Innovative Training Program for Law Students Celebrated as Sanctuary for Families’ Courtroom Advocates Project Turns 20

11/21/17

Over 12,600 advocates trained and over 10,400 petitioners assisted since 1997

In the two decades since the Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP) began, over 12,600 advocates have assisted 10,400 victims of gender violence with the legal advocacy, education, and safety planning they need to start new lives.

CAP is a unique, collaborative program housed at Sanctuary for Families, New York’s largest provider of social services for survivors of domestic violence, operating in family courts in all five boroughs.  CAP enables law school students and law firm associates to advocate for domestic violence victims seeking orders of protection in Family Court.  The students work under the direction of attorneys from Sanctuary for Families’ Legal Center and the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). When cases become contested, associates assume representation of the client under the close supervision of a senior staff attorney.  Currently 12 law schools and 44 law firms participate.

Joined by more than 135 alumni, supporters and clients, Sanctuary for Families marked the 20th anniversary of this groundbreaking program on November 16 at a celebration hosted by Proskauer Rose LLP at their Times Square office.

Honored that evening for their work as leading voices in the fight against gender violence and inequality were Jennifer Friedman, CAP Founder and now the Legal Director of My Sisters’ Place; Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin, Senior Counsel, Alston & Bird and former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York (First Department); and the law firm of Fried Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, represented by Janice Mac Avoy, partner, and Peter Cobb, former managing partner.

 “For domestic violence survivors who go to court alone seeking protection from their abusers, navigating the bureaucracy of the legal system can be overwhelming,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families.  “But thanks to the dedication and support of our honorees, Jennifer Friedman, Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin and the law firm of Fried Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and the thousands of law students and other volunteers who have served the program during its 20 years, Sanctuary for Families has been able to provide high quality, free legal support to pro se defendants through the Courtroom Advocates Project.”

Ms.  Friedman is the Managing Director of the Center for Legal Services at My Sisters’ Place, where she supervises a legal team providing representation and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.  Previously, she served as CAP’s director for 10 years.

Justice Ellerin, currently a Senior Counsel with the firm of Alston & Bird, retired from the bench after service as a Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department for over 20 years.  She was the first woman appointed to that bench and the first to serve as its Presiding Justice.  She is the longtime Chair of the N.Y. State Judicial Committee on Women In The Courts.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP has been an active partner, sponsor, and leading supporter of the CAP from the beginning.  The law firm’s sponsorship of Jennifer Friedman’s NAPIL (now Equal Justice Works) Fellowship, enabled her to join Sanctuary upon graduating from Columbia Law School, spending her first two years as an attorney building CAP.   The firm is also a key participating law firm in CAP’s summer program and hosts CAP’s Summer Program Recognition Ceremony.

The celebration was emceed by the Hon. Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, who introduced domestic violence survivor Delores Langevine.  Ms. Langevine, a CAP client, spoke on behalf of the thousands of people who have received lifesaving guidance from the program’s volunteers.  The Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Of Counsel at Latham & Watkins and former Chief Judge of the State of New York, gave the keynote.  

Sanctuary for Families is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence. Each year, Sanctuary empowers thousands of adults and children to move from fear and abuse to safety and stability, transforming lives through a comprehensive range of services.

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