At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families honored team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (“Weil”) for their dedicated pro bono representation of “Ms. B” to win a Hague Convention parental abduction case ensuring that she and her daughter never have to return to her abusive husband. The team consisted of partners Susan Shin and Luna Barrington, counsel Richard Rothman and Robert Swenson, and associates Irisa Chen, Austen Green, Aaron Shaddy, Jack Nolan, Scott Christopher, Rachel Williams, Marie-Marie de Fays, and Maggie Hart.
Originally from Europe, Ms. B had been living in Morocco with her husband. Shortly after telling her husband she was pregnant with their daughter, the abuse started. While pregnant, Ms. B was subjected to physical and psychological abuse, regular threats, destruction of property, and rampant gaslighting. Her husband also kept cocaine in the house which her daughter once found. When Ms. B confronted him about the drugs, the abuse escalated.
After fleeing Morocco and her abusive husband, Ms. B came to New York with her daughter and was living with a friend. Her husband filed a Hague Convention case in the Southern District of New York against both Ms. B and the friend who housed her. If successful, her husband would have forced the return of his daughter to Morocco.
The Weil team jumped into action, creating a large team capable of skillfully managing this challenging and complex Hague Convention case. These cases are incredibly intense; the expedited timeline means that litigation happens quickly, and the stakes are high.
In order to win this case, the team had to prove that Ms. B and her daughter should not be returned to Morocco because doing so would place her daughter at grave risk of psychological or physical harm. The Weil team brilliantly and collaboratively strategized with psychological experts, Moroccan law experts, family law experts, and DV experts in Morocco and in the U.S. to shape the best possible litigation path to success.
They spent an enormous amount of time preparing their client for a grueling and traumatic four days on the witness stand and built a strong bond of trust with their client and her daughter. They supported Ms. B and her daughter both in and out of the courtroom.
The team dealt with a number of challenges, but ultimately Ms. B and the Weil team prevailed. After rounds of discovery fights and motion practice, they conducted a 12-day trial in January and February of 2021 and ultimately received a strong 96-page opinion denying the petition for the child’s return. Notably, the opinion was so strong that no appeal has been filed.
“Words will be never enough to describe my experience with this amazing team of lawyers. They are not only extraordinary lawyers, but they lift me up and they are very sensitive human beings. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times.” — B
Ms. B is deeply relieved that she can stay with her daughter in New York. She has become stronger throughout the trial process and is working towards becoming an advocate to help other DV survivors. The support of the Weil team has helped her to feel like she can be a support for others experiencing abuse as she did. The Weil team continues to provide Ms. B and her daughter with robust legal support as they establish their lives in the United States.
Thank you for joining us for our Above & Beyond Virtual Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit and for being part of our growing community of survivors and advocates. If you missed the program, click here to view the video.
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Amy Abramson is a former Sanctuary staff member and current Senior Development Director at American Jewish Committee. She is a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.