Law students help to mend Puerto Rico

first_imgSix months later, Puerto Rico is still reeling from the devastation, but to Trigo Reyes, who just came back from a weeklong trip as part of a humanitarian and legal brigade, the outlook is hopeful.“Now, there is vegetation, and you can see the green,” she said, “and even though the government response has been slow and insufficient, there is a sense of hope.”Trigo Reyes led a group of 29 HLS students who traveled to Puerto Rico over spring break to lend a hand to local residents who are still struggling to obtain disaster relief aid. Puerto Rico is a U.S. self-governing territory and its inhabitants are American citizens, although they can’t vote in presidential elections or elect representatives to Congress.The HLS trip was spearheaded by Andrew Crespo ’08, assistant professor of law, and coordinated by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, led by Lee Mestre. The students joined forces with local groups such as Fundación Fondo de Acceso a la Justicia, Ayuda Legal Huracán María, Caras con Causa, and ConnectRelief, all of which are working to protect the rights of Puerto Rico residents to federal assistance, employment, and housing protection.,Hurricane Maria was the most devastating hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 80 years. The death toll reportedly surpassed 1,000, and tens of thousands are still living without electricity, safe drinking water, or adequate shelter. The destruction has deepened the woes of the territory, which was already facing a $70 billion debt.For five days, HLS students helped dozens of people in nearly 45 municipalities across the island file appeals with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster relief assistance. More than 60 percent of FEMA applications are denied due to lack of proper documentation, according to reports.In some cases, residents lost their property deeds and other legal documents in the hurricane, and in others they lacked titles because they had inherited the land from their relatives without formal documentation. To receive disaster relief for house repairs, FEMA requires proof of ownership, and applicants must have proof of occupancy for assistance replacing lost personal belongings.Students interviewed in Spanish, and a supervising lawyer prepared affidavits to support their appeals. While residents were glad to have the free legal assistance, they already are growing concerned about the next hurricane season, which starts in June.,“A lot of what we did was listen to people,” said Trigo Reyes. “They’re traumatized by the disaster and their losses, and they worry they still don’t have a roof over their heads, and the hurricane season is going to start soon.”Some HLS students joined local organizations that were helping elderly or disabled residents clean out debris the hurricane left in their homes. Most of the work was focused in Caimito, a poor neighborhood near San Juan. Students also took part in cleaning up a mangrove forest in Cataño, also near San Juan. Mangroves help control erosion and protect coastal lines.Thinlay Chukki, LL.M. ’18, was part of the humanitarian brigade. She and 10 classmates worked on several houses damaged by the hurricane. They scraped paint off walls and, after spackling holes, sanded and painted. The students bunked in a house where they had to share one toilet and two showers.“It wasn’t easy, but I discovered how similar human beings are beneath the different surfaces,” said Chukki, a Tibetan refugee who grew up in India. “We students had a desire to help as much as we could, and the people we were helping were so kind to us, sharing the little they had.”,The experience left a mark on Chukki and reinforced her desire to pursue a career in public interest law. Something similar happened to Kevin Ratana Patumwat, J.D. ’19, who was sent to Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, to help residents file FEMA appeals. Patumwat also said he was touched by people’s generosity and grace.“It was a powerful reminder that there are many ways to embrace the legal profession, not only as an attorney in top law firms, but also in areas where you can lift people up, give hope, and make changes in people’s lives,” Patumwat said.More than a decade ago, a similar trip had a big impact on Crespo, who was an HLS student when Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast in 2005. Crespo spent a week in Mississippi, helping tear down wrecked houses, as part of a humanitarian brigade sponsored by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.,“I remember the national reaction to Hurricane Katrina,” said Crespo. “The whole country wanted to help. It felt that part of being American was wanting to help our fellow Americans who were struggling. With Hurricane Maria, it felt different. It felt like a struggle to get the country to realize that there were 3 million Americans without electricity or drinking water.”The HLS community response exceeded expectations, said Trigo Reyes. Nearly 90 students signed up to travel, but the School lacked the resources to send all of them. Students had to apply for a spot, and most wrote that they had volunteered because they believed Puerto Rico residents were not getting the help they were entitled to, she said.“It was inspiring,” said Trigo Reyes. “We can’t guarantee that our work with FEMA appeals would be successful, or that more money would come from the federal government, but we felt we brought a sense of hope.” Related Dental School students take lessons to heart and into the field in Costa Rica Making global health a collaborative effort A few weeks after Hurricane Maria swept Puerto Rico last September, Harvard Law School (HLS) student Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19 visited the island where she grew up, and found an unrecognizable landscape.“Everything was brown, barren, leveled to the ground,” said Trigo Reyes on a recent morning in Wasserstein Hall. “It looked as if the island had been hit by a nuclear bomb.”last_img read more

SHSU’s Schmid, Houston Baptist Duo Named Football Players of the Week

first_imgYoung, a sophomore linebacker, is the Defensive Player of the Week and teammate Gino Garcia, a freshman kicker, is the Special Teams Player of the Week. The Huskies defeated Northwestern State, 48-21, snapping a 19-game conference losing streak. HBU wraps up its non-conference slate against Texas Southern at 6 p.m. Saturday in Houston. FRISCO, Texas – Sam Houston State quarterback Eric Schmid and Houston Baptist’s Brennan Young and Gino Garcia earned Southland Football Player of the Week honors, the league announced Monday. All weekly awards are presented by MidSouth Bank. Schmid was named Offensive Player of the Week after compiling 531 yards through the air, the second-most passing yards in a single game by a Bearkat. SHSU opened Southland Conference play on the right foot with a 45-6 win over in-state foe UIW and look to improve to 2-0 in league action on the road against McNeese at 6 p.m. Saturday. Special Teams Player of the Week: Gino Garcia – Fr. – Kicker – Richardson, TexasGarcia split the uprights eight times in Saturday’s win, converting all six extra points and booting field goals of 33 and 51 yards, a career-long and the sixth-longest in school history. His 33-yarder in the second quarter pushed the Huskies’ lead to 24-0 going into the break. Honorable Mention: Carlos Blackman, Central Arkansas; Julien Gums, Nicholls; Chason Virgil, Southeastern Louisiana. Offensive Player of the Week: Eric Schmid – R-So. – Quarterback – The Woodlands, TexasSchmid connected on 29 of his 44 pass attempts for five touchdowns and a career-high 531 yards, becoming just the sixth Bearkat to eclipse the 500-yard mark. At the halfway point in the game, he had already racked up 371 yards and four scores, leading SHSU to a 31-0 advantage. All five touchdown strikes went for 20 yards or more, and three were from at least 49 yards out.center_img Defensive Player of the Week: Brennan Young – So. – Linebacker – Conroe, TexasYoung tallied nine tackles, including three solo stops, and picked off two passes in the Huskies’ 48-21 win over Northwestern State. With the Demons down at HBU’s two-yard line, he took a Shelton Eppler pass back 48 yards to midfield and kept NSU off the board. Young’s second pick also came with the Demons threatening in the red zone and marked just the second multi-interception game in program history. Honorable Mention: Austin Dunlap, Southeastern Louisiana; Bailey Giffen, Lamar; Storm Ruiz, Stephen F. Austin; David Stone, Abilene Christian. Honorable Mention: Hunter Brown, Sam Houston State; Josh Carr Jr., Southeastern Louisiana; Jeremiah Chambers, Abilene Christian; Laryon James, Nicholls. Southland weekly award winners are nominated and voted upon by each school’s sports information director. Voting for one’s own athlete is not permitted. To earn honorable mention, a student-athlete must appear on 25 percent of ballots.last_img read more

Diocese of Orange settles 4 abuse cases

first_imgLAWSUITS: The bishop is still facing contempt charges for sending a key witness out of the country. By Gillian Flaccus THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange said Friday that it will pay nearly $7 million to settle four sexual abuse lawsuits, including one for which the bishop faces contempt of court proceedings for sending a monsignor out of the country before he could testify. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityThe cases were the first to be filed since 2004, when the diocese reached a record-breaking $100 million settlement with about 90 plaintiffs. The four lawsuits, the first of which was to go to trial Oct. 15, involved allegations against three lay teachers at Mater Dei High School and Santa Margarita High School, as well as a lay musician at a neighborhood parish. “I’m sorry that any of this happened and that even one person was abused,” Bishop Tod D. Brown said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We’ve taken every possible position that we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and I hope it doesn’t.” Sarah Gray, one of the plaintiffs, said she was pleased to have a settlement but still had to work on personal healing. “I really wanted to go to trial, and at the same time, I think, the settlement really accords the same amount of accountability to the diocese,” said Gray, who alleged she was sexually molested by her choir teachers in the late 1990s at Mater Dei. The diocese will pay $6.685 million to the four plaintiffs, making an average payout of $1.7 million per person. The case against a coach at Mater Dei had put Brown in the unusual position of having to sit for a contempt of court hearing, scheduled for Tuesday. If the hearing goes forward and Brown is found to be in contempt, he could face sanctions from a verbal reprimand to jail time. Defense lawyers said they had not reached the settlement to avoid Brown’s contempt of court hearing for sending a key witness to Canada for medical treatment. Brown will insist on going forward with the hearing Tuesday to clear his name, said Peter Callahan, the bishop’s attorney. “The bishop wants to go; he wants to clear his name from these accusations,” Callahan said. “The story is going to be that we settled to avoid the contempt charge, and that’s just a darn untruth.” Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler this week ordered a hearing to determine whether Brown should be held in contempt for sending a high-ranking church official to Canada for medical treatment before he could complete his deposition in the case. Brown denied Friday that he sent Msgr. John Urell away to keep evidence out of the court’s hands.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more