Above & Beyond: Sanctuary For Families Honors Pro Bono Attorneys


Sanctuary for Families, New York State’s leading advocate and service provider for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence, honored members of the legal profession for their generous pro bono representation and support of Sanctuary’s clients at the 15th annual Above & Beyond Pro Bono Awards benefit on October 17, 2017 at the Highline Ballroom.    

Lawyers from 10 New York City law firms were presented with Above & Beyond Awards for Excellence in Pro Bono Advocacy.  These pro bono lawyers, who work closely with Sanctuary’s Legal Center attorneys, provide crucial legal assistance for domestic violence and trafficking survivors in cases involving immigration and asylum issues; orders of protection; and child abduction, custody and support.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, said, “One way to measure pro bono service is in hours—often many, many hours.    But the best way to measure the pro bono service of this year’s Above & Beyond honorees is by the changes their efforts have made in the lives of our clients, giving hope to survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking and a pathway to a life of safety and self-reliance.  Sanctuary for Families is grateful to these attorneys for their expert legal skills and extraordinary generosity.”

The 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Award recipients are:

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP

Cahill associate Margaret Barone is being honored for her dedicated and compassionate representation of “Maria,” a mother with a special-needs child, who escaped her abusive partner after he pressured her into leaving behind her professional career in her home country—making her financially dependent on him. Through Margaret’s tireless efforts, Maria won court-ordered enforcement of critical provisions of her post-divorce agreements, allowing her to provide the support and care that her son so desperately needed.

Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP

The Cravath team of Amal El bakhar, Rachel Fritzler and Rachel Skaistis is being honored for their compelling amicus brief educating the appellate court about the dynamics of domestic violence, its effects on children, and the correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse. Thanks to their hard work, Sanctuary filed a strong amicus brief and reply amicus brief in support of “Miranda’s” appeal. The case is still pending before the Sixth Circuit, but the team hopes for a favorable result.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

The Davis Polk team of Surya Gopalan, Caroline Stern, Sharon Katz and Scott Wilcox skillfully represented a group of Sanctuary clients with pending U-visa applications. The clients, who had been forced to live in fear while United States Citizenship and Immigration Services held their applications in abeyance, ultimately received a favorable resolution, including receiving Employment Authorization Documents. Thanks to the team’s efforts, the clients also received considerable protection, solace, and comfort.

The Davis Polk team of Molly Greer Gurny, Amanda Meyer and Alyssa Beaver Gomez is being honored for their tireless work representing “Laura” in a custody proceeding against the abusive father of her son. Thanks to the team’s thorough preparation and skillful advocacy, the court awarded Laura sole legal custody and modified the father’s visitation rights from weekends at his home to supervised visits one day a week.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Working tirelessly to help “Rebecca” win full custody of her son, the Debevoise team of Anna Domyancic, Ashley Fillmore, Rhianna Hoover, Lesley Douglas, Sean Hecker, John Pierpont and Marisa Taney obtained an order of protection from her abuser and a substantial child support award. As Rebecca’s legal needs grew, the team eagerly stepped up and expanded their representation, appearing over 20 times on her family offense petition case alone.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

The Paul Weiss team of Allison Penfield, Michael Nadler and Elizabeth Sacksteder won a major victory with immense precedential value for their client, “Susan.”   The team argued that past incidents of domestic violence, although committed more than a year prior to the filing for the new order of protection, were enough to give Susan a continuing reasonable fear of her abusive ex-fiancé. The judge agreed with their deftly-made arguments and granted Susan a one-year order of protection.

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

The Schulte team of Mari Dopp, Carly Halpin and Taleah Jennings is being recognized for their incredible and tireless efforts on behalf of “Rose,” a woman who fled her abusive spouse and faced numerous obstacles in Family Court as she fought for custody of her eight-year-old son and navigated a child neglect and abuse case brought by the Administration for Children’s Services against her child’s father. The team ensured that Rose was not subjected to the aggressive tactics of her husband’s attorney.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

For more than six years, the Simpson Thacher team of Carola Beeney, Hilary Chadwick, Kristina Green, Matthew Levy, Jonathan Lieberman, Lara Pomerantz, Harlene Katzman, Mark Stein and Alyssa Watzman worked tirelessly to obtain T-visas, and later legal permanent residency, for “Maria” and her young daughter “Estella.” With Simpson’s guidance, Maria provided invaluable evidence and testimony to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York during two major criminal investigations, ensuring that the man who trafficked her and other senior members of his trafficking ring were extradited from Mexico and brought to justice.

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP

A team of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan attorneys, including Joy Baskin, Kevin Curnin, Jonathan Konig, Ben Smyser and Claude Szyfer, went above and beyond for their client, “Mary,” a victim of labor-trafficking. The team prepared Mary for numerous meetings with law enforcement; thanks to their work and Mary’s cooperation, prosecutors secured a guilty plea from Mary’s traffickers. While a guilty plea alone would have been a great victory, the Stroock team also negotiated with law enforcement to ensure Mary received the legal restitution she deserved for her years of enslavement.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

The Wachtell team of Courtney Heavey and John Savarese are being honored for their tireless representation of “Michael,” a green card holder from Liberia who battled removal proceedings for four years.  Michael faced the possibility of being deported from the United States, where he had lived with his family and friends for 16 years, and being returned to a country that he had not lived in since early childhood. The team successfully secured cancellation of removal for Michael, enabling him to return to the life he had built prior to his nightmarish ordeal.

Wilmer Hale LLP

A team of WilmerHale attorneys,  including Vilmarie Alcaraz, Margaret Artz, Hanna Baek, Todd Blanche, Sanket Bulsara, Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, Musetta Durkee, Matthew Galeotti, Lauren Kennedy, Sharon Cohen Levin, William Roth, Joshua Vittor and David Yin, are being honored for their brilliant and dedicated advocacy on behalf of “Rosa,” whose abusive husband abducted their two young girls and held them in Egypt for two  years. The team worked tirelessly and overcame many legal obstacles. Ultimately, their efforts resulted in Rosa’s abuser pleading guilty and receiving a sentence of a year and a day.  Special conditions were attached to his release, including not to threaten or harass Rosa and the children and to obey any family court orders. The team’s efforts resulted in Rosa’s being reunited with her daughters two weeks before Christmas.

The Above & Beyond Pro Bono Awards, co-chaired this year by Steven Cordero of Akerman LLP, Jamie Stinson of King & Spalding LLP and Emily Suran of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, are spearheaded by Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council, co-chaired by Ben Schatz of The Center for Appellate Litigation and Mia White of McKinsey & Company.  The award was established in 2003 to honor attorneys who provide outstanding pro bono advocacy and representation for clients of Sanctuary for Families. Awardees have represented victims in a wide range of cases, from custody to gender-based asylum to legislative advocacy, and dedicated hundreds of hours of research, writing, trial preparation, and in-court representation.

In addition to the honorees and their clients, notable guests included Hon. Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Cecile Noel, Commissioner of NYC Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence; and Marie Philip, HRA Deputy Commissioner of Emergency and Intervention Services.

For more information about Sanctuary for Families, visit www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org.  

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