Cahill Attorneys Advocate on Behalf of Domestic Violence Survivor and Her Daughter

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Alison” to obtain an order of protection and a judgment of divorce.

Silvia Marroquin is an associate in the international arbitration practice of Chaffetz Lindsey in New York and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Alison” to obtain an order of protection and a judgment of divorce.  The team consisted of associates Tobin Raju, Andrea Abarca, and George Harris.

In November 2018, Alison—a full-time health worker and mother of two—sought an order of protection against her then-husband from whom she had separated.  For over five years, Alison endured verbal, emotional, and physical abuse towards herself and her young daughter.  Her strength and warm-hearted personality never dimmed.  But, the continuous stalking, messaging, and verbal threats from her abuser that followed her separation, frightened and upset Alison and eventually led her to pursue legal action.

In December 2018, the team from Cahill, consisting of Tobin Raju, Andrea Abarca and George Harris, took on Alison’s representation and successfully secured a final one-year order of protection on consent for Alison and her young daughter, who had been a witness to repeated physical and verbal abuse by Alison’s then-husband.

The entire team showed an unparalleled commitment to the case and were always available to Alison.  Their desire to develop a supportive and sincere relationship with Alison bore fruit, as she became more comfortable talking about difficult issues which allowed the team to develop a deeper knowledge of her case.  Throughout their representation of Alison, the team met with Alison, and diligently collected and organized the numerous police reports, screenshots, photographs, and other potential evidence to be used at trial.  The team’s precision and care in preparing Alison alleviated her anxiety about the trial. Moments before trial, opposing counsel initiated settlement discussions.  The team’s hard work paid off and culminated in their successful advocacy during settlement negotiations and the hearing, eventually obtaining a satisfactory outcome for Alison.  In fact, the court referee was at first reluctant to include Alison’s daughter in the order of protection, because she is not the abuser’s child, but Tobin’s advocacy convinced the court referee that it was appropriate and necessary.

Not surprisingly, in June 2019, the team immediately volunteered to represent Alison in her divorce, and successfully obtained a final uncontested judgment of divorce from the abuser in November 2019.

Tobin and the team were some of the most responsive and communicative pro bono attorneys I have worked with. Tobin proactively reached out to the client on a regular basis, sending me updates on the case, as well as other issues arising in the client’s life. Tobin and the team were totally eager and happy to help the client with the uncontested divorce as well, which the client was thrilled to receive,” said Sanctuary Senior Staff Attorney Lindsey M. Song.

“When I asked the client for feedback for Tobin and the team, she said, ‘I could not have asked for any better [team]! You helped me through this time from beginning to finish. I am grateful to you all.’”  — Lindsey Song.

Despite facing so many challenges, Alison’s unflappable strength was truly impressive and key to the outcome of the case.  Tobin said, “We could not have asked for a better client to work with. She is an incredibly courageous person, and I was honored to work with her.”  The relationship is such that months after the case was resolved, Alison and the team continue to be in touch.

Reflecting on their work, the team expressed that they were especially grateful for having the opportunity to work with Lindsey M. Song, Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, and to have been put in the position to advocate on Alison’s behalf.

It was important to have someone with Lindsey’s experience with survivors–not only in terms of strategy but also to understand the nuances of how trauma can affect memory and how we, as attorneys, should ask questions to help our client remember the details that make her case. All this, while navigating the client-relationship to be both effective and compassionate,” said Andrea Abarca.

Lindsey gave us enough autonomy while walking us through every requirement and working with us on the best strategy for the case.  She trusted our instincts and our abilities.” — Tobin Raju.

It was extremely helpful to be able to have guidance from someone that would speak to the nature of how the court would react and that helped us prepare Alison to be ready for a tough referee,” said George Harris.

 The team described this as a unique experience that was extremely rewarding, personally and professionally, because it allowed them to grow as attorneys by developing essential skills and taking on more responsibilities while supporting a client moving on with her life and family.

Join us at our virtual Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the outstanding pro bono work of Tobin, Andrea, and George. 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.

“We won’t settle for tokens.” Remembering the Great Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A giant of American jurisprudence and a relentless champion for the rights of women and minorities, Justice Ginsburg embodied the values that lie at the core of Sanctuary’s mission to end gender-based violence.

We at Sanctuary for Families join in mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneering advocate for civil rights and gender equality and a jurist of historic stature. We commit ourselves to honor her legacy by carrying on her work and protect it from being undone.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a true feminist icon and tenacious dissenter, paved the road for women in law and changed the culture for women in America. A daughter of a Russian immigrant, she began her legal career in 1956 at Harvard as one of only nine women who were famously shamed for “taking the place of a man” within a class of about 500. Two years later, she transferred to Columbia Law School, where she became the first woman ever to be on two major law reviews — the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review — and graduated in 1959 at the top of her class.

In 1963, at a time when there were less than 20 female law professors in the United States, Ginsburg landed a teaching job at Rutgers Law School and eventually received tenure. By the early 1970s, she had co-founded the groundbreaking Women’s Rights Law Reporter and transferred to Columbia Law School, where she became the first tenured female professor in 1972. That same year, Ginsburg co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Between 1973 and 1976, in her role as director, Ginsburg argued six gender discrimination cases before an all-male Supreme Court. She won five of them, transforming the constitutional understanding of gender and creating the legal framework for preventing discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg receiving Sanctuary’s 2002 Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety.

After thirteen years of service on the DC Court of Appeals, in 1993, Ginsburg became the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Over the course of her 27 years on our nation’s highest bench, Ginsburg brought her constitutional analysis to arduously defend women’s and civil rights. In the landmark case United States v. Virginia, Ginsburg authored the Court’s opinion which struck down the  long-standing male-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute and any law that “denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”

Even when in the minority, Justice Ginsburg’s analysis could bring about change. Her masterful dissent in the court’s opinion on Ledbetter v. Goodyear inspired the 2008 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a statute that put an increased burden on employers so that employees were better able to make for pay discrimination.

Most recently, she joined the majority for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that struck down parts of a Texas law that placed restrictions on the delivery of abortion services. In her concurring opinion, Ginsburg argued that it was “beyond rational belief that [such regulations on abortion providers] could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, 1997 Abely Honoree, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Sanctuary’s 2002 Abely Awards.

Eighteen years ago, Sanctuary had the honor to present Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the Maryellen Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety— an award given annually to a person who has worked for the empowerment of women through the legal system and shares the compassion, energy, and dedication for which we remember Maryellen Abely, one of our first pro bono attorneys. While presenting Justice Ginsburg with the award, we offered the following tribute:

“Through intellectual force, you have changed our world. For the women and children at Sanctuary for Families, relief from the legal disabilities imposed by marriage and gender makes possible their escape from the emotional, physical and economic oppression wrought by their abusers. Without your work, ours would not be possible. For your vision, persistence and effectiveness, we confer upon you our highest honor.”

A giant of American jurisprudence and a relentless champion for the rights of women and minorities, Justice Ginsburg embodied the values that lie at the core of Sanctuary’s mission to end gender violence. It is up to us to create her legacy and to continue her work to ensure the “equal citizenship stature of [all] men and women”, regardless of race, creed, or origin. At Sanctuary for Families, we recommit ourselves to that vision in her honor.

May her memory be a revolution.

History of Abely Honorees

The Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety The Abely Pro Bono Leadership

The Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety

Since 1997, the Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety has been presented annually to a person who has made a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking and who shares the compassion, zeal, energy, and dedication for which we remember Maryellen Abely.

Previous recipients of the award are:

2019 The Honorable Toko Serita, Presiding Judge, Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court

2018 The Honorable Amiena Khan, Executive Vice President, National Association of Immigration Judges

2017 Ronnie Eldridge, Government & Community Social Justice Leader & Journalist

2016 The Honorable Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

2015 The Honorable Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney General, and the Honorable Pamela K. Chen, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York

2014 The Honorable Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York County

2013 The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York

2012 Sarah Buel, Faculty Director, Diane Halle Center for Family Justice; Clinical Professor of Law, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

2011 The Honorable Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, Administrative Judge for the Family Court of the City of New York

2010 The Honorable Carolyn B. Maloney, United States Representative, New York’s 14th District

2009 Casey Gwinn, President, National Family Justice Center Alliance

2008 Teresa Columba Ulloa Ziáurriz, Regional Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Maestra María Guadalupe Morfín Otero, Special District Attorney for Violent Crimes Against Women for the Office of the Attorney General of Mexico

2007 The Honorable Jack B. Weinstein, Senior Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York

2006 The Honorable Denny Chin, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

2005 The Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, First Department

2004 The Honorable Judy Harris Kluger, Chief of Policy and Planning for the New York State Office of Court Administration

2003 The late Honorable Paul Wellstone, United States Senator, and the late Sheila Wellstone, domestic violence victims advocate (posthumously presented)

2002 The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

2001 The Honorable Sheldon Silver, New York State Assembly Speaker

2000 The Honorable Charles E. Schumer, United States Senator

1999 The Honorable Helene Weinstein, New York State Assemblywoman

1998 The Honorable Kathryn A. McDonald, Administrative Judge of New York City Family Court, and Patricia Eng, founder and Executive Director of the New York Asian Women’s Center

1997 The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge of the State of New York

The Abely Pro Bono Leadership Award

Created in 2001, the Abely Pro Bono Leadership Award recognizes the contributions of the extraordinarily dedicated attorneys who have consistently demonstrated professional commitments to improving the lives of Sanctuary’s clients.

Previous recipients of the award are:

2019 William C. Silverman, Partner, Proskauer Rose LLP

2018 Joel Kurtzberg, Partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP

 2017 Richard Rothman, Senior Counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

 2016 Sharon Katz, Special Counsel for Pro Bono, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

 2015 Jennifer L. Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

 2014 Brenna K. DeVaney, Pro Bono Counsel, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

 2013 Samidh Guha, Partner, Akin Gump LLP

 2012 Harlene Katzman, Pro Bono Counsel and Director, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

 2011 Josephine Lea Iselin, Attorney Emeritus, and Jill Crawley Griset, Partner, and Matt Pearson, Associate, McGuireWoods LLP

 2010 Jill M. Zuccardy, Partner, Lansner Kubitschek Schaffer & Zuccardy

 2009 Hannah M. Pennington, former Associate, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

 2008 Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, accepted by Sharon Katz, Special Counsel for Pro Bono

2007 Cynthia B. Rubin, Partner, Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer LLP

 2006 Claudia L. Hammerman and Robyn F. Tarnofsky, Partners, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

 2005 Mary Rothwell Davis, Volunteer Appellate Counsel, Sanctuary for Families’ CBWLS

 2004 Saralyn M. Cohen, Pro Bono Counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP 2003 Ellen P. Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives, Columbia Law School

 2003 Ellen P. Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives, Columbia Law School

 2002 Nora von Stange, former Associate, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

 2001 Nancy L. Lazar, former Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

The Maryellen Abely Fellowship

The Maryellen Abely Fellowship, underwritten by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, funds a summer internship at Sanctuary’s Legal Center and is given annually to a Columbia Law School student who is committed to working with victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking.

Fellowship recipients include:

2019 Shuxin Qian

2018 Ammar Monawar

2017 Yiqing Shi

2016 Christina Zhang

2015 Whitney Hood

2014 Alexandra Swain

2013 Rosie Wang

2012 Alicia Lobeiras

2011 Sayoni Maitra

2010 Joy Ziegeweid

2009 Frances Kelly

2008 Mia Robertshaw

2007 Emma Glazer

2006 Carla Martinez

2005 Anya Emerson

2004 Yiwen Ouyang

2003 Erin Dougherty

2002 Alexander Karam

2001 Galen Sherwin

2000 Anne E. Glatz

1999 Rachel Wilgoren

1998 Deborah L. Fine

1997 Nihara Karim Choudhri

1996 Hilary Sunghee Seo

Special Awards

In 2005, a special Abely Leadership Award was given to Mary Ann Mailman in honor of her extraordinary contributions to Sanctuary for Families. Ms. Mailman is a past president of Sanctuary’s Board of Directors and a current member of Sanctuary’s President’s Council. She is a founder and active member of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council and served as Co-chair until September 1, 2010.

In 2018, a special Abely Award for Extraordinary Service was presented to Kathleen Kundar for her years of devotion to Sanctuary for Families. As co-chair of the Legal Advisory Council for 12 years, Kathleen championed Sanctuary’s work, assisted our clients, and strengthened our Legal Center resources.

“Freedom is not a state, it is an act”

Our statement on the passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian.

On Friday we lost two pillars of the Civil Rights Movement – Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian. At Sanctuary for Families, we mourn the loss of these brave men who transformed our country through their love, compassion, and unyielding commitment to racial justice.

Our mission of ending gender-based violence is inextricably linked to the fight for racial equity. Here in New York City, we see how forces like housing segregation, underfunded schools, inequitable health care, police brutality, and unconscious bias in social services converge. These systems oppress Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, creating the circumstances that too often engender abuse and exploitation.

The work of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian and the Movement for Black Lives must continue. Words alone are not enough when it comes to honoring these freedom fighters. Here’s what we can all do:


Rep. John Lewis said, “Do your part and vote like you’ve never voted before. Believe in the power of love and together we will build the Beloved Community here in America.” Visit Vote Save America to register or make sure you’re registered, then check with your friends to make sure they’re ready for November as well.


Learn more about Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, their values and their legacies: The Atlantic – John Lewis was an American FounderThe New York Times – John Lewis Risked his Life for Justice, and OWN: A Tribute to Reverend C.T. Vivian


From the “three-fifths” compromise, continuing through the Jim Crow era, to today, the census has historically been weaponized to deprive critical federal funding to Black and Brown communities. Fill out your census and consider exploring ways you can support NYC census efforts which have been hampered by the pandemic.

Sanctuary for Families joins in mourning the passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian this week and we send out condolences to all who were fortunate to know them personally. As we strive to build a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right, we remember the words of Rep. John Lewis who said, “Freedom is not a state, it is an act.” With your support, our fight for freedom continues.