affected by this disaster; (2) develop capacity among the island’s legal practitioners in disaster legal relief; and (3) provide free legal support and counsel to those who need it most; particularly individuals from our most disadvantaged communities.

The Access to Justice Working Group is responsible for the on-the-ground coordination of this effort. The Working Group brings together the principal providers of free legal assistance on the island, the clinics and pro bono student groups from all three law schools, the Puerto Rico Bar Association, the Civil Rights Commission, as well as lawyers and students in their individual capacity. Stateside, this effort is led by the Latino Justice Puerto Rico Legal Defense and Education Fund (Latino Justice). Other collaborating organizations include Pro Bono Net, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, Columbia University Law School’s Pro Bono student group and the NYC Bar Association.

As Ariadna Godreau Aubert, a Puerto Rico-based lawyer and coordinator of the Working Group, explained “Hurricane María not only devastated the island’s already weakened infrastructure, but also highlighted the need for the local access to justice community to come together to guarantee people’s access to food, water, housing, work, health and all federal assistance programs they have a right to.” Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, a lawyer at Latino Justice, added “our commitment, as part of the Puerto Rican diaspora, is to collaborate with organizations and lawyers in Puerto Rico to guarantee a more just and sensible handling of the population’s legal necessities, during the disaster and afterwards.”

Up to date information on all coordinated and collaborative efforts can be found at www.ayudalegalhuracanmaria.org. This portal features important educational materials about FEMA claims and processes, interview guides, information on Disaster Unemployment Assistance, as well pertinent information on evictions and moratoriums on mortgage payments.

This past week an introductory workshop was held for volunteer lawyers. Forty-seven legal practitioners attended and are ready to help. Additionally, the organizations and individuals that are part of this Initiative are offering legal counsel by phone, through the Louisiana Civil Justice Center’s Hotline. Various community, student and lawyer workshops have already been scheduled for the coming weeks, across the island.Those interested can find more information about our services at our site, as well as on social media: www. Facebook.com/ayudalegalhuracanmaria. We’re also counting on media professionals for their support in getting the word out.

For immediate legal help, please contact the Hotline at 1-800-310-7029. To become a part of this Initiative, you can reach us at ayudalegalhuracanmaria@gmail.com

Contact:
Lcda. Ariadna.  Godreau-Aubert - 787-585-1022
Lcda. Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan- 347-693-1610