Kasowitz Team Secures Parole for Incarcerated Survivor of Gender Violence

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary will honor a Kasowitz team for their dedicated advocacy on behalf of “Amanda.”

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring a Kasowitz team for its dedicated advocacy in successfully securing parole for “Amanda,” an incarcerated survivor of gender-based violence. This representation included both parole preparation, as well as preparation for a parole rescission hearing, and ultimately was a major factor in the client’s release. We are thrilled to highlight the work of Kasowitz’s Nefertiti J. Alexander, Partner; Teresa Matushaj, Counsel; Binta A. Watkins, Staff attorney; Christina Lewis, Associate; and Katrina Bader, Law Clerk.

When the Kasowitz team first met their client, Amanda, she was incarcerated for identity theft and larceny. She had served a third of her sentence and would be up for parole in four months. In New York State, incarcerated individuals are not entitled to legal representation in their parole hearings. The onus falls entirely upon them to convey their remorse and rehabilitation, while simultaneously discussing a highly traumatic incident in their lives and responding to difficult questions from the Parole Board.

The Kasowitz team diligently set about preparing Amanda for her hearing through mock interviews and, equally importantly, bolstering Amanda’s self-confidence and sense of preparedness. At the same time, they put together a compelling parole packet that included statements from Amanda and her friends and family, records of her highly successful performance in various programs while incarcerated, and discussions of the support she would receive and the plans she had for her life post-release.

Like all of Sanctuary’s clients, Amanda is a survivor of gender-based violence and compound trauma. She has suffered a lifetime of abuse, beginning with sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend when she was only a child, and continuing through abusive relationships as an adult. The value of having a truly trauma-informed, compassionate, and communicative team in such a matter cannot be overstated, and the team’s relationship with Amanda grew stronger and stronger as they worked together. It was a celebration for all when Amanda was granted parole. Director of Sanctuary’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative Ross Kramer reflects, “At the time [the team] started working with her, Amanda was struggling with the conditions of her confinement, and was receiving little support. The team immediately stepped in, formed a strong bond with Amanda, and assisted her in every possible sense. They helped her prepare for her parole hearing, and they also made a tremendous difference in her life and self-confidence, through their trauma-informed, compassionate, and skillful work.”

However, after parole was granted but before her release, Amanda received—unfairly, we believe—a disciplinary ticket from a correctional officer that put her at risk of potential revocation of her parole. The team jumped in again to prepare their client and represent her in her rescission hearing, and their zealous advocacy helped Amanda to secure her release the following month.

“The Kasowitz team formed a strong bond with Amanda that allowed her to begin addressing and processing her trauma. Their compassion and patience not only helped Amanda secure her release from prison, it also allowed her to tap into her own strength and emerge as someone who was more confident, self-assured, and ready to begin a new chapter in her life. The Kasowitz team was a true friend and advocate for Amanda, and they went “above and beyond” in support of their client.”

Ross Kramer
Director of SFF’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative

Sanctuary is thrilled to honor Nefertiti, Teresa, Binta, Christina, and Katrina for their tremendous legal abilities and dedication to their client.


Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Kasowitz’s outstanding pro bono work.

PURCHASE TICKETS

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.


Romy Felsen-Parsons is Pro Bono Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families.

Cleary Associate Uses Trauma-Informed Approach in Advocating for Survivors

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring Cleary Gottlieb associate and former Cleary Gottlieb Fellow Morton Bast for her trauma-informed advocacy in working with two survivors of domestic violence.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring Cleary Gottlieb associate and former Cleary Gottlieb Fellow Morton Bast for her trauma-informed advocacy in working with two survivors of domestic violence. Morton worked with both clients for over a year, going so far as to take both cases with her back to Cleary Gottlieb in order to continue her legal representation from the firm.

In a previous Pro Bono Spotlight, Sanctuary for Families highlighted the work that Cleary associate Morton Bast did as a Cleary Gottlieb Fellow at Sanctuary. This groundbreaking new Fellowship placed Cleary associates full-time at legal services organizations for one full year, providing critically needed legal work to underserved communities during the pandemic while enabling Cleary Fellows to continue expanding their skill sets and pursue their specific interests. This year’s Above and Beyond Awards ceremony will honor Morton for the extensive work she did with two clients, Ms. D and Ms. O, both at Sanctuary and later at Cleary Gottlieb.

After being trained on how to approach trauma-informed, client-centered advocacy, Morton diligently and immediately set about putting these ideals into practice. Providing legal services to survivors of trauma, while extremely rewarding, of course, poses its own unique challenges, and Morton quickly learned that trauma can interfere with a person’s ability to recall details and to tell a coherent story of their experiences. One client, Ms. D, was deeply traumatized by her experiences of severe domestic violence and, as a result, extremely anxious about testifying in court – in addition to being extremely frustrated by over four years of litigation. Morton worked extensively with the client for hours at a time to gain her trust and prepare her for trial at her own pace.

“One of the major challenges of this case was that the client was not able to share her experiences in the typical structure of a direct examination, i.e. broken up into pieces in response to the attorney’s questions; she really needed to get into the zone and just deliver her story all at once. So rather than trying to force that, Morton and our team reconstructed the direct examination to allow the client to be the most comfortable telling her story on her own terms.”

Jennifer Friedman
Director of Sanctuary’s Bronx and Manhattan Legal Project

When Morton’s Fellowship at Sanctuary ended, she took Ms. D’s case with her back to Cleary Gottlieb. Ultimately, the case was settled at the eleventh hour on the morning that trial was scheduled with a highly favorable result for the client: an admission to domestic violence from the abuser and a 2-year Order of Protection, as well as consent to full legal and physical custody of the children. After this settlement, Morton stayed actively involved in the ongoing visitation case, which was also finally settled recently. Morton engaged in extensive negotiations with opposing counsel, drafted the final visitation stipulation, and was in constant communication with her client to ensure that the final visitation schedule was safe and enabled her to maintain her work schedule. Finally, after three and a half years of litigation, and Morton’s dedicated advocacy, Ms. D’s cases are resolved.

In Morton’s other major case, she drafted a motion for an extension of an Order of Protection for Ms. O, whose abuser, a convicted pedophile, was seeking visitation with their child. Morton, after leaving Sanctuary, continued on this case as well, successfully arguing the motion before the court in August and obtaining a final 2-year extension for the client.

In both the quality of her trauma-informed advocacy and her long-term dedication to her clients, Morton has truly gone above and beyond. Sanctuary is delighted to recognize Morton for her outstanding work on these cases.


Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Morton and Cleary Gottlieb’s outstanding pro bono work.

PURCHASE TICKETS

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.


Romy Felsen-Parsons is Pro Bono Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families.

Cravath Team Secures Parole for Incarcerated Survivor of Gender Violence

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary will honor a Cravath team for their dedicated advocacy on behalf of “Monica”.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring Cravath’s David Stuart and Angel Valle for their trauma-informed advocacy and commitment to successfully helping “Monica,” an incarcerated survivor of gender-based violence, to secure parole.

Parole preparation with an incarcerated survivor can facilitate incredibly meaningful moments in an attorney’s pro bono work, should they take the opportunity and put in the work to bond with their client and truly work to understand their lived experiences. Cravath’s David Stuart and Angel Valle certainly did this and more in the parole preparation they conducted with their client, “Monica,” over the course of about a year. When Monica was granted parole and released after nearly 25 years of incarceration, “Team Monica,” as she had taken to calling the pair of attorneys, drove up to meet her with supplies and to take her for her first meal outside prison in over two decades.

When Angel and David met Monica, she was incarcerated for the first-degree murder of her extremely abusive former husband. The physical abuse Monica experienced at the hands of her husband resulted in numerous hospitalizations. On one terrifying occasion, her husband put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger twice – only then did she learn that the gun had not been loaded. In addition to this severe trauma, Monica had already survived and witnessed extreme abuse from childhood and throughout her entire life. However, during her time in prison, Monica not only worked on unpacking and healing from this trauma but also consistently pushed herself to excel, taking over 20 classes and programs ranging from animal caretaking (Puppies Behind Bars) to faith-based learning (Women and the Bible) to doula training, while also working in the prison’s law library.

Needless to say, Monica was traumatized from a lifetime of violence and victimization, including at the hands of the criminal legal system, and needed significant support and patience. As her legal team, David and Angel had two main tasks: to create a compelling parole packet for Monica and to prepare her for her long-awaited appearance before the Parole Board. As mentioned in a previous post, in New York State, incarcerated individuals are not entitled to legal representation in their parole hearings. The onus falls entirely upon them to convey their remorse and rehabilitation, while simultaneously discussing a highly traumatic incident in their lives and responding to difficult questions from the Parole Board. Angel and David met with Monica to conduct mock hearings and were thrilled when they heard that her appearance before the Parole Board had been a success.

Reflecting on the experience, Angel notes, “Monica waited 25 years to tell her story to the Parole Board so it was important for her voice and perspective to drive the case.  She was not just a client but a valued member of our team, contributing legal insight she gained from being incarcerated and from working in the law library.  Since her release, Monica has remained a part of our team, visiting the Cravath office to share her experience and knowledge with the firm’s Incarcerated Women’s Initiative.”

“The Cravath team represented Monica with incredible enthusiasm and compassion. At every stage, they approached the case with both trauma-informed practice and zealous advocacy … certainly ‘Above and Beyond’ in every sense.”

Ross Kramer
Director of Sanctuary’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative

Sanctuary is thrilled to honor Angel and David for their outstanding legal abilities and dedication to their client.


Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Cravath’s outstanding pro bono work.

PURCHASE TICKETS

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.


Romy Felsen-Parsons is Pro Bono Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families.