Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic

Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic

Our Mission: Because recovery goes beyond disaster relief, #UBLawResponds provides practical legal research and thoughtful pro bono service, through an ongoing collaborative effort to empower a resilient Puerto Rico.

Nuestra Misión: El camino a la restauración va más allá de responder a los efectos de un desastre natural. La misión de la clínica legal de la Universidad del Estado de Nueva York es contribuir al proceso de empoderamiento de Puerto Rico proveyendo servicios de investigación legal gratuitos con aplicaciones prácticas en colaboración con la comunidad puertorriqueña y sus aliados. #UBLawResponds

Contact Us

University at Buffalo
School of Law
507 O'Brian Hall, North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
716-645-2167, law-clinic@buffalo.edu



Students with Dean

January 2019

Victor Burdukov

Victor Burdukov '19, JD/MBA

Nurzhamal Usenova, JD ‘19

Nurzhamal Usenova '19

July 2018

Michael Altman '19

Michael Altman '19

Margaret McKenzie '19

Margaret McKenzie '19

January 2018

Elizabeth David

Elizabeth David

Elizabeth David, a second year law student at University at Buffalo School of Law, has dedicated her education to social justice and social policy. Before coming to law school, Elizabeth earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work from Nazareth College. After completing her first year of law school, Elizabeth also became a fully licensed Master Social Worker. Elizabeth interned with the Monroe County Department of Human Services, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, the Coalition on Human Needs, and the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative during her undergraduate and graduate education. She worked for the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative again the summer after her first year in law school, focusing on policy in the areas of Early Childhood, Housing, Transportation, Benefits and the Earned Income Tax Credit. This coming summer she will be working with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law focusing on law and policy as it relates to kinship care. Elizabeth’s key areas of interest include advocacy for the underserved and impoverished with a focus on state and federal benefits, reunification, and housing. Elizabeth applied to be a part of the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic because she believes in access to justice for all citizens. She hopes that she will be able to merge her legal and social work education and experience to be a strong advocate for the people of Puerto Rico, and advance her legal skills in practice and policy.

Jonathan Reyes Colón


Jonathan Reyes Colón (participated in both January and July trips to Puerto Rico), a second year law student at University at Buffalo School of Law, has dedicated a substantial portion of his work in law school to honing skills in litigation and promoting access to justice to underrepresented communities. In his first year of law school, he co-founded a new student club called Intersectional Activism Alliance, along with several colleagues. The club is dedicated to the concept of intersectionalism, providing a safe space for students of different origins and backgrounds to share their identity and culture, and discuss their individual and collective social issues. Jonathan was born in Puerto Rico, and majored in Criminal Justice at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico before moving to Buffalo, New York to study law. Jonathan’s key areas of interest include social justice and other policy issues, and providing meaningful representation for those who cannot afford it. Jonathan applied to be a part of the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Clinic as a way of furthering his interest in access to justice, as well as seeking a meaningful opportunity to give back to the community in which he was born. Jonathan recognized the additional opportunity to evidence the outgrowth of the island’s historic social and political struggles. He hopes to be a valuable asset to the clinic, providing a source of knowledge and insight to Puerto Rico’s culture, its people, customs, and traditions. As a native of Puerto Rico, Jonathan is extremely grateful for the initiative of the University at Buffalo School of Law in launching this endeavor, and hopes it will be a great benefit to his loved ones back home.

Heather Frank


Heather Frank, a third year student at the University at Buffalo School of Law, is interested in many areas of practice, including access to justice. Before law school, Heather graduated magna cum laude from SUNY Fredonia, with a GPA of 3.7, a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, and two minors in Psychology and Sociology. After years of volunteering at her father’s law firm in the small town of Springville, NY, Heather decided to attend law school and become the first female lawyer in her family. Her experiences in law school have greatly broadened her interests. For example, in November of 2016, Heather was one of six U.B. Law students to attend and observe the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of the Parties 22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Heather has also served with the Volunteer Lawyer Project at the Erie County Family Court Helpdesk, where she assisted in conducting intake and interviews of pro se litigants seeking limited scope legal advice from licensed attorneys. Through this clinic’s work with her fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, Heather hopes to improve and expand her professional skills, learn about Puerto Rican law and culture, and gain experience that will allow her to remain involved in future relief efforts. 

Sarah Gardner


Sarah Gardner is second year law student at the University at Buffalo School of Law; her passion to help underserved communities is what motivated her to attend law school. She holds a B.A. in Modern Languages from Canisius College. Prior to law school, Sarah worked full-time in accounting, translation, and proofreading. Sarah is fluent in English, Spanish, and French. In addition, she studied Arabic for four years. Sarah spent many years residing in Zaragoza, Spain. While Sarah is passionate about languages, she has an equal love for public interest work. She has dedicated much of her time since beginning law school working both in local and federal court to aid those who cannot easily afford legal help. She has worked with Neighborhood Legal Services both in office and in Buffalo City Court with a practice order, mainly assisting Spanish-speaking clients in need of legal services, as well as providing interpreting services in certain complex cases. Sarah also worked with Volunteer Lawyers Project through the Federal Court Practicum in the fall of 2017. Sarah’s partner is Puerto Rican and she possesses a strong desire to help communities in need; together, these things drove her to be part of the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic.

Siedah Gibson-Laurencin


Siedah Gibson-Laurencin is a second year law student of Puerto Rican descent. She is also a participant in the Finance and Development Program at the University at Buffalo School of Law. While Siedah has a passion for Business Law, she also finds that humanitarian work provides a much-needed balance to the corporate world. Siedah’s prior job experience developed her ability to work with different people and handle difficult situations: as head of the donor department at Hands for Africa, a charity that aids amputee victims in Sierra Leone, she was the go-to employee to help solve problems. As an ESL teacher in the Republic of Georgia, Siedah worked individually with students and lived harmoniously with a host family from a different cultural background and country. Puerto Rico is a place near and dear to her heart. Her Puerto Rican culture has served as a source of guidance and support throughout Siedah’s life. Attending the Language & Culture Program at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, helped her to understand Puerto Rico’s history and how it has contributed to its present systemic issues. When she first learned of the opportunity to participate in the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic, Siedah did not hesitate to help an island and a culture that has given her so much.

Emma Molodetz


Emma Molodetz is a second year student at the University at Buffalo School of Law, where she is working toward her J.D. with a concentration in criminal studies. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from SUNY Geneseo in 2013. Before coming to law school, Emma worked as a paralegal in small firms in Rochester, where she continues to live. While working, she volunteered teaching English to recent immigrants, who were mainly from Puerto Rico. Her teaching, work experience, and a supportive supervisor propelled her into law school at the University at Buffalo. She enjoys her academic study but admits her heart truly lies with clinical work, finding it equally fulfilling and humbling. This summer you will find Emma at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office, volunteering in pursuit of her passions for criminal law and increased access to justice. Emma applied for the disaster relief clinic in Puerto Rico because she wanted to be part of a responsible, strong, and educated effort to help those in need.

Amanda Oppermann


Amanda Oppermann, a third year law student at University at Buffalo School of Law, has worked tirelessly to help underprivileged populations access the court system. After graduating from Canisius College in 2015, she decided to dedicate a large portion of her law school career to public interest. In addition to direct experience in clerking positions with private law firms, Amanda has served as a student attorney with the Health Justice Clinic where she has been part of a team that helped cancer patients address various legal issues, some very complex. She has worked with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she helped clients in federal and family court. Amanda has also worked as an intern at Journey’s End Refugee Services, where she helps people apply for asylum status in the United States. Amanda is participating in the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Clinic because she believes her experience in working with traumatized and underprivileged populations will help her make a positive impact on Puerto Rican lives.

Eamon J.P. Riley


Eamon J.P. Riley has centered his studies at the intersection of law and planning, and is in the final year of his dual Master's of Urban Planning and Juris Doctor Degree Program at the University at Buffalo. This interdisciplinary course of study has made Eamon acutely aware both of how these fields interact, as well as of development's impact on the built, natural, and social environments. Eamon is also the current Editor-In-Chief of the Buffalo Environmental Law Journal. Experiencing Buffalo’s urban resurgence and exposure to design thinking fostered his desire to impact the way development occurs, and Eamon has worked in multiple capacities in both law and planning. On the planning and policy side, he has lectured on transportation, authored the Local IMPACT: Strategies to Promote Mobility plan, and worked with weather scientists on communicating their findings.  On the legal side, Eamon has served at urban renewal board meetings, represented a community group opposed to wireless facilities, worked on land use control disputes, municipal delegations of authority, construction matters, and on environmental permitting under New York's SEQRA. Eamon’s focus on the built, natural, and social environments through an interdisciplinary study will enable him to have a comprehensive perspective when examining environmental/climate justice and resiliency issues in Puerto Rico. Eamon feels that assisting in disaster recovery on the island presents a powerful opportunity to implement both sides of his education while doing meaningful and impactful work for those in need.

Suzanne Starr


Suzanne Starr, a second year law student at University at Buffalo School of Law, has dedicated a substantial portion of her work in law school thus far to access to justice. She serves as a student attorney with the Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic, where she works with major, international, institutional clients on matters of government accountability and protected rights. She also has interned for Elder Justice WNY and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Before law school, Suzanne left her career in 2008 to attend Erie Community College, as her husband’s military service finally made her own education financially feasible. Four years (and two babies) later she earned a B.A., Magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa, from UB’s Honors College. Suzanne’s key areas of interest include advocacy for the underserved, with special focus on veteran’s affairs and sex workers’ rights, progressive policy development, and movement lawyering. Suzanne applied to be part of the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic because as an attorney, she believes it will be her duty to advocate for those who lack the access to justice. She desires to be an ally to the People of Puerto Rico and anyone else who has been injured or exploited. She hopes the trip will be informative on a policy level as well as adding to her legal skill set, and knows that it will be a real opportunity to give direct aid to those who need it dearly.

David Yovanoff


David Yovanoff, a third year law student at University at Buffalo School of Law, grew up in small farming community about a dozen miles south of the City of Buffalo in Eden, New York. He completed his undergraduate studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, just a few miles west of Boston. Currently, the majority of his formal law school coursework focuses on corporate and securities law, however, Dave has done his best to expose himself to a wide variety of practice and substantive areas. He was recruited to play tennis at Brandeis University, where he played all four years and experienced the values of teamwork and adversity. Through his athletic experience, Dave formed many close friendships with Puerto Rican athletes. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Dave was moved by the outreach and humanitarian efforts of his Brandeis friends and alumni and jumped at the opportunity to get more involved himself. Although an aspiring corporate lawyer, Dave has always had a passion for sustainable energy projects and urban farming methods. Currently, Dave is part of a team of individuals building portable hydroponic grow tubes to grow chili peppers indoors and without soil. He spent his fall 2017 semester researching community-owned microgrid solutions in the City of Buffalo. In Puerto Rico, in addition to direct service, the bulk of Dave’s research will focus on microgrid solutions and other environmental resiliency policies with the sincere hope that his immersion in clean technology will be useful. When he is on the Island, Dave looks forward to assisting in every way possible.