At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “ZN,” a young, immigrant mother of four children. The Cahill team, consisting of partner Joel Kurtzberg, and associates Sara Ortiz, Chloe Sauer (currently of Barclays), and Ben A. Schatz (currently of the Center for Appellate Litigation) helped ZN obtain a finding of neglect against her husband, full custody of her children, and an Order of Protection, including all of her children, against her husband.
Pro Bono Council Co-Chair Ben A. Schatz talks with Sara Ortiz about her experience working with Sanctuary on the ZN matter.
Ben: Tell us briefly about the work you and your team did on behalf of ZN.
Sara: ZN is a young immigrant mother of four who had suffered years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. She came to Sanctuary a few years ago after her husband lied to police to have her falsely arrested, only to find his plan backfiring, and resulting in a neglect case against him in Bronx Family Court.
Working with Dara Sheinfeld, Sanctuary’s Legal Director in the Bronx and Manhattan, we prepared ZN for a trial in the neglect matter in Bronx Family Court, and filed petitions for custody and an order of protection, to be heard simultaneously.
At an emotional hearing in the neglect matter, ZN and her oldest son testified about the extensive physical and emotional abuse her husband inflicted on the family. In July 2015, the court made a finding of neglect against ZN’s husband, and granted ZN full custody of her children and a full five-year order of protection for herself and her children. We also then assisted ZN in obtaining a favorable child support order against her husband. We’re continuing to advocate on ZN’s behalf in other pending legal matters.
Ben: Has working with Sanctuary on ZN’s case helped you grow as a lawyer?
Sara: Absolutely. My work at Cahill primarily focuses on long-term, large-scale commercial litigation matters and investigations. Working with Sanctuary on ZN’s case as a junior associate has given me a great chance to take the lead on a completely different and incredibly important case.
Also, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, Dara. I could not ask for a better legal mentor. Dara is a brilliant advocate, and made herself available day and night to answer any questions that came up during the case. Dara clearly loves her job, and working with her and with Sanctuary undoubtedly has made me a better advocate.
Ben: Sanctuary takes a holistic approach to helping its clients. How did you and Sanctuary help ZN in ways outside the courtroom?
Sara: Sanctuary lawyers are always looking to support their clients in ways that extend beyond the clients’ immediate legal needs. Inspired by this approach, we referred ZN to our holiday Adopt-a-Family program, helped ZN obtain public assistance benefits, got her children signed up for free summer camp, and made sure she left each of our meetings with anything she needed to care for herself and her four children, whether it be food, clothing, or a MetroCard.
I also personally helped ZN become more comfortable taking public transportation by exchanging text messages with photographs of our respective locations to make finding each other near the subway easier. ZN even gained the confidence to take the train alone from the Bronx to Manhattan.
Ben: How has Cahill supported your pro bono work with Sanctuary?
Sara: Cahill has been unwavering in its support of my work with Sanctuary. The Firm has a deep and longstanding relationship with Sanctuary, spearheaded by Joel Kurtzberg when he was an associate (that was nearly two decades ago—Joel is now a partner).
In addition to its pro bono efforts, the Firm sponsors holiday drives, collecting hundreds of gift cards for Sanctuary clients, and has hosted resume review and interviewing skills workshops for survivors of domestic violence enrolled in Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program. It’s a privilege to work at a Firm that enables me to pursue pro bono work I feel passionate about.
Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 19, 2016 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor Cahill Gordon & Reindel’s outstanding pro bono work. Learn more about the event 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.