Stetson Law Students Help with New Legal Hotline for Disaster Victims

Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida, launched a Disaster Research Project during the fall semester to assist with a disaster relief hotline providing Floridians with legal services. Stetson Law students working with the project conduct legal research for attorney volunteers helping the victims of weather disasters through the hotline.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria, lawyers across the country and the state of Florida mobilized to provide free legal services to people struggling to rebuild their lives. The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD), Florida Bar YLD, and FEMA launched the disaster relief hotline in September to respond to people in need of assistance with legal matters ranging from landlord-tenant and insurance disputes, to consumer fraud and employment disputes. More than 400 attorneys across the state have volunteered to date to help with more than 1,400 requests for legal assistance from disaster victims.

Stetson students are helping with the relief effort while building relationships with legal practitioners. Stetson Law’s Disaster Research Project pairs law students with attorney research projects so that attorneys can maximize the number of people they can help. Stetson created a web portal that pro bono attorneys can use to request research assistance from its law students.

Stetson Law professor Christine Cerniglia, director of Clinical and Experiential Education at Stetson, began working on the concept for the Disaster Research Project with Holland & Knight attorney Anthony Palermo shortly after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida. Palermo is helping to coordinate the efforts of the Florida Bar YLD, ABA YLD and FEMA.

Stetson College of Law
Stetson University’s College of Law in Gulfport

“Our goal is to make sure that help is available to Floridians who need legal assistance as a result of hurricanes and other disasters but cannot afford to hire an attorney,” Palermo said. “We want Florida attorneys to help ensure that the hard-working attorneys at Florida’s legal aid organizations do not get overburdened and that they have help from the rest of the Bar. We are grateful for Stetson stepping up and offering to partner with volunteer attorneys.”

“Part of our profession is giving back to people in need,” said Professor Cerniglia. “With this project, our students can see how their work is having an immediate impact.”

To learn more about the Disaster Research Project at Stetson, visit

The disaster relief hotline may be reached at 866-550-2929.

-Brandi Palmer
Stetson College of Law, Gulfport