An administrator of the Public Interest Resource Center (PIRC) at Fordham Law has received an award for her efforts to bring legal aid to the Gulf Coast.
Hillary Exter, director of student organizations and publicity for PIRC, received the commendation from the Student Hurricane Network (SHN). Law students at Fordham and other universities in and around New York created SHN in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. It now includes more than 100 law schools across the country.
“Law students, like everybody else, watched the news and were totally shocked at the destruction in the Gulf Coast and the inaction of the government,” Exter said. “As law students, they knew they had skills and talents that could help those affected navigate the web of legal tangles the storm created.”
Since helping form the network, Exter has traveled to the affected areas with SHN students six times, along with 4,400 law students.
Their projects have included: advising immigrant day laborers who are helping with the cleanup on basic job protections like access to masks and gloves; counseling residents in FEMA trailers on their rights; and helping create instructional videos so those affected by the storm know their legal options.
“We advised criminal defendants in the Orleans Parish Prison,” Exter said. “Many of them had passed their sentence dates and were lost in the system, but because of our work, more than 100 people were released.”
In addition, Exter has advised SHN’s student leadership, promoted SHN’s achievements to bar organizations and public interest organizations, and helped organize events in New York to educate the greater legal community to the legal needs of the Gulf Coast.
“She has been our friend, our champion, our reality check and our career counselor,” said Josie Beets, who sits on SHN’s National Advisory Board. “We honor her with this award in the hope that she will honor us by remaining dedicated to SHN’s social justice work.”