Sanctuary Spotlight: Nefertiti J. Alexander

A conversation with Nefertiti J. Alexander, partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP and co-chair of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council.

We are thrilled to have a conversation with Nefertiti J. Alexander, partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP and co-chair of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council. Nefertiti has handled pro bono matters involving criminal defense, labor trafficking, and immigration. Her practice at Kasowitz focuses on complex commercial litigation, white-collar defense, and government investigations.

How did you first learn about Sanctuary for Families?

I have known about Sanctuary for more than a decade.  When I was an associate at my former firm, I heard about the great work that Sanctuary was doing and was eventually invited to a Legal Advisory Council (LAC) meeting by Bill Gorin, one of my mentors.  Through the LAC meetings, I learned more about Sanctuary’s mission.  I also volunteered with Sanctuary for its annual Holiday Drive, putting together holiday presents for Sanctuary’s clients and their families. I have always felt aligned with Sanctuary’s holistic approach to helping more vulnerable members of our community.

Sanctuary has a very strong relationship with Kasowitz, and the firm has taken on so many pro bono cases for us. Can you elaborate on this partnership?

Kasowitz has a long history of working on pro bono and other community projects with Sanctuary.  Our partner David Abrams and counsel Teresa Matushaj run our pro bono program, and our partner Sarah Leivick has also been closely involved with Sanctuary.  When I joined the firm in 2018, I was so impressed by the Kasowitz attorneys devoting significant resources and time to Sanctuary’s pro bono matters, and took on a pro bono matter through Sanctuary myself.  It’s a great opportunity for our associates to take on leadership roles in cases, develop client relationships, and make a difference in the community. The work is incredibly rewarding.

You are a co-chair for the LAC now. How did that come about?

As part of Kasowitz’s long-standing relationship with Sanctuary, we began working with Sanctuary on its Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative (IGVSI).  Through that initiative, I started to work closely with Ross Kramer and Kayla Abrams at Sanctuary.  When Sanctuary asked me to co-chair the LAC, I jumped at the opportunity.

As a co-chair of the LAC, are there any particular goals you would like to achieve?

I am deeply committed to diversity and sit on the diversity committee at Kasowitz.  The LAC would love to welcome a wide array of members, whether in-house or at firms, from different economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds and representing a wide range of ages. When you bring those perspectives together, we create a stronger LAC.

Earlier in the year, Ross, Kayla, and I gave a presentation at Verizon Communication’s New Jersey headquarters to raise more awareness about Sanctuary;  it was very well received. A Verizon Communications in-house lawyer participated in a client visit at a correctional facility and joined us at our recent LAC meeting.  We are developing ways to collaborate, and it’s been great to help develop that relationship.

What kind of pro bono work have you done with Sanctuary?

Kasowitz has worked on a number of matters with Sanctuary, including orders of protection and divorce.  One case that I worked on that I would like to highlight is the case of Mrs. P., in which we sought parole for one of Sanctuary’s clients through the IGVSI. We sought parole, but close to our client’s release, she got a misconduct ticket that threatened her release date. Our team had to move quickly to represent her in a disciplinary hearing, one of the first of its kind in New York State, where outside attorneys could represent their client. We also represented her at a rescission hearing, where we persuaded the parole board that her release date should not be jeopardized by the misconduct ticket, and spoke in depth about the support, including shelter, work opportunities, educational opportunities, and clinical services, that Sanctuary would provide our client upon release.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about Sanctuary?

Sanctuary for Families is a unique organization. Not only is it helping survivors advocate for themselves and pursue their legal rights, but it provides so much support to empower clients and enable them to build a successful future.  All of that is being done within a trauma-informed framework, whether in the court system or through psychotherapy, education, or mediation.

Sanctuary’s 360 support for clients is incredibly admirable and worthy of support. This is why, as a LAC co-chair, part of my mission is to ensure that LAC includes a broad base of legal professionals. When we uplift our most vulnerable, we strengthen the community for everyone. In an area that can be fraught with politics, Sanctuary helps us to focus on the human perspective.

Hon. Fernando M. Camacho, 2023 Abely Awards Honoree

Established 26 years ago by Davis Polk, Sanctuary for Families, and Columbia Law School, the Abely Awards honor individuals who have made a difference in the lives of survivors of gender violence.

Established 26 years ago by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Sanctuary for Families, and Columbia Law School, the Abely Awards honor individuals who have made a difference in the lives of survivors of gender violence and who embody Maryellen Abely’s compassion, zeal, energy, and dedication.

This year, we are thrilled to present the 2023 Abely Leading Women and Children to Safety Award to the Honorable Fernando M. Camacho.

INTRODUCING JUDGE CAMACHO

The Honorable Fernando Camacho is an Acting Justice of the Suffolk County Supreme Court in the Tenth Judicial District of New York, where he presides over Suffolk County’s CONCEPTS Court, which he spearheaded in January 2021. Providing alternatives to residential placement for youth charged as Juvenile Delinquents in Family Court, the CONCEPTS Court offers assistance and support to court-involved children from the ages of twelve to seventeen, many of whom have been victims of sex-trafficking. From 2013 until 2021, Judge Camacho was assigned to Suffolk County Supreme Court where he created and presided over the Suffolk County Felony Youth Part, which provided alternatives to incarceration for young people charged with felonies.

Judge Camacho began his legal career at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where he worked in the Trial Division, the Sex Crimes Unit, and the Homicide Unit. In 1991 he was promoted to Senior Trial Counsel and assigned to the Homicide Investigation Unit, a joint state and federal task force, where he directed long term homicide investigations and prosecutions of violent gangs.

In 1997 Judge Camacho became a New York City Criminal Court Judge in Brooklyn. Assigned to Queens County in 2002, he served as the Deputy Supervising Judge and presided over the Domestic Violence Court.

In 2003 Judge Camacho created a pioneering treatment court with a mission to stop the incarceration of persons charged with prostitution. That court was the spark that led to the creation of the present day Human Trafficking Intervention Courts operating throughout New York State and a groundbreaking National Summit on Human Trafficking and State Courts in 2015, hosted by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

Appointed to the New York State Court of Claims in 2008, Judge Camacho also served as an Acting Supreme Court Justice in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Queens County Supreme Court. In 2009 he was promoted him to the position of County Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters. While serving as administrative judge he also created and presided over the Queens County Supreme Court Youth Diversion Part, a specialized diversion court for adolescents charged with felony offenses.

Over the last two decades years Judge Camacho has inspired and shaped the New York State court system’s response to human trafficking, advocating for more resources to assist victims of sex trafficking and for a response that shields trafficked and commercially sexually exploited adults and children from criminalization while holding their exploiters accountable. He has been a speaker at numerous state and national conferences and training seminars on the topics of juvenile justice, sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of youth.

Judge Camacho obtained his undergraduate degree from Columbia College and graduated from Fordham Law School.

Dara Sheinfeld, 2023 Abely Awards Honoree

Established 26 years ago by Davis Polk, Sanctuary for Families, and Columbia Law School, the Abely Awards honor individuals who have made a difference in the lives of survivors of gender violence.

Established 26 years ago by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Sanctuary for Families, and Columbia Law School, the Abely Awards honor individuals who have made a difference in the lives of survivors of gender violence and who embody Maryellen Abely’s compassion, zeal, energy, and dedication.

This year, we are thrilled to present the 2023 Abely Pro Bono Award to Dara Sheinfeld.

INTRODUCING DARA

Dara Sheinfeld is Counsel and Head of Pro Bono Litigation at Davis Polk & Wardwell, where she leads pro bono litigation initiatives focusing on trial work and matters assisting survivors of domestic violence.

As Head of Pro Bono Litigation, Dara oversees pro bono family court litigation, post-conviction relief matters in criminal courts, federal civil rights and Hague Convention actions, and civil and criminal appeals. Focusing much of her time on the representation of survivors of domestic violence, Dara has led Davis Polk teams that have achieved precedent-setting litigation victories on their behalf, securing U.S. refuge under the Hague Convention for multiple families and early release from prison as a result of numerous resentencing applications and clemency petitions.

In Hague litigation in the S.D.N.Y. and E.D.N.Y., Dara has first chaired four matters, all resulting in trial wins or negotiated resolutions that allowed domestic violence survivors and their children to remain in New York, free from the abuse they had suffered in their home countries.

Since New York passed the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) in 2019, Dara has been integral to the resentencing of over a dozen survivors – cumulatively reducing their sentences by decades.

Dara’s advocacy has also led to multiple grants of clemency, including for a survivor of severe domestic violence, who, after having been kidnapped at gunpoint by her estranged husband, and forced to participate in his crimes, had been convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

Through her supervision, Dara helps Davis Polk lawyers develop and strengthen their trial and investigative skills and serves as a resource to other law firms on pro bono best practices. She is also an invaluable resource to numerous public interest legal services organizations, strategizing with their lawyers about complex cases and bringing pro bono resources to areas of great client need.

Earlier in her career, Dara spent five years as the Director of Sanctuary for Families’ family law practice in the Bronx and Manhattan Family Justice Centers. She still volunteers monthly to conduct legal screenings at the Manhattan Family Justice Center.

Prior to working at Sanctuary, Dara was a litigation associate at Davis Polk and clerked for Judge Harold Baer, Jr., in the S.D.N.Y.  She is a graduate of New York University Law School and Brown University.

 

Alita T. Wingfield, 2023 Zero Tolerance Honoree

Every year, at our Zero Tolerance Benefit, Sanctuary for Families honors those who have significantly contributed to the movement to end gender-based violence.

Every year, at our Zero Tolerance Benefit, Sanctuary for Families honors those who have significantly contributed to the movement to end gender-based violence. This year, we are thrilled to present the 2023 Zero Tolerance Award to Alita T. Wingfield, Managing Director & Head of Compliance Training at Morgan Stanley.

INTRODUCING ALITA

Alita T. Wingfield is a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley and the Head of Compliance Training. Alita joined the firm in 2004 as a Director in the Legal and Compliance Division (LCD) and later served as the Head of Non-Market Risk at Morgan Stanley Bank, N.A. She was named Vice President in 2005, Executive Director in 2011, and Managing Director in 2021.

In 2022, Alita was appointed Co-Chair of the Firm’s Black Employee Network. She is also a member of the Legal and Compliance Division Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee and the past Co-Chair of the Division’s Diversity and Inclusion Network. Alita was awarded the 2013 NYC Bar Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award and the 2013 Corporate Counsel Women of Color Individual Star Diversity Award of Excellence. In 2021, she was also awarded the Council of Urban Professionals Law Catalyst Award.

Alita has been involved with Sanctuary for over 10 years and served on Sanctuary’s Board from 2014-2018. She has inspired many from the Morgan Stanley community to engage in Sanctuary’s work, ranging from pro bono projects to financial support.

Before joining Morgan Stanley, Alita was a litigation associate at Paul Weiss. Alita graduated from Spelman College, summa cum laude, with a B.A. in Political Science in 1994. She also holds a J. D. from Howard University School of Law, cum /aude, and an LL. M. in Trial Advocacy, cum laude, from Temple University Beasley School of Law. She resides in Burlington, NJ, with her husband, Eddie, and their four children.