Student Advocate Recognized for Work with Survivors of Domestic Violence

Columbia Law School, Davis Polk, and Sanctuary for Families Join Together to Honor the Work of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen, Cleary Gottlieb Pro Bono Director Jennifer Kroman, and Whitney Hood '16

New York, September 30, 2015—Columbia Law School student Whitney C. Hood ’16 was recognized for her commitment to social justice and women’s rights at the 19th Annual Abely Awards hosted Sept. 21 by Davis Polk & Wardwell, the Law School, and Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting domestic violence survivors and their children.

Whitney C. Hood '16 was recognized at the
19th Annual Abely Awards.
Photos courtesy of Gillian Segal.

As the 2015 Maryellen Abely Fellow at Sanctuary for Families, Hood will spend part of her fellowship this fall working with the Anti-Trafficking Initiative of Sanctuary for Families, and part at New York City’s Family Justice Center in Brooklyn, a special center that provides criminal justice, civil legal, and social services all in one location for victims of domestic violence, trafficking, and elder abuse.

Hood was in good company at the awards ceremony. U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch (appearing by video) and U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen of the Eastern District of New York received the Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety. Jennifer L. Kroman, director of pro bono practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, received the Abely Pro Bono Achievement Award. The honorees were introduced by Judith Kaye, New York State’s former chief judge and of counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Dorchen A. Leidholdt, a Columbia Law School lecturer and director of Sanctuary for Families’ Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services.

Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School’s Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, introduced Hood and delivered brief remarks about the important work Sanctuary for Families, Davis Polk, and Columbia Law School do on behalf of survivors.
“Gender violence is not regulated by socioeconomic status, level of education, ideology, ethnic heritage, or geographic border,” Dean Lester said. “It is an extreme form of discrimination that calls for the adoption of stronger gender violence legislation not only in the United States but in nations all around the world. I celebrate the bond that was formed through the life of one person that impels us to continue her work.”

Hood said it is an honor to have received the fellowship and to help survivors obtain immigration relief.

Dean Gillian Lester, left, introduced Hood '16. From left, lecturer Dorchen A. Liedholdt, director of Sanctuary for Families’ Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services, introduced honoree Jennifer L. Kroman.

“Advocating for survivors of gender-based violence is a very personal cause for me, and it's a privilege to work with an organization like Sanctuary that does so much to empower survivors and to provide holistic and compassionate support,” she said.

The Abely awards and fellowship honor the memory of Maryellen Abely ’87, an alumna of Columbia Law School, an associate at Davis Polk, and one of the first pro bono attorneys at Sanctuary’s Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services. Abely died in 1995 after a long battle with cancer.

Dean Lester said Hood is one of society’s future leaders in the battle against gender violence, noting that last year she was recognized by the Law School’s Social Justice Initiatives for completing more than 200 hours of pro bono work.

“Most of us in this room were law students,” Dean Lester said at the ceremony. “I ask you to take a moment and consider the dedication and commitment it takes to give 200 hours of your time while pursuing a law degree.”

Hood has been involved with Sanctuary for Families since 2011 when, while working as a paralegal and pro bono coordinator for Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel before law school, she assisted on several of the Legal Center’s asylum cases. Since then, she has immersed herself in immigration, human rights, and women’s rights issues for a variety of organizations in D.C. and New York City, including the ACLU.

At Columbia Law School, Hood is a member of the Human Rights Law Review, participates in the Human Rights Clinic, and has been honored for her superior academic achievement as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, among other endeavors.