Dorchen A. Leidholdt
Lecturer in Law
Dorchen A. Leidholdt has served as the Director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families in New York City since 1994. The largest dedicated legal services program for domestic violence victims in the country, the Center provides legal representation in family law, criminal, civil rights, public benefits, housing, and immigration cases and advocates for policy and legislative changes that further the rights of survivors of gender violence. Under Ms. Leidholdt’s leadership, the Center has grown from two to forty-five lawyers and strengthened its advocacy efforts on behalf of underserved populations, especially those in immigrant and LGBT communities. In 2015 working in partnership with more than 500 pro bono lawyers, the Center provided legal assistance to more than 6,000 women, men, and children.
The Center has spearheaded state litigation that has established new legal precedent expanding the protections available to domestic violence victims petitioning for orders of protection and federal litigation preventing child protective agencies from charging battered mothers with “engaging in domestic violence.” The Center has successfully advocated for laws requiring New York State courts to consider evidence of domestic violence in custody and visitation cases, adding the crimes of stalking and strangulation to the New York State penal code, and enabling domestic violence victims in same sex relationships to pursue civil protective orders. Through its Anti-Trafficking Initiative, the Center has provided direct representation to hundreds of victims of sex and labor trafficking and helped found the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, which Ms. Leidholdt co-chairs.
Ms. Leidholdt has been an activist and leader in the movement against violence against women since the mid-1970’s. She has lectured internationally on a wide array of issues of gender violence and published numerous articles and book chapters and an anthology. She coedited the 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of the Lawyers Manual on Domestic Violence and the 1st edition of the Lawyers Manual on Human Trafficking. A former public defender, Ms. Leidholdt has taught Criminal Procedure at City University School of Law.
Ms. Leidholdt has been honored with numerous awards, including the United Nations Capitol Association Human Rights Award; the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Services Award, and the City of New York Award for “outstanding leadership in breaking the cycle of domestic violence”; the New York University School of Law Public Interest Law Foundation Award for “outstanding contributions in public interest law” and the Lawyers Committee Against Domestic Violence “In the Trenches” Award, and many others.
Ms. Leidholdt hold a Masters Degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Snow scholar.