Kasowitz Team Secures Parole for Incarcerated Survivor of Gender Violence

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary will honor a Kasowitz team for their dedicated advocacy on behalf of “Amanda.”

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families will be honoring a Kasowitz team for its dedicated advocacy in successfully securing parole for “Amanda,” an incarcerated survivor of gender-based violence. This representation included both parole preparation, as well as preparation for a parole rescission hearing, and ultimately was a major factor in the client’s release. We are thrilled to highlight the work of Kasowitz’s Nefertiti J. Alexander, Partner; Teresa Matushaj, Counsel; Binta A. Watkins, Staff attorney; Christina Lewis, Associate; and Katrina Bader, Law Clerk.

When the Kasowitz team first met their client, Amanda, she was incarcerated for identity theft and larceny. She had served a third of her sentence and would be up for parole in four months. In New York State, incarcerated individuals are not entitled to legal representation in their parole hearings. The onus falls entirely upon them to convey their remorse and rehabilitation, while simultaneously discussing a highly traumatic incident in their lives and responding to difficult questions from the Parole Board.

The Kasowitz team diligently set about preparing Amanda for her hearing through mock interviews and, equally importantly, bolstering Amanda’s self-confidence and sense of preparedness. At the same time, they put together a compelling parole packet that included statements from Amanda and her friends and family, records of her highly successful performance in various programs while incarcerated, and discussions of the support she would receive and the plans she had for her life post-release.

Like all of Sanctuary’s clients, Amanda is a survivor of gender-based violence and compound trauma. She has suffered a lifetime of abuse, beginning with sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend when she was only a child, and continuing through abusive relationships as an adult. The value of having a truly trauma-informed, compassionate, and communicative team in such a matter cannot be overstated, and the team’s relationship with Amanda grew stronger and stronger as they worked together. It was a celebration for all when Amanda was granted parole. Director of Sanctuary’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative Ross Kramer reflects, “At the time [the team] started working with her, Amanda was struggling with the conditions of her confinement, and was receiving little support. The team immediately stepped in, formed a strong bond with Amanda, and assisted her in every possible sense. They helped her prepare for her parole hearing, and they also made a tremendous difference in her life and self-confidence, through their trauma-informed, compassionate, and skillful work.”

However, after parole was granted but before her release, Amanda received—unfairly, we believe—a disciplinary ticket from a correctional officer that put her at risk of potential revocation of her parole. The team jumped in again to prepare their client and represent her in her rescission hearing, and their zealous advocacy helped Amanda to secure her release the following month.

“The Kasowitz team formed a strong bond with Amanda that allowed her to begin addressing and processing her trauma. Their compassion and patience not only helped Amanda secure her release from prison, it also allowed her to tap into her own strength and emerge as someone who was more confident, self-assured, and ready to begin a new chapter in her life. The Kasowitz team was a true friend and advocate for Amanda, and they went “above and beyond” in support of their client.”

Ross Kramer
Director of SFF’s Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative

Sanctuary is thrilled to honor Nefertiti, Teresa, Binta, Christina, and Katrina for their tremendous legal abilities and dedication to their client.

Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Kasowitz’s outstanding pro bono work.


If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.

Romy Felsen-Parsons is Pro Bono Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families.

Kasowitz Team Navigates Complicated Divorce Proceeding

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team from Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Frannie,” a domestic violence survivor.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team from Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP (“Kasowitz”) for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Frannie” to obtain a judgment of divorce with a continued order of protection and a favorable settlement agreement. The team consisted of partners Sarah Gibbs Leivick and Cindy Caranella Kelly, and associates Léa Dartevelle Erhel, Marcellene E. Hearn, and Jillian Roffer.

Approximately ten years ago, Frannie moved to the United States where she met and married Jim. Frannie thought that Jim was kind and loving, but he quickly became both mentally and physically abusive. The abuse increased after Frannie gave birth to their two children, and often occurred in front of the children. Frannie fled the family home and, fortunately, found Sanctuary and obtained an order of protection.

After Jim obtained private counsel and filed for divorce, Sanctuary realized it needed to build a more robust team to support Frannie and joined forces with Kasowitz at the end of 2018.  After over two years of court appearances, extensive discovery from multiple parties, and complex negotiations, Kasowitz successfully secured a favorable settlement agreement.

Throughout the proceedings, the Kasowitz team remained highly client-centered and sensitive to Frannie’s needs. The team took the time necessary to ensure that Frannie, a non-English speaker, was fully informed of all issues during court conferences or negotiations.  When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the team smoothly navigated the transition to virtual hearings and continued to remain in contact with Frannie to resolve day-to-day issues while a final custody/visitation arrangement was being negotiated. To facilitate Frannie’s understanding of a complicated visitation schedule, the team got creative, preparing tools to help her visualize and adhere to the final schedule.

Sarah Leivick, speaking on behalf of the team, describes the experience as “extremely rewarding,” and stressed that the Sanctuary team was with them every step of the way. “It was a true partnership and team effort,” said associate Marcellene Hearn. Lauren Patel, Senior Staff Attorney in Sanctuary’s Matrimonial and Economic Justice Project, applauds the Kasowitz team for being graceful and proactive throughout the proceeding:

“The Kasowitz team remained constantly engaged, and was ready to pivot to meet every challenge. Whenever the Kasowitz team would come to Sanctuary to discuss an issue, the team had already thought of three possible solutions.” – Lauren Patel, Sanctuary Senior Staff Attorney

Frannie just recently received her judgment of divorce and is very happy to be done with the proceeding. She is relieved to have the custody and visitation issues resolved, and is thankful that Kasowitz was able to have her order of protection continued.


Join us at our Above & Beyond virtual celebration on Oct. 26, 2021, as we honor Kasowitz’s outstanding pro bono work. Click here to RSVP for free.

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.


Nicole Vescova is an associate in the Labor & Employment group at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP where she represents and advises businesses in all industries across the country. She is also a member of the Pro Bono Council.