Above & Beyond 2017

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards,

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards, we worked closely with our Pro Bono Council and event co-chairs to publish eleven stories – each featuring a different team and case. This collection showcases the extraordinary lengths to which so many of our pro bono partners go in order to serve our clients.

To learn more about our Pro Bono Council and related advisory groups, click here.

Cahill Associate Fights for Mother and her Special-Needs Son

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP: Margaret Barone

“My son and I have been enormously blessed . . . with the valuable assistance of Margaret whom I can only thank forever with all my heart as a mother and as a woman and as a minority.”

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Cravath Attorneys Support Mother and Child’s Effort to Flee Domestic Violence

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP: Amal El bakhar, Rachel Fritzler, and Rachel Skaistis

“I believe we have a responsibility as lawyers to represent those less fortunate, and help do what we can to bend the arc a little further toward justice.”

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Davis Polk Team Changes Lives of U-Visa Applicants with Impact Litigation

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Surya Gopalan, Sharon Katz, Caroline Stern, and Scott Wilcox

“They left no stone unturned in preparing the strongest possible case for our clients.”

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Davis Polk Team Wins Custody Victory Against Abusive Father

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Alyssa Beaver Gomez, Molly Greer Gurny, and Amanda Meyer

“We no longer live our lives in fear of violence but in freedom we’ve never experienced before. I can never thank them enough for what they’ve done for us and how they’ve changed our lives.”

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Debevoise Team Secures Freedom and Protection for Survivor of Abuse and her Family in Multi-Year Trial Process

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP: Anna Domyancic, Lesley Douglas, Ashley Fillmore, Sean Hecker, Rhianna Hoover, John Pierpont, and Marisa Taney

The team’s work was life-changing for Rebecca. When Rebecca learned of their nomination for this award, she told Sanctuary that the Debevoise team members were her “heroes.”

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Paul Weiss Team Wins Major Victory for Victim of Domestic Violence

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP: Michael Nadler, Allison Penfield, and Elizabeth Sacksteder

“This decision is great case law and a major win for Sanctuary and for Paul, Weiss. But above all and most importantly, this is a tremendous and well deserved victory for Susan!”

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Schulte Roth & Zabel Team Successfully Advocates for Domestic Violence Survivor Against Abuser and Aggressive Opposing Counsel

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP: Mari Dopp, Carly Halpin, and Taleah Jennings

“This was uncharted territory for myself and some of my supervisors . . . a lot of the issues raised in the process were really novel for us. There was no blueprint. But the Schulte attorneys were completely undeterred by this.”

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Simpson Thacher Team Fights for Trafficking Survivor Whose Testimony Led to Successful Prosecution of International Trafficking Right

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP: Carola Beeney, Hilary Chadwick, Kristina Green, Harlene Katzman, Matthew Levy, Jonathan Lieberman, Lara Pomerantz, Mark Stein, and Alyssa Watzman

“I am grateful to the Simpson Thacher legal team for helping me with such a long and complicated case. It has been so many years, but Simpson has supported and protected me at every turn. Thanks to them, I have been able to start a new life with my husband and daughter.”

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Stroock Team Comes to the Rescue of Labor Trafficking Survivor

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP: Joy Baskin, Kevin Curnin, Jonathan Konig, Ben Smyser, and Claude Szyfer

“This legal team is tenacious! While other teams would have rightly been proud to help secure a guilty plea from a husband-wife team of heartless labor traffickers, Stroock went the extra mile in ensuring that their formerly enslaved client got true justice in the form of compensation.”

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Wachtell Team Works Tirelessly to Stop Client’s Deportation

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz: Courtney Heavey and John Savarese

“helping Michael remain in this country where he worked so hard to build a life for himself and keeping him united with his family was an incredibly rewarding experience and I am so thankful to have been a part of this case.”

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WilmerHale Team Reunites Mother and Children in International Abduction Case

Wilmer Hale LLP: Vilmarie Alcaraz, Margaret Artz, Hanna Baek, Todd Blanche, Sanket Bulsara, Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, Musetta Durkee, Matthew Galeotti, Lauren Kennedy, Sharon Cohen Levin, William Roth, Joshua Vittor, and David Yin

“It was a difficult time to be without my daughters for two years, but I never lost hope that my children would be back in my arms sometime. Sanctuary and WilmerHale listened to me, helped me, and were by my side every step of the way although I was in Mexico and my legal team was in New York.”

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Paul, Weiss Team Wins Major Victory for Domestic Violence Survivor

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP for their skilled litigation on behalf of a domestic violence survivor. Paul, Weiss former associate Michael Nadler (currently a 2nd Circuit judicial clerk) and Paul, Weiss associate Allison Penfield, supervised by partner Liz Sacksteder, argued that past incidents of domestic violence, although committed more than a year prior to petitioning for an order of protection, were enough to give their client, Susan, a continuing reasonable fear of her abuser. The judge agreed with their deftly-made arguments and granted Susan a one-year order of protection. This result was a major victory with immense precedential value.

Emily Suran is an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. She is a Co-Chair of the Above & Beyond Benefit, the editor of the Above & Beyond blog posts, and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP for their skilled litigation on behalf of a domestic violence survivor. Paul, Weiss former associate Michael Nadler (currently a 2nd Circuit judicial clerk) and Paul, Weiss associate Allison Penfield, supervised by partner Liz Sacksteder, argued that past incidents of domestic violence, although committed more than a year prior to petitioning for an order of protection, were enough to give their client, “Susan,” a continuing reasonable fear of her abuser. The judge agreed with their deftly-made arguments and granted Susan a one-year order of protection. This result was a major victory with immense precedential value.

A History of Abuse

In 2014, Susan’s former partner, Todd, became physically violent and menacing, and in 2015, Susan ended the relationship. At one point, Susan obtained an order of protection against Todd, but it was subsequently dismissed.

A New Incident Leads to a New Case

Over a year later, Susan was at a restaurant when she saw Todd standing next to her car outside. Terrified, Susan called 911.

Luba Reife, a senior staff attorney with Sanctuary for Families’ Family Law Project, enlisted the help of Paul, Weiss partner Liz Sacksteder, associate Allison, and then-associate Michael to secure a new order of protection for Susan. While the latest incident did not independently rise to the level of an offense, the team crafted an argument that all the prior incidents of abuse, taken together, gave Susan a reasonable and continuing fear of Todd and justified an order of protection.

Michael and Allison developed a strong relationship with Susan, and did extensive research and witness preparation before heading into the courtroom. Michael single-handedly conducted the direct examination of Susan, and he also cross-examined Todd.  Allison conducted the direct examination of another witness, who testified to the history of abuse.

Paul, Weiss partner Liz Sacksteder recalls,

“Mike and I strategized before every hearing date and talked through all the evidentiary issues and strategy for each examination.  I was very impressed by all the care and thought and depths of analysis going into Mike’s and Allison’s preparation. I thought the two of them were a great team, and Mike was a great leader of the team.”

A Positive Outcome

Thanks to the efforts of the Paul, Weiss team, the court issued a decision granting Susan a one-year order of protection.

Upon receiving the positive decision from the court, Luba enthused:

“Michael and Allison did a fantastic job eliciting testimony as to all the past incidents of domestic violence and, what’s most important, were able to convey to the Court, through the testimony, that Petitioner is still in need of an order of protection … This decision is great case law and a major win for Sanctuary and for Paul, Weiss. But above all and most importantly, this is a tremendous and well deserved victory for Susan!”

In Memoriam

Tragically, Susan passed away shortly after receiving the court’s decision. In an email sharing the devastating news, Luba wrote, “She was a lovely person, a trooper, with a wonderful sense of humor, smart and gutsy. She was going to present the award at Above and Beyond for the Paul, Weiss team. I am absolutely heartbroken over this loss.”

Michael and Allison were shocked. After such an exhilarating win, it was difficult to process Susan’s untimely death. Allison recalled Susan as vibrant and a wonderful role model for women. “I think a lot of people would have not gone through the hell she went through to get this order of protection in place,” she said. “Working with her was the most rewarding part of this case.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 17, 2017 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor the Paul, Weiss team’s outstanding pro bono work.  Learn more about the event here.

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

Davis Polk Team Wins Custody Victory Against Abusive Father

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “Anna” in her custody proceeding against the abusive father of her son “Eli.” The Davis Polk team included litigation associates Alyssa Beaver Gomez, Molly Greer Gurny, and Amanda Meyer, who helped Anna obtain sole legal custody of Eli as well as a final order allowing the father only supervised visitation.

Christina Pryor is an associate in the Government Enforcement and White Collar Crime group  in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.  She is also a  member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

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At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “Anna” in her custody proceeding against the abusive father of her son “Eli.”  The Davis Polk team included litigation associates Alyssa Beaver Gomez, Molly Greer Gurny, and Amanda Meyer, who helped Anna obtain sole legal custody of Eli as well as a final order allowing the father only supervised visitation.

Davis Polk Stands by Former Client

Dara Sheinfeld, Sanctuary’s former Legal Director at the Bronx and Manhattan Family Justice Centers, had previously represented Anna pro bono in her initial custody case as an associate at Davis Polk.  The case settled on the first day of trial, resulting in the grant of joint legal custody as well as physical custody and final decision-making to Anna.  When Anna needed to file custody modification and violation cases years later due to the respondent’s increasingly controlling behavior towards Eli, Sheinfeld reached out to Davis Polk, who quickly agreed to represent Anna in this new proceeding.

The Davis Polk team assisted Sheinfeld with multiple aspects of pre-trial and trial work, including organizing exhibits, preparing witnesses, conducting cross examination, and drafting summations.  Sheinfeld noted that the Davis Polk team took the lead in drafting and conducting cross examination of the supervised visitation social worker as well as in responding to motions filed by the respondent regarding evidentiary issues, which enabled her to focus on preparing Anna for her direct examination.  In addition to their work in family court, the Davis Polk team also advocated on behalf of Anna in the related criminal case against the respondent for contempt.

The Team Prevails at Trial

The team ultimately won big at trial – not only getting Anna sole legal custody of her son, but also obtaining a decision that restricted the father’s visitation.  While the father previously had the right to visitation with Eli every weekend at his home, his visits are now limited to one day a week and take place at Comprehensive Family Services.

Sheinfeld, who is now the Pro Bono Attorney at Davis Polk, praised the team’s tireless work, stating:

“We spent countless hours on this case, and the Davis Polk team always produced top notch work, quickly and efficiently. . . .  The fact that we were able to get a final order with supervised visits speaks volumes!  The client and child were thrilled, and can finally, after many years, move on with their lives in peace.”

Anna also stated her appreciation for the team’s efforts:

“We no longer live our lives in fear of violence but in freedom we’ve never experienced before.  I can never thank them enough for what they’ve done for us and how they’ve changed our lives.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 17, 2017 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor the Davis Polk team’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.

Stroock Team Comes to the Rescue of Labor Trafficking Survivor

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP for their brilliant and effective advocacy on behalf of “Diane.” The Stroock team worked tirelessly to help Diane not only apply for legal status but also negotiated with law enforcement to ensure Diane received the legal restitution she deserved.

Neda Hassanzadeh is a graduate student at Columbia University.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP for their brilliant and effective advocacy on behalf of “Diane.”  The Stroock team worked tirelessly to help Diane not only apply for legal status but also negotiated with law enforcement to ensure Diane received the legal restitution she deserved.

 This dedicated team included partners Kevin Curnin and Claude Szyfer, and associates Joy Baskin, Ben Smyser, and Jonathan Konig.

The Dream of Coming to America Turns into a Nightmare

Diane came to the United States from Nigeria under the impression that she would be working for a wealthy and powerful Nigerian family to fulfill their housekeeping needs.  Much to her dismay, her documents and all of her money were taken from her upon arrival. A heartless husband-wife team of labor traffickers worked her nearly to exhaustion and serious illness, forbidding her from leaving the home and paying her very little and inconsistently, sometimes not even paying her at all.

Diane worked for her traffickers for five long years. Due to the horrendous labor conditions, Diane developed pitting edema and started coughing up blood. The family took her to the hospital a few times, but kept her under close watch. They threatened that if she said anything about her working conditions, she would get deported.

One day she asked the husband, “What happens to people who get sick and don’t have papers?”  He looked at her and sternly responded, “They die.” At that moment, Diane very bravely decided that she was not going to die like this. And so, she planned her escape.

A Plan of Escape Gone Awry

After five long years of maltreatment, Diane fled to a neighbor’s home and revealed everything the family had done to her.  From there, she was sent to a shelter but she ended up being moved to the home of a friend of her traffickers.  Unsurprisingly, her traffickers were quickly alerted to her presence. Thanks to the quick work of Diane’s caseworker, Diane was able to escape to a safe shelter.

Stroock Steps In

Partner Kevin Curnin founded the Public Service Project at Stroock 16 years ago and has been working with Sanctuary for Families for years. When Lori Cohen, Director of Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative, brought Diane’s case to Curnin’s attention, he quickly assembled a team.

Kevin, Claude, Joy, Ben, and Jonathan got to work immediately. The committed and dedicated pro bono attorneys put in many hours gaining Diane’s trust and preparing her for meetings with law enforcement. Thanks to their work and Diane’s cooperation, prosecutors were able to secure a guilty plea from her traffickers. A guilty plea would have been a great victory in and of itself, but the Stroock team went even further and ensured that the prosecutors put safeguards into place requiring upfront payment of a portion of the monetary restitution owed to their client as part of the plea deal.  Lori Cohen enthused,

“This legal team is tenacious! While other teams would have rightly been proud to help secure a guilty plea from a husband-wife team of heartless labor traffickers, Stroock went the extra mile in ensuring that their formerly enslaved client got true justice in the form of compensation.”

 Since the conclusion of the criminal case, the Stroock team has filed a T nonimmigrant status application for Diane, so she can have long-term legal status in the United States. Diane is enjoying her life as a freed person and now spends her Sundays at church attending services and volunteering, an experience Diane’s captors took away from her.

Reflecting on her experience working with Diane, Joy Baskin said,

“It’s been a labor of love—long and very hard, but it’s been wonderful.  In these projects, you feel like you’re getting more than you’re giving.  Our client is a wonderful, wonderful woman.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 17, 2017 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor the Stroock team’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.