At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring DLA Piper associate Elena Rizzo for her steadfast and devoted representation of multiple clients in complex contested divorce, custody, Order of Protection (“OP”), and appeals cases.
Elena Rizzo has secured positive outcomes for Sanctuary’s clients through masterful brief writing and successful argument before the First Department in a complicated divorce matter. Most recently, Elena shot into action on a highly complex, lengthy, and time-sensitive contested divorce case where she prepared the case for trial in a matter of weeks. The case involves a mother of five children whose husband has repeatedly engaged in physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Just some examples of such abuse include sexually assaulting the mother, failing to pay required child and spousal support, having the mother and children evicted from their home, and constantly violating the OP in the case.
The case was scheduled to go to trial in March 2023 and Elena wasted no time submitting requests for medical, school, dental, and other records for all five of the client’s children, securing copies of prior and current OPs and getting transcripts of prior cases which helped to impeach the client’s abuser. Armed with as much information as she could get, she immediately turned to trial prep mode. This involved drafting lengthy direct and cross examinations and preparing dozens of exhibits, including prior court filings, photographs, screenshots of text messages, videos of abuse, copies of police reports, and more.
Though ultimately the trial was rescheduled on the very day it was set to begin, Elena’s work to get this case trial-ready on such a tight timeline was nothing short of remarkable.
Reflecting on this case and Elena’s work, Lindsey Song, Associate Program Director of the Family Law Project at the Queens Family Justice Center explained,
“Elena is extremely dedicated and devoted to her clients and work and immediately shot into overdrive to prepare for an extremely contested and complex custody/OP trial with only weeks to prepare. Despite managing a caseload of her own at her firm, Elena prioritized preparing for the trial and, stunningly, came up with trial-ready exhibits and materials within less than a month of time.”
As to her work with Sanctuary, Elena explained,
“You have a gift when you have a law license. When you do have that gift, you have to make sure that you use that to help others.”
Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on October 25, 2023, as we honor DLA Piper’s outstanding pro bono work.
Kate Powers is counsel in the White Collar Defense & Government Investigation practice group at Akin’s New York office. She is also a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.