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.

Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Attorneys Go Above and Beyond

Stories from our Pro Bono partners.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards, we worked closely with our Pro Bono Council and event co-chairs to publish eleven stories – one each week 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.

Akerman Attorneys Help Domestic Violence Survivor Win Final Protective Order

Akerman LLP: Steven Cordero and Vanessa Garcia

“Thanks to their remarkable ongoing efforts before, during, and after each court appearance—not only from a legal point of view, but also in terms of their kindness, compassion, and sense of humor—Vanessa and Steve helped make this unpleasant process as pleasant as possible.”

Read more

Cahill Attorneys Help Domestic Violence Survivor Secure Appropriate Housing for Son with Autism

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP: Tara Curtin, Krista Friedrich, Jason Hall, Komal Patel, and Jamie Stinson

“I feel fortunate to work at a firm with such a strong commitment to pro bono work—and such a longstanding relationship with Sanctuary…”

Read more

Cahill Attorneys Help Domestic Violence Survivor Keep and Protect Her Kids

Cahill Gordon & Reindell LLP: Joel Kurtzberg, Sara Ortiz, Chloe Sauer, and Ben A. Schatz

“Working with Sanctuary on ZN’s case as a junior associate has given me a great chance to take the lead on a completely different and incredibly important case.”

Read more

Cleary Gottlieb Attorneys Seek Asylum for Survivor of Female Genital Mutilation

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton: Marion de Meslon, S. Ellie Norton, Clayton Simmons, and Jessica Thompson

“The only copy of Ms. G’s marriage certificate available in the United States was in the hands of her abusive husband, who refused to turn it over to us.”

Read more

Cohen & Gresser Attorneys Reinstate Critical Public Benefits for Trafficking Survivor

Cohen & Gresser LLP: Matthew V. Povolny and Scott D. Thomson

“There is a tremendous feeling of what a great opportunity pro bono gives you to help people in the city that you pass by in the streets every day.”

Read more

Davis Polk Team Achieves Tremendous Financial Victory for Mother of Two

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Joel Cohen, Nick DiMarino, Rachelle Navarro, and Daniel Spitzer

“Thank you and please continue with your selfless help to other families such as ours. You have left such an indelible mark in our lives forever. We are truly grateful.”

Read more

Hogan Lovells Successfully Defends Domestic Violence Survivor

Hogan Lovells LPP: Andrew Behrman, Jordan Estes, Nicole Schiavo, Gary Serbin, and Anjum Unwala

“[W]e felt very strongly that a victim of abuse should not have to pay her batterer’s expenses, especially when those expenses resulted from the batterer’s own actions that caused the victim to flee.”

Read more

Reed Smith Attorneys Exhibit Great Skill and Persistence in Complicated Custody Case

Reed Smith LLP: Brandon Cunningham and Jeff Glatzer

“Following an initial intake meeting with the client, we were impressed with the gravity of the situation and eager to help; there was clearly a woman, and even more so a child, in real need of our help.”

Read more

Simpson Thacher Associate Caroline Gross Honored for Her Commitment to Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Work

Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett LLP: Caroline Gross

“Of the more than 200 lawyers who volunteer with Sanctuary’s Trafficking Intervention Pro Bono Project, Caroline stands out…”

Read more

First Year Skadden Attorney Wins Five Year Order of Protection for Survivor of Domestic Violence

Skadden Arps LLP: Tansy Woan

“Not only was I doing a full-blown trial with Sanctuary as a first year associate, but I was giving Ms. T the chance to have her side of the story heard, and to help her fight back against this man who terrified her for years.  It felt so good to tell her that it was all worth it, and to say to her:  ‘Your courage got you through this.’”

Read more

Former Skadden Associate Michael Van Hulle Honored for His Work with Survivors of Gender Violence

Skadden Arps LLP: Michael Van Hulle

“There aren’t heroic people doing heroic things anymore; but here, I would read these affidavits, and think, ‘Wow, that is actually heroic.’ [It was hard to read through these applications without], getting a little teary eyed.”

Read more

Learn more about our Pro Bono Council here.

Cahill Attorneys Help Domestic Violence Survivor Secure Appropriate Housing for Son with Autism

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of Cahill Gordon & Reindel attorneys for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “Julie” and her four-year-old child “Luis” who has autism.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “Julie” and her four-year-old child “Luis” who has autism.  The Cahill team, consisting of partner Jason Hall, and associates Krista Friedrich (currently of the New York City Law Department), Tara Curtin, Komal Patel, and Jamie Stinson (currently of King & Spalding) helped Julie and Luis obtain an apartment with a private bedroom for Luis in their federally-subsidized housing complex as a reasonable accommodation for Luis’s autism.


Pro Bono Council Co-Chair Ben A. Schatz talks with Tara Curtin and Komal Patel about their experience working with Sanctuary on this matter.

Ben: Tell us briefly about the work you and your team did on behalf of Julie and Luis.

komalKomal: Luis was diagnosed with autism when he was just over a year old, and received intensive, in-home therapy five days a week to help him manage the physical and behavioral symptoms of his disability. Julie, Luis, and another family member were living in a small, one bedroom apartment in a federally-subsidized housing complex.  The only available space in the apartment for Luis’s therapy sessions was in the corner of a small living area connected to the apartment’s kitchen, restroom, and entrance doorway.  However, because of his autism, Luis is easily distracted and hypersensitive to noise.  Luis’s therapists advised that Luis needed a closed, designated space for his in-home therapy to be productive, in order for him to sleep, and for Luis to generally manage the symptoms of his disability.  Julie had informed her landlord of Luis’s disability, and requested to be placed at the top of the waiting list for a larger apartment as a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, the Rehabilitation Act, New York State and City Human Rights Laws, and HUD policies.  The landlord denied her request on multiple occasions. 

The Cahill team, in collaboration with Sanctuary, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Julie and Luis in the Southern District of New York.  After multiple court appearances and a lengthy negotiation process, we reached a favorable settlement agreement on behalf of Julie and Luis, which allowed them to move into a two-bedroom apartment suitable for Luis’s needs.

Ben: How did working on this case help you grow professionally?

tara-cahillTara:  This case offered the opportunity for some incredible litigation experience.  We drafted and filed a civil rights complaint in federal court, prepared discovery papers, and I personally appeared before Judge Sullivan in the Southern District of New York on two occasions.  We also negotiated a settlement on behalf of Luis, which was approved by the Court.  This case taught me what it truly means to advocate for your clients.

Komal:  Yes!  This case afforded me the opportunity to draft a complaint—a first for this defense-oriented litigator.  I also learned a great deal working so closely with Julie, who fought incredibly hard to get Luis the tools he needs to manage his symptoms and develop as a child.  Knowing how much this case meant to Julie and Luis made us even more determined to achieve a favorable outcome.

Ben:  Sanctuary takes a holistic approach to helping its clients. How did you and Sanctuary help Julie and Luis in ways outside the courtroom?

Tara:  While we were working on this case, Julie had a bed bug infestation in her apartment and she was forced to throw away almost all of the family’s bedroom and living room furniture, clothing, and many other household items.  Julie was devastated and did not have the financial means to replace these items.  Fortunately, Sanctuary was able to secure a grant for Julie and her family, which allowed her to replace all of Julie’s damaged property.  Julie was incredibly grateful to Sanctuary’s generous donors, and to the entire Sanctuary team.

Ben:  Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Komal:  I think I can speak for a number of Cahill associates in saying that the pro bono matters we’ve worked on with Sanctuary have been amazing learning experiences.  I feel fortunate to work at a firm with such a strong commitment to pro bono work—and such a longstanding relationship with Sanctuary—and I am grateful to Nicole Fidler and Kevitt Adler at Sanctuary who provided us the opportunity to work on this case and guided us along way.

Ben:  We asked Julie if she had anything she wanted to express to the Cahill team, and here was her response:

Julie: There are no words nor money to show how grateful I am for everything you did for me and my family. It has been a true honor, help and pleasure to have been able to count on you in the moments where I felt the most oppressed. Thanks to you, my family has a decent roof over their heads, especially my son who has autism, because as a mother his development and progression every day are the most important things to me. . . . . Really thank you so much for all the help. God bless you always.

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 19, 2016 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor the Cahill 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.

 

First Year Skadden Attorney Wins Five Year Order of Protection for Survivor of Domestic Violence

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Tansy Woan, a litigation associate at Skadden, for her pro bono work on behalf of Ms. G, a woman who was seeking a full five-year order of protection against her husband, who subjected her to severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse during their relationship.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Tansy Woan, a litigation associate at Skadden, for her pro bono work on behalf of Ms. T, a woman who was seeking a full five-year order of protection against her husband, who subjected her to severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse during their relationship.

From the Dominican Republic to Maryland

Just over four years ago, Ms. T, then 21-years old and living in the Dominican Republic, thought that she had met the love of her life when she came across Mr. S, a charming older American man in his 30s. They hit it off immediately and began dating.

They continued to date long distance after he returned to the United States. As their relationship progressed, Mr. S asked Ms. T to consider moving to the United States to be with him. She agreed and moved in with him in Maryland, and they were engaged shortly thereafter. That was when Ms. T’s life shattered. 

After Ms. T moved to Maryland, Mr. S became a different person. He became increasingly angry with her and started yelling at her and threatening her. He then began physically abusing her. Six months into their relationship, his violence intensified to severe sexual abuse and threats against Ms. T’s life with a firearm that Mr. S kept in their shared bedroom. Ms. T was living in constant fear, with no friends or family nearby and no means of support. When the abuse became too much for her to bear, Ms. T fled to New York City and found Sanctuary for Families. Sanctuary assisted Ms. T in obtaining a temporary order of protection against Mr. S.  But Ms. T still needed a full and final five-year order of protection, and Sanctuary turned to Skadden for assistance.

Tansy Woan steps in

twTansy Woan, then a newly-minted first year associate at Skadden, immediately stepped in.  Tansy had worked on domestic violence cases when she was in college, and had hoped that once she began practicing, she could incorporate her passion into her legal practice as well.  The March 2014 e-mail that came across her inbox, seeking an attorney interested in working on Ms. T’s order of protection application pro bono, seemed almost fortuitous and Tansy jumped at the opportunity.

Thus began an 18-month long bench trial in Bronx Family Court.  Determined to prove Mr. S’s cruelty, Tansy, under the guidance of Dara Sheinfeld, Sanctuary’s Legal Director at the Bronx and Manhattan Family Justice Centers, skillfully advocated for Ms. T throughout the trial.  Tansy gently elicited Ms. T’s story during her emotional direct examination.  And she skillfully handled the long and challenging cross-examination of Mr. S, carefully highlighting the many inconsistencies in his testimony, and the inconsistencies between his testimony and the evidence, succeeding in badly damaging his credibility. According to Dara, Tansy was “fierce during cross examination,” in spite of Mr. S’s aggressive and unpleasant demeanor during the trial.

Tansy’s skilled advocacy resulted in the granting of a full and final five-year order of protection for Ms. T. Tansy’s effective representation was achieved in no small part because of her ability to connect and establish trust with Ms. T. It was extraordinarily difficult and re-traumatizing for Ms. T to recount her difficult story, both during prep sessions and at trial. The process of having to go through all the details was excruciating and emotional, and it was only with Tansy’s ability to comfort Ms. T and create a safe space for her to tell her story that Ms. T was able to do so. As Dara explained, Tansy showed “extraordinary empathy” for Ms. T, “always giving her the time she needed to deal with the feelings and emotions that trial preparation evoked.” And as Tansy reflected, “A lot of the advocacy that I did was just to comfort her, and to give her strength. My job wasn’t just to prepare for trial, it was to be there for her.”

Reflections and advice

In April 2016, after a long and drawn out trial, and shortly after Tansy left Skadden for a judicial clerkship, Ms. T received the protection for which she had fought so desperately. The Family Court granted Ms. T a full and final five-year order of protection, the longest possible under the law. Tansy was ecstatic with the outcome.

“It was an honor to have this experience, and to help Ms. T work through a very difficult period of time.  Not only was I doing a full-blown trial with Sanctuary as a first year associate, but I was giving Ms. T the chance to have her side of the story heard, and to help her fight back against this man who terrified her for years.  It felt so good to tell her that it was all worth it, and to say to her:  ‘Your courage got you through this.’”

Tansy reiterated that she was only able to do what she did because of the support that she received from Sanctuary, particularly Dara:

“Dara was amazing.  She was there with me at every client meeting and every court appearance, and always made herself available to answer any questions I had, no matter how often or what time of day.   Without her, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through the trial – she helped me practice my cross examinations, my openings, everything, really.  It was my first trial ever and she really helped me to feel at ease.  I can’t imagine having gotten through it without her.  I can’t thank her and Sanctuary enough for all of the mentoring, support, and encouragement they have provided.  It is so inspiring to work with someone as passionate as Dara.”

Tansy also marveled at how Skadden rallied the full weight of their resources behind Ms. T. Other attorneys at the firm, including Steve Kolleeny, Jay Kasner, Scott Musoff, Lauren Aguiar, and Rob Fumerton, took time out of their busy schedules to offer advice and guidance and to run through arguments.  Steve, who was the Skadden attorney overseeing Tansy’s representation of Ms. T, was particularly instrumental during the case. Tansy reminisced, “He was phenomenal, so incredibly busy, but always made time to help this anxious first year associate.” Tansy had wanted nothing more than for Steve to see the trial through, to show him that all of the hard work that went into it eventually paid off, but to everyone’s great loss, Steve passed away in September 2014.

With Tansy now back from her clerkship at Skadden, she is even more determined to take on another domestic violence matter for Sanctuary.  She even has some advice for future young attorneys hoping to make a true difference in the life of another:  “Prepare for the unexpected.  Know your facts and the law by heart.  And, above all, remember to be human.  So much of Ms. T’s testimony required that she maintain her cool under pressure, and that she trust me.  For me to gain her trust, and to be there for her, required that I be so much more than an attorney.” 

Ms. T was incredibly grateful and thrilled with the outcome:

“[Tansy] earned my trust and respect for the way and dedication with which [she] perform[ed] [her] work.  Tansy was always there listening to my story and looking for the best way to help me get my order of protection.  I felt very privileged that among the many cases she could work on[,] [that she chose] mine the way [she] did.  [A]ll I can say is thank you very much and God bless her and allow her to continue to have success in her work.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 19, 2016 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor Tansy’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.

Etienne Barg-Townsend is Senior Legal Counsel at KGS-Alpha Capital Markets, L.P., a New York-based institutional fixed income broker-dealer.  She was formerly a litigation associate at Shearman & Sterling LLP, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, LLP, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.  She has worked on several pro bono matters with Sanctuary, and is in the process of developing a pro bono program at KGS-Alpha.  She is a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council and is Co-Chair of this year’s Above & Beyond gala.