You.  Me.  We.  is a disaster response law and policy center that defends human rights in disaster struck communities. We conduct needs assessments, evaluate policy reforms, and promote government accountability at every stage of disaster readiness, response, and recovery.

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Director and Co-Founder Tracy McGaugh in the "Spotlight" 

Touro Law students and faculty are committed to making a difference in the local community and beyond. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina our students and faculty started traveling to New Orleans to help address legal issues – passionate about helping the people of that region and happy to be able to use their skills and knowledge to obtain justice for those in need. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people who need help. The Touro Law community remains committed to these causes.


One such dedicated faculty member is Professor Tracy McGaugh. Professor McGaugh began her work in disaster relief just days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, where she defended the rights of independent journalists and advocated on behalf of displaced voters. She has remained steadfast in her will to help the people of the Gulf Coast – and beyond. To address the gap in legal services immediately following the aftermath of disaster, she co-founded You.Me.We., a non-profit disaster law center – the only one of its kind in the world.  You.Me.We. was founded in January of 2010 by Professor McGaugh, Touro Law student Cheryl Van Dyke, and South Texas College of Law professor Kathleen Bergin.


You.Me.We. provides training for lawyers in the disaster-affected region, consultation for organizations providing first responder and second responder services to those regions, and long-term advocacy relates to human rights issues that occur at the intersection of disaster and poverty.  Under Professor McGaugh’s direction, YMW has participated in fact-finding delegations to Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake and has testified in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) about forced evictions of Haitians displaced by the earthquake.  As a result of these activities, the IACHR issued precautionary measures, requiring the Haitian government to respond to the unlawful evictions.  YMW has also partnered with the Institute for Justice & Democracy  in Haiti (IJDH) to provide grassroots organization and training in advance of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic review of Haiti’s human rights track record.  This past spring, Professor McGaugh was a panelist along with representatives from USAID, IJDH, and the American Federation of the Red Cross at a symposium addressing the emerging field of Disaster Law.


Professor McGaugh also initiated the Mississippi Environmental Social Justice Project at Touro Law.  This project has provided legal research support to attorneys in Mississippi who are assisting the Coalition of Communities for Environmental Justice (COCEJ).  COCEJ is a grassroots organization that advocates on behalf of communities impacted by improper dumping of industrial waste over the last century in poor African-American communities in Mississippi.  Touro Law’s Mississippi Environmental Social Justice Project gave students in Touro Law’s Environmental Law Society the opportunity to review court documents filed in environmental litigation and to research ongoing legal issues related to the industrial waste dumping. 


On January 24, 2011, Professor McGaugh testified at a hearing of the Mississippi State Legislature about industrial contamination affecting poor, black communities in Mississippi. She described the work that she and our students in the Environmental Law Society have done with the Mississippi Environmental Social Justice Project and urged the legislature to investigate the actions of state agencies in neglecting to respond to the damage and impact.  An unexpected surprise was the testimony of a lawyer from the Mississippi Center for Justice. He testified after Professor McGaugh and praised Touro Law Center's involvement in social justice issues beyond our own backyard.  He specifically mentioned the three trips that Touro Law students had made to Biloxi to work at MSJ to ensure that funds allocated for hurricane relief were distributed to those most in need.


As a result of Professor McGaugh’s testimony, the Mississippi State Legislature passed House Resolution 140, A Resolution Promotion the Establishment of a Citizens’ Environmental Commission and Promoting Environmental Justice in the State of Mississippi.


In addition to her work with YMW, Professor McGaugh has conducted workshops and conferences in Turkey and Kenya to strengthen the rule of law.  Her next conference, sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute (on whose board she serves), will be in June 2011.  This conference will bring fifteen American legal scholars to Istanbul, Turkey, for a four-day conference focused on integrating skills training into legal education.

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