Interview with Janice Mac Avoy, 2018 Recipient of the Zero Tolerance Award

THE HISTORY In 1973, in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the United States’

THE HISTORY

In 1973, in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the United States’ Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Forty-five years later, the national debate sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision wages on. As traditionally conservative states continue to pass legislation aimed at closing abortion clinics, more and more women have broken the silence around what has historically been deemed a “taboo” topic. These women, many of whom have had abortions themselves, believe that it has been their ability to control their own bodies through access to safe and legal abortion that has allowed them to become the successful and independent women they are today.

Sanctuary is proud to honor one of these women, Janice Mac Avoy, as the 2018 recipient of the Zero Tolerance Award for her work in the legal battle to uphold abortion rights for all women.

JANICE MAC AVOY

Janice Mac Avoy is a New York-based partner at the law firm of Fried Frank, where she is a member of the Real Estate Department and the Litigation Department, head of the Real Estate Litigation Practice Group, and co-chair of the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee. She is a member of the American Law Institute and the Association of Real Estate Women, a former member of the Board of directors of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and current board member of Sanctuary for Families and the Center for Reproductive Rights, as well as a member and voting representative of the CRE Finance Council.

Janice Mac Avoy is a partner at the Fried Frank law firm in New York.

Janice graduated summa cum laude from Washington University and received her JD from Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and associate editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Two years ago, Janice was the lead signer on an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the United States Supreme Court in the Whole Women’s Health case – an important Supreme Court case addressing Texas’ restrictive abortion laws, which would have closed 75% of the abortion clinics in the state.  Janice wrote an article for the Washington Post discussing her role in the amicus brief and how the right to abortion changed her life and why it needs to be upheld. Recently, Sanctuary got the chance to interview Janice and find out more about her personal and legal connection to the ongoing battle over women’s right to abortion:

INTERVIEW

How did you first get involved with Sanctuary for Families?

I first got involved with Sanctuary about thirty-one years ago, when I was a student at Columbia Law School. During my time there, I participated in a family law clinic to get orders of protection for women who had been subjected to domestic assault. Ultimately, about fifteen years later, I was very involved in Fried Frank’s efforts to fund the beginning of  the Courtroom Advocates Project at Sanctuary, which formalized the practice of students assisting victims of domestic violence obtain orders of protection. I started doing pro-bono work with Sanctuary right out of law school, and I have continued working with Sanctuary ever since.

What is/are you connection(s) to domestic violence?

I have always tried to be an advocate for victims of domestic violence since law school, and I continue to work with Sanctuary and other service providers to help victims of domestic violence escape their abusers.  I have worked on almost 500 divorces, mostly for victims of domestic violence.  I also believe that in order for women to fulfill their potential, they need to control their bodies, not only by being free of physical abuse or exploitation, but also by choosing when or if to have children.  In addition to the friend of the court brief in Whole Women’s Health, which was signed by me and over 100 female attorneys who had exercised their constitutional right to have an abortion, I have also acted as counsel to other organizations that have submitted friend of the court briefs to the United States Supreme Court and other courts in support of protecting abortion rights, including the National Abortion Federation, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and other medical professionals who support women’s access to safe, legal abortion.

The issue of a woman’s right to have an abortion is not an abstract one; it is a very real issue for women from all walks of life. The women lawyer’s brief got a lot of press, and I realized I had to keep speaking out on the issue, which then led to the Washington Post article, the CNN article, and a number of public speaking engagements discussing how critical it is to talk about abortion.  The importance of access to reproductive rights is vital to a woman’s ability to control her destiny. Much of my work and the work done at organizations like Sanctuary is all about empowering women to be free of the patriarchal systems that currently dominate our political and social landscapes.

 

Pro-choice activists hold signs as marchers of the annual March for Life arrive in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The theme for this year’s Zero Tolerance benefit is “Breaking the Silence.” What made you want to break the silence around what has for so long been deemed the “taboo” topic of abortion?

When the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights contacted me about being the lead signer on the Whole Women’s Health brief, I was very nervous about public reaction, but I knew I was going to do it anyway. I decided I wanted to talk to my family before agreeing to do it.

We all sat around the dinner table – me, my husband, my daughter, who was 16 at the time, and my son, who was 13. I sat them down and told them: “This is a big deal. My name is going to be out there, so it could affect you too.” My husband responded by saying that it was my decision and he supported whatever I wanted to do, and my daughter said that she would be disappointed in me if I didn’t do it. Everyone was incredibly supportive of my decision to speak out about my abortion. I even spoke with my mother, who absolutely supported my wish to speak out. “I wish I had the choices that you had,” she told me.

The firm’s support was also a big help. After the brief and before the decision, so many at Fried Frank were supportive in not only publicizing the firm’s role in the Supreme Court brief, but also furthering our efforts within the context of gender rights.

What do you hope other women can gain from your story, and those of other women who have broken the silence surrounding abortion rights?

We need to stop being ashamed. No matter what the issue is. Sanctuary has played an important role in breaking the silence on domestic violence and sex trafficking, and I hope to continue breaking the silence on abortion.  Women shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed because they chose to have an abortion, just like they should not be shamed if they decided to have a child. This issue needs to be talked about. We have to take the shame away, and breaking the silence is a primary way to do that.

For a summary and photos of our 2018 Zero Tolerance Benefit, click here.

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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!”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.”

Read more

 

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Events

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Attend an event with us and help raise awareness about domestic violence.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’ve put together a list of events that Sanctuary will be participating in. Join us at these events and help raise awareness about domestic violence.

Events:

October 3rd

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Candlelight Vigil in Bushwick

Meet at Myrtle Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue near the 83rd precinct at 5:30 pm. Participants will walk towards Hope Ballfield.

October 6th

Korean American Family Service Center’s (KAFSC) Silent March

March with KAFSC and Sanctuary at KAFSC’s 20th Annual Silent March.

Meet at the 109th Precinct at 5:00 PM and join marchers as they head towards the Queens Library. Wear purple!

October 10th

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Candlelight Vigil in Greenpoint

Meet at the 94th precinct at 5:30 pm.

October 17th

Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards

Join us in honoring members of the legal community who have gone “above and beyond” by providing outstanding pro bono representation and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence.

For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, click here.

Can’t make it? Purchase a raffle ticket and your name will be entered for a chance to win 2 tickets to Late Night with Seth Meyers + a meet and greet with Seth himself!

October 17th

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Candlelight Vigil in Williamsburg

Meet at the 90th precinct at 5:30 pm.

October 19th

NY State Shine a Light on Domestic Violence – Wear Purple Day

Shine a light on the issue of domestic violence by turning your community purple. Wear the color, share photos on social media, illuminate your home, or spread the word in your office.

Use the hashtags: #ShinetheLight, #WearPurpleNY  #DVAM2017 and tag us @SFFNY (Twitter & Instagram) or @Sanctuary for Families (Facebook).

October 19th-21st

Cracks of Light

Cracks of Light, co-presented by Sanctuary, bears witness to survivors of intimate partner and gender-based violence in a series of performance works created during the journey from struggle to survival. This year, the series presents works by Lexie Bean, Kimberleigh Costanzo, and Sanctuary for Families Mentors.

The show starts at 8:00 pm each night in Studio A at Gibney Dance – 280 BroadwayPurchase tickets

Spread the word, end the abuse.

Cahill Associate Fights for Mother and Her Special-Needs Child

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Cahill associate Margaret Barone for her dedicated representation of Laura, a mother with a special-needs child, who escaped the abuse of her partner after being pressured into leaving her professional career in her home country.

Jamie Stinson is an associate in the Special Matters and Investigations practice in the New York office of King & Spalding. She is also a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council and Co-Chair of this year’s Above and Beyond Pro Bono Awards and Benefit.



At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Cahill associate Margaret Barone for her dedicated and compassionate representation of “Laura,” a mother with a special-needs child, who escaped her abusive partner after he pressured her into leaving behind her professional career in her home country—making her financially dependent on him. Through Margaret’s tireless efforts, Laura won court-ordered enforcement of critical provisions of her post-divorce agreements, allowing her to provide the support and care that her son so desperately needed.

Isolated by an Abuser

Laura had a thriving career in Mexico before being tricked into moving to the United States by her abuser.  Subject to abuse and the loss of her economic freedom, Laura struggled to provide for herself and her son, who has special needs.  Through a long and hard-fought legal process, in part with prior assistance from Sanctuary, Laura finalized her divorce, and procured a custody agreement as well as a financial settlement.

Various issues related to the agreements arose.  Laura is the primary custodial parent, but shares joint legal custody with her ex-husband.  Laura is a fierce advocate for her son to receive better services through the Board of Education to meet his complex needs but her ex-husband was effectively blocking her efforts and failed to participate in parent coordination meetings as required by the custody agreement.  In addition, he missed many deadlines on financial obligations and deliberately misinterpreted the financial agreement so as to deprive Laura and her son of support that he was required to pay.

Enforcing Her Client’s Rights

When Margaret took over the case, she dove head first into addressing the myriad issues related to both Laura’s rights under the custody and financial agreements, as well as those related to addressing the needs of Laura’s son.  The stakes were clear as emotions ran high in Margaret’s first meeting with Laura, who explained that all of this work was in service of fighting for her child. Recalling the meeting, Margaret said, “It makes you want to do everything you can as quickly as possible.”

Margaret worked closely with Sanctuary’s Director of the Matrimonial and Economic Justice Project, Amanda Norejko, in order to formulate next steps. Margaret drafted an extensive, several-inches-thick motion and memorandum of law (totaling 51 pages) to help Laura enforce her agreement in Manhattan Supreme Court. This motion required in-depth analysis of evaluations by medical and educational experts to show how the abuser’s obstruction impacted their special needs child.  In the course of organizing more than thirty motion exhibits, Margaret poured over custody agreements, a lengthy financial stipulation, and countless emails in order to demonstrate exactly how the abuser had violated relevant provisions and disrupted their child’s special needs services.  She also made herself available for late night and weekend telephone calls and meetings with Laura to assist her both with legal strategy and with her emotional response to the abuser’s hostile communications with her regarding their son.

As a result of Margaret’s efforts, the court ordered the abuser to comply with the terms of the custody agreement and to make the payments he was refusing to make.  In addition, Laura’s educational hearing against the Board of Education to get her son into a special school can now proceed unobstructed by the abuser.  When asked about how she approached the case, Margaret explained that she worked to tell a compelling story with the motion so that the judge could understand the unique situation.

Working Together to Move Forward

Margaret’s dedicated efforts continue.  While Laura has already begun to receive funds owed to her, there will be ongoing representation related to enforcement of the order, including court appearances and client meetings.  In addition, Margaret continues to assist Laura in preparing proposals to present at parent coordination meetings to obtain the father’s cooperation in enrolling the child in a special school.  Margaret looks forward to continuing to work with Laura and with Sanctuary.

Sanctuary’s Amanda Norejko praised Margaret, stating,

“Margaret’s hard work, diligence, excellent legal analysis and writing skills have given this mother the opportunity for a brighter future for herself and her son that she desperately desired.”

Reflecting on her experience so far, Margaret said, “It was wonderful working with Amanda [from Sanctuary], to have the opportunity to work with someone who is an expert in this field.  You can lose sight of how much legal work can matter.  Working one-on-one with a client makes you realize that you can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

Laura also stated her appreciation for Margaret’s dedicated efforts:

“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.”

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