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Law Students to Help in New Orleans Restoration

March 15, 2007

The packing of casual clothes, walking shoes and cameras belies the nature of a spring break trip for some law students at UC Davis. But the laptops -- they are a clue.

Eleven students from the School of Law will fly to New Orleans Saturday and spend the next week helping to reconstruct a neighborhood, advocate for the interests of exploited laborers and re-establish a legal aid organization.

All of the students are members of Humanitarian Aid Legal Organization (HALO), a new student organization at the law school, and their trip is part of a national law student movement to help rebuild and serve legal and social justice organizations in the areas devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"We feel there's a major, lingering crisis," said Ramaah Sadasivam, co-founder of the student group and a first-year law student from Tennessee who earned a master's degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. "It's affected people's homes and businesses and changed people's lives. We're hoping to help our legal profession."

Neta Borshansky, also a co-founder and first-year law student from New Jersey, said that in the aftermath of the hurricanes, the Gulf Coast region lost a lot of lawyers, crime has increased and social problems have been exacerbated.

The UC Davis students have received their assignments through the Student Hurricane Network, a national organization matching law students with volunteer opportunities in the Gulf Coast region.

They will be working for the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, which represents people facing the death penalty; the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice/People's Organizing Committee; and an initiative to revitalize and develop the Gert Town neighborhood.

"I'm most excited about being out of the classroom and interacting with real attorneys and learning about real-world problems," said Borshansky, who will pursue a career in public interest law.

"It's really easy for us to become de-sensitized to the (Gulf Coast) problem," she added. "It's important to actually experience those emotions and bring them back and remind others of the reality."

"I'm excited about giving back to a part of the country that needs our help," said Sadasivam. "There's this continuing legal crisis. There's so many problems. There's so many things we can do."

The student group has held fundraising events, including bake sales, and received financial support from the campus community and other individuals and organizations to help cover travel and other expenses.

Beginning Monday, the students will post a daily blog at http://students.law.ucdavis.edu/halo. On April 5, they will share their experiences at an event at noon in the Wilkins Moot Courtroom of King Hall.

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