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.
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.