Paul Weiss Obtain Favorable Decision in Highly Contested Order of Protection Case

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary will honor a team from Paul Weiss for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Gloria” to obtain a favorable decision in a complex and highly contested order of protection case.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team from Paul, Weiss, including partners Audra J. Soloway and William B. Michael, counsel Robert N. Kravitz, and former associates Arianna Markel, Paige Geier, Michael Bass, Randall Bryer and Melika Hadziomerovic for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Gloria” to obtain a favorable decision in a complex and highly contested order of protection (OP) case.

In 2019, “Gloria,” a mother of two young children, fled her abusive husband to live in a domestic violence shelter, filed for custody, and obtained a temporary order of protection (TOP) against her husband. Despite the sustained violence that Gloria and her two children lived through, Gloria’s strength carried her through lengthy and challenging legal actions and made her an inspiration for the team that represented her.

In April 2021, a pro bono team from Paul Weiss began working with Gloria on her representation in a highly contested trial to seek a final OP based on the history of violence as well as multiple violations of the TOP. The trial team was primarily led by Audra Soloway, Arianna Markel, and Paige Geier, with Arianna serving as lead counsel for the trial. In April 2022, Gloria and the team successfully obtained a 5-year OP, as well as findings that the abuser had violated the TOP and committed several family offenses. In October 2022, the abuser appealed the decision to the First Department. Bob Kravitz, Bill Michael, Paige Geier, and Michael Bass successfully handled the appeal, with the First Department affirming the family court’s decision.

The Paul, Weiss team demonstrated great dedication to the case and to Gloria. Their excellent legal skills, strategic thinking, and continuous time commitment were essential to supporting Gloria and obtaining a favorable outcome. The team worked tirelessly with Gloria to prepare for trial, conducting numerous practice and strategy sessions. The OP trial involved a challenging direct examination of Gloria on the history of domestic violence and sexual abuse, conducted by Arianna, as well as a difficult cross-examination. The team’s advocacy was instrumental in enabling Gloria to tell her story over the objections of extremely aggressive opposing counsel. In his decision, the judge specifically noted Gloria’s credibility and composure, in contrast to the respondent. Importantly, the team’s consistent support of Gloria through the emotional challenge and the frustration that result from having to navigate the uncertainty of these processes was key for the outcome.

“This case has involved a massive amount of time and dedication, both in the legal work conducted and in the intensive work with the client. Arianna’s preparation work for the OP trial, and her ability to withstand intensive objections by opposing counsel was remarkable. Paige has been extraordinarily client-centered, patient, collaborative and sensitive.”

-Jennifer Friedman, Director of Family Law and Policy for Sanctuary for Families’ practices in the Bronx    and Manhattan Family Justice Centers

Paige Geier, who was a junior associate when she began working on the case, emphasized how valuable this experience was for her as a young lawyer. Paige said that “it was pretty incredible” for her to learn from the knowledgeable members of the team, including from Jennifer. In October 2021, Paige successfully argued against a fourth substitution of counsel for the respondent father.

“Not only was I able to learn so much about family law from talking to Jennifer, but her way of working, which makes her thought-process visible, was extremely valuable to me. I also appreciated that she put a lot of trust in me as a young associate and was totally supportive. Watching her work with the client and showing so much empathy has made me a better lawyer.”

-Paige Geier

From her new firm Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C., Paige is now leading the custody and visitation trial, which began in January of this year, an illustration of her extraordinary dedication to the case.

Gloria’s resilience is an inspiration for the team.

“I watched Gloria have her life on hold, but she kept her head up and that has given so much energy to the team. Gloria is one of the strongest people I have ever met. It is so amazing getting to work with her and to represent her. She is an amazing mom: hearing her talk about her children and everything she does for them is incredible. She recently went back to school to get a degree and is crushing it! She has been student of the month, and her hard work has been recognized by her teachers and peers.”

-Paige Geier

Sanctuary is incredibly grateful for the invaluable pro bono work of this amazing and supportive team.

Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on October 25, 2023, as we honor Paul Weiss’s outstanding pro bono work.



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.

Paul Weiss & Morvillo Abramowitz Team Achieve Groundbreaking Supreme Court Victory

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary will honor a Paul Weiss & Morvillo Abramowitz team for their representation of Narkis Golan, a U.S. citizen who fled Italy in 2018 with her then-two-year-old son to escape an abusive relationship with her husband.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families is honoring an extraordinary team of attorneys from Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC, who achieved a groundbreaking Supreme Court victory in their long-running representation of pro bono client Narkis Golan. 

The Paul Weiss and Morvillo teams, some of whom have now worked on this matter for more than 3 years, include Karen R. King, Kevin Grossinger, Daniel Gordon, Ariel Cohen, Chelsea L. Scism, Joshua Bussen, Rusty Feldman, Bronwyn Roantree, and Ryan McMenamin, from Morvillo; and Daniel H. Levi, Kannon K. Shanmugam, Aimee W. Brown, Matteo Godi, Sylvia Sui, Danielle J. Marryshow, and Randall W Bryer, from Paul Weiss.


For four years, a team of attorneys from Paul Weiss, and later Paul Weiss and Morvillo together, have represented Ms. Golan, a U.S. citizen who fled Italy in 2018 with her then-two-year-old son to escape a physically, psychologically, and sexually abusive relationship with her husband, J. Saada. After Ms. Golan fled Italy, Mr. Saada filed a petition seeking an order to return their son to Italy pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”).

In January 2019, attorneys from Paul Weiss defended Ms. Golan in a two-week trial in the Eastern District of New York, which included laying out a chilling and irrefutable record of domestic violence by Mr. Saada. As Karen King (formerly of Paul Weiss, now of Morvillo), who has worked on Ms. Golan’s case from the very beginning, explained, the team focused on proving the “grave risk” exception to return based on the physical and psychological harm to the child from witnessing the abuse, the collateral consequences of being in a household of domestic violence, and the risk to the child if returned to Italy given Mr. Saada’s volatile and aggressive nature. 

After the trial and post-trial briefing, the district court found that the child would face a grave risk of harm if returned to Italy, but nonetheless ordered his return under then Second Circuit precedent obligating the court to “examine the full range of options that might make possible the safe return of a child.” By contrast, some other circuit courts of appeal either disfavor or do not require the same broad consideration of potential ameliorative measures.  Under the Second Circuit’s standard, the district court crafted a suite of ameliorative measures it believed would sufficiently reduce the risk to the child, largely based on promises by Mr. Saada to reform his behavior.

While disappointed in the result, Ms. Golan and her attorneys continued to fight, appealing first to the Second Circuit, where the team successfully argued that the most important ameliorative measures proffered by the district court were unenforceable undertakings without sufficient guarantees of performance. Combined with the “ample reason to doubt that Mr. Saada w[ould] comply with these conditions,” the Second Circuit found that the undertakings were insufficient to mitigate the harm faced by the child if returned to Italy, and remanded to the district court to consider the full range of remedies that might allow the return of the child safely. On remand, the district court imposed new ameliorative measures that involved forcing the parties to obtain a protective order from an Italian court, and the Second Circuit affirmed.

Supreme Court Victory

Paul Weiss and Morvillo then petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari, which was granted in December 2021, focusing on the question of whether, upon finding that return to the country of habitual residence places a child at grave risk, a district court is nonetheless required to consider ameliorative measures that would facilitate the return of the child.  In a unanimous opinion published this June, the Supreme Court found in favor of Ms. Golan, holding that a court is not “categorically required to examine all possible ameliorative measures” before denying a Hague Convention petition for return of a child where it has already found that return would expose the child to a grave risk of harm. Accordingly, the Court vacated and remanded the case, emphasizing that the district court’s decision should bear in mind that the primary goal of the Hague Convention is the safety of the child.

Aftermath of the Court’s Ruling

The Supreme Court’s decision, which overturned the standard in the Second Circuit (and the Third and Ninth Circuit, which follow the Second Circuit on this issue) for review of Hague Convention petitions for return of a child in the face of a grave risk, has had a significant impact on cases involving abuse victims fighting to retain custody. While Ms. Golan’s case remains in limbo—the district court again opted to order the child returned to Italy, despite current circumstances and new safety issues, and the case is again on appeal to the Second Circuit—Ms. Golan and her team are proud that her case has been able to help other mothers fighting to keep their children safe.

Ms. Golan’s resilience during her four year fight is a testament not only to her, but to her team of lawyers who have helped her throughout the case.  While the fight continues, the 9-0 decision of the Supreme Court should be celebrated as an important battle victory for survivors of domestic abuse.

“The entire domestic violence community was ecstatic when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision overturning the problematic Second Circuit precedent. The Golan decision is an incredible victory for survivors and their children fleeing the terror of domestic violence to find safety in the United States.  This Above & Beyond Team worked incredibly hard to achieve this monumental victory and I can’t thank them enough for the dedication, passion, and unparalleled lawyering that they have brought to the case.”

Nicole Fidler
Director of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Program

Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Morvillo Abramowitz & Paul Weiss’ 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.

Tim J. Weinstein is an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell.

Paul Weiss Helps Domestic Violence Survivor Overturn Court Order, Remain in Apartment

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul Weiss for their tireless pro bono work on behalf of “Lisa,” a survivor of domestic violence facing court-ordered exclusion from her apartment.

Sharon Barbour is an associate at Cohen & Gresser and co-chair of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council. 

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul Weiss for their tireless pro bono work on behalf of “Lisa,” a survivor of domestic violence facing court-ordered exclusion from her apartment. The team consisted of partner Dave Brown; associates Sofia Reive, Katarina Broeksmit, and Luke Phillips; former associates Mahalia Boyd and Lance Polivy; and former paralegal Erin Nunes. 

For years, Sanctuary’s client Lisa endured an unimaginable situation in her own home, a rent-controlled apartment where she had lived since childhood.  Her family had been fractured by domestic violence.  As children, Lisa and her siblings witnessed their father violently abuse their mother, which left lasting trauma on the entire family.  Lisa’s sister, Nina, who was in an extremely abusive relationship, ultimately killed her batterer and was sentenced to two decades in prison.  Lisa left college to care for Nina’s children.  Back in her childhood home, Lisa faced psychological abuse by her brother, who had learned how to abuse from their father.

By 2017, Lisa was in poor health and unable to work.  Her brother had his own home but, seeking a buy-out from the building’s management, launched a vicious campaign to force Lisa out of hers.  He installed cameras in the apartment to monitor Lisa’s every move and left menacing notes, threatening her and disparaging her with racist and misogynistic names.  He even went so far as to install a roommate in the apartment without Lisa’s permission to monitor and harass her.  He eventually obtained an order of protection based on spurious claims that Lisa abused him and that the apartment was his only residence.  Claiming that Lisa violated the order of protection, he sought a court order excluding her from the apartment.

In July 2017, after Sanctuary successfully advocated for parole on behalf of Lisa’s sister Nina, Lisa approached Sanctuary for legal assistance.  Sanctuary contacted Paul, Weiss about representing Lisa pro bono.  Mahalia Boyd, then a Paul, Weiss associate, jumped at the opportunity.  Because domestic violence is often understood to involve romantic partners rather than siblings, “that made me want to learn more about those issues and how to protect someone in that space because I don’t think it gets enough attention,” Mahalia said.

The Paul, Weiss team, which included Mahalia, partner Dave Brown, associate Sofia Reive, former associate Lance Polivy, associate Katarina Broeksmit, associate Luke Phillips, and former paralegal Erin Nunes, fought for over two years to keep Lisa in her home.  For the team, Lisa’s success felt personal.  As Sofia put it, “the stakes could not have been higher, since she was in such fragile health and was at risk of becoming homeless.”  “We felt that pressure personally,” Lance said.

The team worked tirelessly with Lisa to prepare for trial.  The team prepared Lisa to testify about years of abuse by her brother and undertook thorough investigative work to expose the brother’s lies.  “It was really important for us to establish trust with Lisa at the beginning,” said Mahalia.  “Lisa started to feel like she was really heard and could contribute to the success of her case.”

During the highly contested year-long trial, as a result of careful preparation and skillful direct examination, the team exposed the brother’s abusive behavior and undermined his credibility.  Yet inexplicably, the court found in favor of Lisa’s brother and ordered Lisa’s exclusion.  The team immediately sought an emergency stay of the exclusion order from the Appellate Division, which was denied.  Undeterred, the team filed an emergency appeal of the denial of the stay, which a full panel of the Appellate Division granted.  The team then briefed an appeal of the family court order on the merits.  After oral argument in September 2019, the Appellate Division overturned the portion of the family court order that excluded Lisa from the apartment.  Finally, after years of hard work, Lisa’s right to stay in her home was secured.

“I am forever grateful to this extraordinary group of lawyers. Their skill and dedication kept me in my home and gave me hope.” — Lisa, survivor.

The team likewise expressed great admiration for Lisa.  “Lisa is a fighter,” said Lance, who praised Lisa for attending school and volunteering at a senior center while coping with an extremely difficult home situation and working on her litigation defense.  “Each time she left [the apartment], she was taking a risk that her belongings would be thrown out in the street, as they had in the past.  On top of this, she spent many long days meeting with the Paul, Weiss team to go over everything and prepare for her trial.” As Dave observed, “We had a better outcome because she was so invested in this process.”  Sofia added, “During several years working closely with Lisa, I was astounded by her courage and resilience – never more so than in the days following an exclusion order by the lower court.”  Mahalia agreed, noting that “despite everything that happened to her, she tried to be positive and . . . make the best of her situation.  It was really inspiring to see that come out and shine through her.”

Reflecting on the successful outcome—the result of intensive factual development, trial preparation, direct examination, motion practice, post-trial submissions, and multiple appellate briefs—Dave said that the case “really highlighted the broad base of skills that Paul, Weiss can bring to bear.  Fortunately, we had the ability to bring all of that to the table to help Lisa.”  He added that he was “really happy to continue the legacy of Paul, Weiss’s support of Sanctuary.” 

For Sofia, “It was invaluable to work on this matter from start to finish: through trial, an emergency stays, and, finally, to a successful appeal.  Ultimately, though, keeping Lisa in her home and turning back her abuser was far and away the most rewarding aspect of the case.  This experience was only possible through our firm’s commitment to pro bono representation and longstanding partnership with Sanctuary for Families.”  Lance echoed these sentiments, noting, “There’s nothing more gratifying than using our legal training to help those in need.  That was what this case was all about.”

“The team never stopped fighting.  We didn’t give up.  This was a case of perseverance.” — Dave Brown, partner, Paul Weiss.

Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families, said “It was perseverance coupled with strategic brilliance and top-notch lawyering skills that [the Paul Weiss team] used every step of the way.” She praised each member of the team for being “committed, hardworking, and talented,” calling their work on Lisa’s behalf “extraordinary.”  Dorchen further noted that, because Lisa suffers from multiple chronic illnesses and would have been rendered homeless in the midst of the ongoing COVID pandemic, “They prevented a catastrophe for the client.  It was life-saving.”

Join us at our virtual Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the outstanding pro bono work of Dave, Mahalia, Sofia, Lance, Katarina, Luke, and Erin. 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.

O’Melveny & Myers & Paul Weiss Attorneys Assist Mother in International Child Abduction Prosecution

At this year’s Above & Beyond Achievement Awards and Benefit, we’re honoring a team of attorneys from O’Melveny & Myers and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison for their pro bono assistance in an international parental kidnapping prosecution. Read to learn more.

Nicole Vescova is an associate at Klein Zelman Rothermel Jacobs & Schess, advising management in labor, employment and employee benefit issues, and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from O’Melveny & Myers (O’Melveny) and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison (Paul Weiss) for their pro bono assistance in an international parental kidnapping prosecution.

The dedicated and hardworking team included partners Andrew Frackman and Mark Racanelli, and associate Emilie Winckel of O’Melveny; and of counsel Daniel J. Beller, associates Gregory Pruden (now an associate at Binder & Schwartz LLP), Kristina Bunting, and Benjamin D. Gitlin, and partner Aidan Synnott of Paul, Weiss.

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

After graduating from medical school, Dr. Hind Kettani and her husband moved from their native Morocco to the United States to begin their careers in the medical field.  Following their move to the US, Dr. Kettani and her husband had two boys.  After the birth of their children, Dr. Kettani and her husband’s relationship started to swiftly deteriorate.

Dr. Kettani’s husband became extremely controlling and subjected her to verbal abuse and constant surveillance. As she attempted to balance the demands of her residency program with the care of her children and increasingly difficult marriage, Dr. Kettani accepted what she thought was her mother-in-law’s generous offer to have the children visit their grandparents in Morocco for a few weeks. But when Dr. Kettani traveled to Morocco to bring the children back to the US, she discovered that her husband and his family were withholding the children’s passports, preventing them from leaving the country.

It became clear that Dr. Kettani would need to obtain a divorce and sole custody of the children in order to bring them back to the US, so she immediately instituted proceedings in Morocco. After almost two years of shuttling between the two countries, she finally obtained a Moroccan custody order, which she registered in New York, and obtained new passports for the children. She believed their time apart would end soon.  That is until she returned to Morocco to pick up the children to find that her husband had already left the country with them.

Criminal Justice

From November 2011 to November 2015, Dr. Kettani’s ex-husband ignored court orders, hiding her children from her. She tirelessly pursued all possible means of finding and reuniting with her children. She worked with courts in the U.S. and Morocco, as well as authorities in various countries. The FBI located the children in Saudi Arabia and brought them home. Her ex-husband was placed in custody and, after four excruciating years of separation, Dr. Kettani was finally reunited with her children. Her ex-husband was charged with international parental kidnapping and ordered to stay away from Dr. Kettani and the children as a condition to his bail.

Fearful that her ex-husband or his family could kidnap her children again, Dr. Kettani reached out to Sanctuary for Families for help. Dorchen Leidholdt, Sanctuary for Family’s Legal Director, instantly recognized the severity of the situation and recruited outside counsel to ensure the criminal case would not be pled down or resolved in a way that would leave Dr. Kettani’s family without the protection they so desperately needed.

Paul Weiss advised Dr. Kettani on child custody law issues arising from proceedings in both New York and Morocco, and enlisted the expertise of O’Melveny to assist Dr. Kettani in the criminal proceedings.

O’Melveny’s Emilie Winckel describes Dr. Kettani as “incredibly strong and determined” and someone who “put the safety and wellbeing of her children above all else.” The firm assisted Dr. Kettani in her interactions with the U.S. Attorney’s office as a witness for the prosecution. In response to her ex-husband’s application for deferred prosecution, O’Melveny drafted a strong opposition, ensuring Dr. Kettani’s voice was heard.  When the Court denied his application, the O’Melveny team made sure the denial would not be reversed on appeal. Further, after he pled guilty to international parental kidnapping, O’Melveny worked with the prosecution to ensure that his sentence would reflect the severity of his crime.

Working Together While Moving Forward

While Dr. Kettani’s ex-husband is currently incarcerated, Paul Weiss continues to assist Dr. Kettani in ensuring she maintains custody of the children. Both teams look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Kettani and Sanctuary.

Winckel credited everyone at Sanctuary, Paul Weiss and O’Melveny who worked on the case and made “sure we had a cohesive strategy across both the criminal and family court proceedings.” She also noted how grateful she is to O’Melveny for its support of the matter, which entailed a significant amount of attorney time.

Paul Weiss’s Gregory Pruden praised Sanctuary’s Dorchen Leidholdt and Sanctuary volunteer Lynn Beller for their tireless dedication, “as well as the bravery of our FBI agents,” all of whom were “integral to the success of our work.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on November 13, 2018, at the RUMI Event Space, 229 W 28th St, New York, New York as we honor O’Melveny & Myers and Paul Weiss’s outstanding pro bono work.  You can buy tickets 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.