Silvia Marroquin is an associate in the international arbitration practice of Chaffetz Lindsey in New York and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.
At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Alison” to obtain an order of protection and a judgment of divorce. The team consisted of associates Tobin Raju, Andrea Abarca, and George Harris.
In November 2018, Alison—a full-time health worker and mother of two—sought an order of protection against her then-husband from whom she had separated. For over five years, Alison endured verbal, emotional, and physical abuse towards herself and her young daughter. Her strength and warm-hearted personality never dimmed. But, the continuous stalking, messaging, and verbal threats from her abuser that followed her separation, frightened and upset Alison and eventually led her to pursue legal action.
In December 2018, the team from Cahill, consisting of Tobin Raju, Andrea Abarca and George Harris, took on Alison’s representation and successfully secured a final one-year order of protection on consent for Alison and her young daughter, who had been a witness to repeated physical and verbal abuse by Alison’s then-husband.
The entire team showed an unparalleled commitment to the case and were always available to Alison. Their desire to develop a supportive and sincere relationship with Alison bore fruit, as she became more comfortable talking about difficult issues which allowed the team to develop a deeper knowledge of her case. Throughout their representation of Alison, the team met with Alison, and diligently collected and organized the numerous police reports, screenshots, photographs, and other potential evidence to be used at trial. The team’s precision and care in preparing Alison alleviated her anxiety about the trial. Moments before trial, opposing counsel initiated settlement discussions. The team’s hard work paid off and culminated in their successful advocacy during settlement negotiations and the hearing, eventually obtaining a satisfactory outcome for Alison. In fact, the court referee was at first reluctant to include Alison’s daughter in the order of protection, because she is not the abuser’s child, but Tobin’s advocacy convinced the court referee that it was appropriate and necessary.
Not surprisingly, in June 2019, the team immediately volunteered to represent Alison in her divorce, and successfully obtained a final uncontested judgment of divorce from the abuser in November 2019.
“Tobin and the team were some of the most responsive and communicative pro bono attorneys I have worked with. Tobin proactively reached out to the client on a regular basis, sending me updates on the case, as well as other issues arising in the client’s life. Tobin and the team were totally eager and happy to help the client with the uncontested divorce as well, which the client was thrilled to receive,” said Sanctuary Senior Staff Attorney Lindsey M. Song.
“When I asked the client for feedback for Tobin and the team, she said, ‘I could not have asked for any better [team]! You helped me through this time from beginning to finish. I am grateful to you all.’” — Lindsey Song.
Despite facing so many challenges, Alison’s unflappable strength was truly impressive and key to the outcome of the case. Tobin said, “We could not have asked for a better client to work with. She is an incredibly courageous person, and I was honored to work with her.” The relationship is such that months after the case was resolved, Alison and the team continue to be in touch.
Reflecting on their work, the team expressed that they were especially grateful for having the opportunity to work with Lindsey M. Song, Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, and to have been put in the position to advocate on Alison’s behalf.
“It was important to have someone with Lindsey’s experience with survivors–not only in terms of strategy but also to understand the nuances of how trauma can affect memory and how we, as attorneys, should ask questions to help our client remember the details that make her case. All this, while navigating the client-relationship to be both effective and compassionate,” said Andrea Abarca.
“Lindsey gave us enough autonomy while walking us through every requirement and working with us on the best strategy for the case. She trusted our instincts and our abilities.” — Tobin Raju.
“It was extremely helpful to be able to have guidance from someone that would speak to the nature of how the court would react and that helped us prepare Alison to be ready for a tough referee,” said George Harris.
The team described this as a unique experience that was extremely rewarding, personally and professionally, because it allowed them to grow as attorneys by developing essential skills and taking on more responsibilities while supporting a client moving on with her life and family.
Join us at our virtual Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the outstanding pro bono work of Tobin, Andrea, and George. Click here to RSVP for free.
If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary for Family’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.