(left to right) Professor Kim Diana Connolly, Octavio Villegas ’15, Siedah Gibson-Laurencin ’19, Brian Detweiler, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Victor Burdukov ’20, Suzanne Starr ’19, and Jonathan Reyes Colon ’19.

New York State Lt. Gov. sends off students as our clinic returns to Puerto Rico

With a note of encouragement and thanks from New York States’ second-in-command, a third group of UB School of Law students headed to Puerto Rico to provide legal assistance to those whose lives were upended by Hurricane Maria.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was on hand Jan. 18 for a sendoff gathering in O’Brian Hall, extending good wishes to the four students in the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic and their advisers. The students will be on the island from January 20 to 26.  

The efforts of the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic align with the State’s New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. In addressing the student attorneys and staff, Hochul commended the group for its commitment to helping the U.S. territory and reminded them of the widespread impact of their work.

The student attorneys include Victor Burdukov ’20, Jonathan Reyes Colon ’19, Siedah Gibson-Laurencin ’19 and Suzanne Starr ’19. All but Burdukov have previously taken part in the Puerto Rico clinic, which is directed by Professor Kim Diana Connolly, the law school’s vice dean for experiential learning and director of Clinical Legal Education. Connolly will accompany the students during the weeklong trip with the assistance of Professor Stephanie Rothenberg of UB’s College of Arts and Sciences; Brian Detweiler, the law school’s student services librarian, and Octavio Villegas ’15, the Clinic’s volunteer staff attorney.

The Clinic aims to help Puerto Ricans recover from the September 2017 hurricane by helping them access sorely needed legal services. Other work involves research into island-specific legal and social issues, including:

  • Meeting with local academic researchers and community partners to assess the state of access-to-justice needs and resiliency planning a year after the disaster.
  • Assessing the island’s coal-fired power system, which scientific study shows presents serious public health and environmental safety risks to many Puerto Ricans.
  • Supporting island-wide work to ensure access to locally grown food and opportunities for farmers to thrive in the face of climate change.
  • Providing business creation support for a small non-profit.
  • Preparing a records request to investigate federal government contracts and spending immediately following Hurricane Maria.

Follow their journey

To learn more about the great work of our #UBLawResponds student attorneys, visit our blog, https://ublawresponds.com and read their first-hand accounts.

To learn more about our students, please visit our clinic's website.