Steptoe & Johnson Honored for Advocacy in Retaliatory Defamation Case

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary will honor Joseph Sanderson of Steptoe & Johnson LLP for his tireless, inspired, and compassionate advocacy on behalf of Sanctuary’s client.

Sanctuary for Families is pleased to honor accomplished trial lawyer Joseph Sanderson of Steptoe & Johnson LLP with an Above & Beyond Award for his tireless, inspired, and compassionate advocacy on behalf of Sanctuary’s client in a retaliatory defamation case.

Joseph is a well-known and accomplished litigator who has generously shared his expertise and experience to help Sanctuary’s client achieve a just outcome in a retaliatory defamation lawsuit. As Sanctuary’s client explained in her affidavit, her ex-husband—an NYPD officer—had physically and sexually abused her during their marriage. She later reported the abuse to the NYPD in an attempt to protect herself and stop the abuse. Later, as he faced contempt proceedings in their divorce case, the abuser filed a defamation lawsuit against her based on this report to the NYPD.

Sadly, defamation lawsuits against survivors who speak out about their abuse have been increasing. They are now another tool enabling abusers to harass, intimidate, and punish the victims of their violence. In addition to trying to silence survivors, these retaliatory lawsuits are often used to try to coerce survivors into dropping relief to which they are entitled in matrimonial or custody proceedings or not cooperating with criminal or other investigations. Pro bono attorneys like Joseph are critical in the effort to counteract this dangerous trend.

Sanctuary attorneys who specialize in family law had been representing the client in her divorce matter when the defamation lawsuit was filed against her. Sanctuary attorneys do not regularly litigate tort cases and have limited bandwidth to handle this type of collateral civil litigation. Fortunately for our client, Joseph has built up significant experience and expertise from volunteering to represent other pro bono clients who have been subjected to malicious defamation claims by their abusers as a means of harassment, retaliation and intimidation. Joseph’s sense of justice and fairness has led him to reach out to survivors who have courageously stepped forward to file complaints to stop their abuse or bring their abuser to justice, only to have their abuser misuse defamation law as a means to silence or intimidate them. Through a combination of skillful strategy, insightful knowledge of the complex workings of the court system, and desire to make sure that the legal system did not fail Sanctuary’s client, Joseph was able to obtain a voluntary Stipulation of Discontinuance of the case. Joseph employed a mix of patience, endurance and diligence in obtaining the best possible outcome.

Joseph started working on the case in June 2021 when he was at his former firm, Kirkland & Ellis, and took the case with him when he moved firms to Steptoe so our client would have continuous and consistent representation. After Joseph’s strategic motion practice—which required opposing counsel to spend significant time and money pursuing a case in which they may have expected the client would quickly fold—opposing counsel eventually agreed to drop the case altogether in a courtroom hallway while waiting for a motion to be heard. During the course of the several years long litigation, Joseph was dogged in his representation of the client, including by filing multiple applications with the Court, including a request to seal documents and sanction the other side in order to protect confidential client information that was disclosed in her ex-husband’s filings, which itself created pressure to discontinue the case.

Hannah West, the dedicated Sanctuary for Families lawyer handling the client’s divorce nominated Joseph for this Award, saying,

“I was impressed and grateful for Joseph’s ability to manage the case and all communications with the client so independently and skillfully. Most importantly, Joseph was collaborative with our client by being in constant communication with her and explaining in detail his case strategy, while listening to our client’s concerns and being responsive to her questions and guided by her needs.”

In addition to his pro bono work on behalf of survivors of abuse and violence, Joseph also advocates for reforms in the court system as a member of bar association committees. It is a testament to his skilled management of this sensitive case and thorough understanding of the workings of the legal system that Joseph was able to use the delays and pace of the court system to achieve such a positive outcome for our client. Had Joseph not been able to obtain the discontinuance of the case, our client may have lost her faith in the justice system that was punishing her for bravely coming forward to stop her abuse, and her ability to testify in the family law proceedings would also be impaired, jeopardizing her receiving a fair and favorable outcome.

Thanks to her courage and resilience, our client is moving forward with her life and thriving in her new profession. She recognizes that Joseph’s compassionate and empowering representation has helped her achieve her goals for her future, so when asked if she wanted to say anything in relation to Joseph’s Above & Beyond Award, Ms. S said she would do “anything for Mr. Sanderson” because of his ability to resolve the matter so smoothly and compassionately. Meanwhile, Joseph continues to share his trial advocacy talents to empower survivors by taking on other similar pro bono matters. We thank Joseph and are pleased to honor him for his dedication and generosity in volunteering his time and talents to such tireless, empowering and trauma-informed representation of Sanctuary for Families clients and other brave survivors of abuse and gender based violence.


Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on October 25, 2023, as we honor Steptoe & Johnson’s outstanding pro bono work.

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Tushna Gamadia is an of counsel in the Real Estate Group at Morrison & Foerster LLP, works with Sanctuary for Families’ clients on pro bono cases and is a member of Sanctuary for Families Pro Bono Council.

Schulte Roth & Zabel Assists Survivors in Critical Real Estate Matters

At this year’s Above & Beyond, Sanctuary will honor Gregory Pressman of Schulte Roth & Zabel for his invaluable assistance in multiple cases involving real estate matters.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families is pleased to honor its go-to real estate counsel, Gregory Pressman of Schulte Roth & Zabel, LLP, with an Above & Beyond Award for his invaluable assistance to Sanctuary’s clients in multiple cases involving real estate matters.

Greg Pressman is a well-known and extremely accomplished real estate lawyer who has generously shared his expertise and decades of experience to help Sanctuary’s clients navigate complex and critical real estate matters that arise as part of the client’s domestic violence or matrimonial cases. In the cases that Greg has worked on, abusers often attempt to use ownership and financing of real estate, including the family’s home, as a means of control and intimidation against Sanctuary’s clients. The Sanctuary team, with Greg’s help, has worked on several cases where the team has been able to educate clients as to their rights with respect to real estate matters, work with clients to come up with innovative strategies in unusual and particularly complex cases, and help clients fight for their rights with respect to their homes and real estate assets (which are often used by abusers to jeopardize a client’s sense of security, sense of stability, and financial independence). For example, Greg was instrumental in helping a client and her children recover their rightful share of the proceeds of the sale of the family home through an escrow arrangement in a case where her husband had left the country and married again without the client’s knowledge.

Greg is both a trusted advisor and a critical member of several litigation teams where real estate matters are central to the outcome of cases. Greg’s thorough understanding of real estate law, real estate ownership and financing documents, and negotiation strategies has been invaluable to clients. In a case where the client’s abuser is using the foreclosure of the family home and associated debt to exert coercive control over the client, Greg has offered invaluable insight into the complex foreclosure matters, employed strategic negotiations, and worked on innovative settlement solutions to obtain the best outcome for our client.

Greg is always willing to assist the Sanctuary lawyers in any way they need him to, from reviewing mortgage documents, answering questions about sales of client’s homes and real estate foreclosure issues to leading negotiations and coming up with novel and creative litigation strategies that involve thinking out of box. Greg is very responsive and has spent countless hours advising clients, the Sanctuary lawyers and other pro bono counsel in spite of his busy schedule. He will even call the Sanctuary team on weekends to answer questions. He always goes above and beyond in his representation of Sanctuary’s clients, such as visiting the client’s property to better understand why the house is in foreclosure and assess its potential value better and personally contacting and staying in touch with a referee appointed to oversee the foreclosure of a house so as to keep the client updated and informed in order to obtain the best possible outcome in a difficult situation.

While Greg’s dedication in generously volunteering his time and skills in real estate matters has made him an invaluable resource to Sanctuary, what really stands out is that Greg treats every client with respect, dignity, and compassion as he empowers clients with respect to their rights. Greg also has a great appreciation for the dedication, skills, and stress level that Sanctuary’s lawyers work under and therefore wants to share his time and knowledge with them and be a part of the team. Greg’s involvement with Sanctuary started many years ago when he successfully advised Sanctuary on a critical mortgage matter involving Sanctuary’s Sarah Burke House shelter, which led to Sanctuary inviting Greg to join the Sanctuary Board in 2007. Greg served on Sanctuary’s Board from 2007 to 2016 and during his board tenure worked closely with Sanctuary on real estate matters involving Sanctuary’s office space. In the past few years, Greg has become involved with direct client pro bono work (even connecting clients to Sanctuary), which he has done with great energy and dedication for the last several years. Sanctuary is pleased to honor Greg for his countless contributions towards helping and empowering Sanctuary’s clients.


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

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


Tushna Gamadia is an of counsel in the Real Estate Group at Morrison & Foerster LLP, works with Sanctuary for Families’ clients on pro bono cases and is a member of Sanctuary for Families Pro Bono Council.

Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project: Helping Survivors Get Orders of Protection During COVID-19

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a group of dedicated volunteer attorneys, summer associates, and paralegals who provided virtual pro se assistance to survivors of domestic violence seeking orders of protection during COVID-19.

Tushna is Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster LLP and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

One of the unfortunate and dangerous effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has been that the frequency and intensity of domestic violence has escalated during this challenging time. With Family Courts physically closed and operating at reduced capacity as a result of the Covid-19 health crisis, those experiencing domestic violence were not able to receive in-person pro se assistance in preparing and filing family offense petitions against their abuser in order to obtain orders of protection for themselves and their children.

To address this serious gap in services, Sanctuary for Families worked quickly to create a new pro bono project called the Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project (or VCAP), which provided virtual pro se assistance to survivors of domestic violence seeking orders of protection from abuse and violence.  A group of six firms promptly agreed to staff the VCAP program and a group of dedicated volunteer attorneys, summer associates and paralegals from Cahill, Gordon & Reindel LLP, Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP, Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Simpson Thacher & Barlett LLP, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and Schulte, Roth &  Zabel LLP made a huge commitment to help these brave survivors. Volunteers from each of these firms immediately began staffing the VCAP program five days a week starting in April 2020. By the time VCAP ended on September 1, 2020, VCAP volunteers had drafted nearly 200 family offense petitions on behalf of victims of domestic violence seeking orders of protection.  Nearly 180 of those petitions were filed with the court, with almost all of the petitioners being granted an order of protection and other requested relief.

Each of the volunteers focused their time, energy, and efforts to help their clients prepare and file their petitions and to serve the Temporary Order of Protection on the respondent. VCAP attorneys were tenacious and skilled in their quest to help the clients obtain full stay away Temporary Orders of Protection. In addition, they were able to achieve hard to obtain additional relief to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence, such as stay away orders for petitioner’s children and pets, child support orders, and orders preventing the electronic dissemination of intimate images and videos of the petitioner.

Each pro bono attorney was compassionate and patient in assisting these courageous survivors to get protection from their abusers and offered empathetic and trauma-informed support, empowering petitioners to find their own path to safety and justice. For example, one pro bono attorney worked for over a week with a petitioner who was afraid to file her family offense petition, patiently supporting the client and empowering the client to make her own decision regarding whether to file the petition. Ultimately, the client decided to move forward with filing the petition and obtained the protection she needed.

As a long-standing member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council and Sanctuary supporter, I am deeply grateful to each of the caring pro bono attorneys, summer associates, and paralegals for their fierce advocacy combined with kindness and deep empathy, and the law firms that supported and facilitated their work. I am also thankful to the Sanctuary for Families staff attorneys who were instrumental in swiftly setting up this innovative program that met the urgent needs of the moment.  And, as always, I am also grateful for, and constantly inspired by, the courage and strength of the clients who stepped forward to protect themselves and their families from violence and abuse in the midst of a global health crisis.

In the words of VCAP volunteer attorney Amy Barton of Paul Weiss,

“Although my clients repeatedly expressed their appreciation to me for my assistance, in the end, they were the ones who deserved my thanks for inspiring me with their strength to find help when needed and allowing me the opportunity to try to make someone’s life a little safer in a world that seemed to be turning upside down for all of us.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the VCAP volunteers’ outstanding pro bono work. 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.

Paul Hastings and Goldman Sachs Come Together to Help Sanctuary’s Clients

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul Hastings LLP and The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. for their compassionate pro bono assistance on behalf of twelve Sanctuary clients and their families.

Tushna Gamadia is a member of Sanctuary for Families Pro Bono Council and an Of Counsel in the Real Estate Group at Morrison & Foerster LLP. She works on a number of family law and immigration cases pro bono, including for Sanctuary for Families clients who have inspired her with their courage, determination and hope.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul Hastings LLP and The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. for their compassionate pro bono assistance on behalf of twelve Sanctuary clients and their families. The team consisted of Susan Wade, Of Counsel at Paul Hastings; Justin Capozzi, Associate at Paul Hastings; Colleen M. O’Brien, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Goldman Sachs; and Juan Castano, Legal Analyst at Goldman Sachs.  

A group of dedicated volunteers from Paul Hastings LLP and The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. teamed up in April 2019 at a clinic at Paul Hastings LLP to help 12 Sanctuary for Families’ clients and their family members adjust their status from U Nonimmigrant Status to permanent resident status before their U-visas expired.

This day was a significant milestone in our clients’ journeys toward a safe, secure and hopeful future. Each of them and their families had survived domestic violence and trauma and with great strength and courage came forward to cooperate with law enforcement to seek justice against their abusers. As a result of this cooperation, they had been granted U-Visa status by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), a status that allows survivors to live and work in the United States and makes them eligible for permanent resident status after four years.  The goal of this clinic was to help the clients complete and submit their permanent residency applications to USCIS before their U-visas expired in October 2019, thus allowing them and their families to continue to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.  Securing permanent resident status also puts them on the path to one day obtaining U.S. citizenship.

The success of the clinic in helping so many clients so efficiently and skillfully would not have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of Susan Wade, Of Counsel at Paul Hastings; Justin Capozzi, Associate at Paul Hastings; Colleen M. O’Brien, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Goldman Sachs; and Juan Castano, Legal Analyst at Goldman Sachs.

Susan, Justin, Colleen, and Juan recruited a large number of volunteers to represent clients, interpret for clients, and make sure the clinic day ran smoothly.  Colleen and Juan organized a training session at Goldman Sachs in advance of the clinic so that volunteers were prepared and knew what to expect, especially in terms of understanding the trauma their clients have experienced and had to relive during the process of obtaining their U-Visa.

After the training, Paul Hastings and Goldman Sachs volunteers formed teams and reviewed the clients’ files in advance of the meeting so that they were fully prepared to assist each client with completing the bulk of their application at the clinic.  Paul Hastings’ attorneys completed any necessary follow up and finalized the applications for submission to USCIS.

“Paul Hastings and Goldman Sachs really mobilized a tremendous amount of resources, pro bono attorneys and volunteers, conference rooms, and positive energy to make this happen,” said Sanctuary Immigration Intervention Project (IIP) attorney Anne-Cecile Raphael.

The Sanctuary IIP attorneys who assisted with the clinic were impressed and excited by the level of energy and enthusiasm from the volunteers, who refused to allow the current anti-immigrant climate to have a chilling effect on their clients’ ability to apply for immigration benefits.

“The level of professionalism and care they displayed really impressed us all. Susan, Justin, Colleen, and Juan really created a unique opportunity for Sanctuary clients to spend time together and interact with each other, as well as with the volunteers. Having the support of others who have gone through similar experiences as well as knowing that they each had a team of 3 or 4 committed and compassionate volunteers to help them submit their application for a green card really helped the clients feel comfortable and confident in taking this step forward,” said Raphael.

“Susan and Justin are incredibly knowledgeable, organized, and trauma-informed. Their commitment to Sanctuary’s immigration clients is inspiring, and we were so happy that they were leading the charge to ensure so many clients got help with applications that, given the current anti-immigration climate, were really causing our clients a lot of anxiety,” said Sanctuary Pro Bono Director Nicole Fidler.

The volunteers, like the clients, were a diverse group in terms of background, ages and experience levels, but they were all committed to helping their clients achieve an important step towards their American dream of safety, opportunity, dignity and a chance at happiness for their families. For many of the volunteers, assisting in the clinic felt close to home because they came from immigrant families. For others, it was a great introduction to pro bono work or a way to dedicate a finite amount of time from their hectic work schedules to make a big and significant impact in the life of a brave survivor. For others, it was an extension of their commitment to pro bono work, including years of on-going commitment to Sanctuary’s clients or an extension of their work on Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council. The diligent team work of these volunteers is an inspiration to other law firms and companies as a great way to come together to help make a positive impact in the lives of courageous and inspiring people and learn a great deal in return.

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on November 12, 2019, at the RUMI Event Space, 229 W 28th St, New York, NY as we honor Paul Hastings’ and Goldman Sachs’ outstanding pro bono work. You can buy tickets here

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