Annika is a Development Intern at Sanctuary and a rising first-year student at Stanford University. She is passionate about politics and criminal justice and hopes to study public policy and English in college.
At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP for their tireless pro bono work on behalf of “Christina,” a survivor of sex trafficking. The incredible team, consisting of Stroock Partner Michele Jacobson and associates Alexandra Lyon and Robert Mantel, was successful in helping Christina reinstate her tenancy after it was wrongfully terminated by the New York City Housing Authority.
Sanctuary client “Christina” has overcome a tremendous amount of adversity in her life, including a long history of abuse and exploitation at the hands of traffickers and others in the commercial sex industry, drug addiction, and the loss of custody of one of her children. Despite the hardship she has faced, Christina successfully turned her life around, has been drug-free for over eight years, has held a steady job, and has created a safe and stable home for her daughter at their New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartment.
The stability Christina had fought so hard for came under threat when NYCHA held a hearing in April 2019, resulting in the termination of her tenancy several months later. Due to a sex offender designation, she obtained through entering a plea deal with the FBI for cooperating against one of her traffickers, NYCHA determined that she and her daughter were not fit to remain in their home. On the brink of losing her home and the new life she had built, Christina turned to Sanctuary and an incredible team of pro bono lawyers from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan for help. Reflecting on his first meeting about the case, Stroock team member Robert Mantel, notes, “I remember us getting the facts and just thinking about how incredibly unfair it was — how there are these underlying issues of domestic violence, violence against women, and sex trafficking — and how it seemed like the courts didn’t really understand what had happened to [Christina]. The system didn’t seem to understand that she is a victim…”
The pro bono Stroock team, consisting of Michele Jacobson, Alexandra Lyon, and Robert Mantel, worked diligently from August 2019 to June 2020 to help Christina save her home. They drafted and filed a letter motion to reopen the termination hearing when Christina won an appeal downgrading her sex offender designation from Level 2 to Level 1. The team then drafted and filed an Article 78 proceeding appealing the termination, which included a detailed Petition that extensively described the relevant facts and persuasively outlined their legal arguments., Ultimately, the team successfully negotiated a stipulation of settlement, pursuant to which Christina’s tenancy was reinstated. Throughout this complex process, Michele, Alexandra, and Robert kept Christina apprised of all relevant developments in her case and advised her in connection with appealing the termination and agreeing to the settlement. With the Stroock team’s help, Christina was able to fight back against NYCHA’s illegal attempt to evict her and ensure that she and her daughter can maintain safe and stable housing. Stroock attorney shares,
“I did not expect how much help we would receive from those who heard Christina’s story and wanted to offer their experience and expertise. With these resources and Sanctuary’s expertise in anti-trafficking cases, she was able to keep her apartment.” — Alexandra Lyon, Associate.
Going Above & Beyond
The Stroock pro bono team did remarkable work in prosecuting this complicated, novel appeal. All team members were particularly trauma-informed with respect to the unique challenges Christina faces as a sex trafficking survivor, as someone who has struggled with drug addiction, and as someone who was required to register as a sex offender even though she herself was a victim. The team showed exceptional professionalism and compassion in handling this case and was able to achieve an outstanding victory for Christina.
“Working on [Christina’s] case made me realize that, while society has recognized that victims of sex trafficking are, in fact, victims, the criminal justice system and, unfortunately, government, have not supported these victims as they should.” — Michele Jacobson, Partner.
Expressing her gratitude for the Stroock team’s work, Sanctuary Supervising Attorney Dana Kaufman shares, “I have seen first-hand how having a pro bono team step in on a complex housing litigation can mean the world to a client, knowing she has the backing of an incredibly competent and compassionate team to help her fight against her landlord to maintain safe and stable housing for herself and her children.”
Christina is incredibly grateful for the excellent legal advocacy performed on her behalf by the Stroock team. Thanks to the Stroock team’s efforts, she and her daughter can finally live in peace in their home, without fear of being evicted and rendered homeless.
Join us at our virtual Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the outstanding pro bono work of Michele, Alexandra, and Robert. 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.