Student, Practitioners Honored for Work with Domestic Violence Victims

Columbia Law School, Davis Polk & Wardwell Join Forces to Help Nonprofit
New York, Sept. 27, 2012—Two tireless advocates for the rights of domestic violence victims and a Columbia Law School student were honored Monday night by the Law School, Davis Polk & Wardwell, and Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting victims and their children.
The 16th annual Abely Awards recognized the work of longtime victims’ rights attorneys Harlene Katzman, pro bono counsel and director at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Sarah Buel, the faculty director of the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice and clinical professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Alicia Lobeiras ’14, a second-year student at Columbia Law School, also was recognized for her work with victims as a summer fellow at Sanctuary for Families.

(Pictured left to right: Sarah Buel, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Harlene Katzman, Ellen P. Chapnick, and Dorchen A. Leidholdt.)

 The annual awards and fellowship honor the memory of Maryellen Abely ’87, 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.
Laurel W. Eisner, the executive director of Sanctuary for Families, made brief remarks before the presentation of awards. She thanked co-hosts Columbia Law School and Davis Polk for their support, and reminded attendees that much work remains in the fight against domestic violence.
That was a sentiment echoed by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who spoke about the importance of pro bono work before presenting Buel with The Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety. Lippman came up with and was the driving force behind a requirement that New York attorneys perform 50 hours of pro bono work before admission to the state bar. Earlier this month, the New York State Court of Appeals adopted the rule, which applies to applicants starting in 2015.
“Maryellen Abely clearly knew the importance of pro bono service by the bar,” he said. “That’s the kind of commitment we need to foster.”
The 2012 Abely Award recipients embody that commitment. Buel, a former prosecutor, earned her law degree after escaping an abusive partner. She told guests at the event that there is a “toxic level of denial” about domestic violence in this country, noting that abusive partners murder women every day.
Buel’s co-honoree Katzman received The Abely Pro Bono Achievement Award from Dorchen A. Leidholdt, who serves as the director of Sanctuary’s Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services and as a lecturer-in-law at the Law School. In one of her cases for Sanctuary, Katzman represented a client who was sold for sex for 10 years after being trafficked from Mexico to New York.
Before joining Simpson Thacher, Katzman directed Columbia Law School’s public interest professional development, fellowship, and pro bono programs. She also helped launch the Battered Immigrant Women’s Pro Bono Project at Sanctuary and coordinated the Maryellen Abely Summer Fellowship program, which was created in 1996 and is funded by Davis Polk.
Lobeiras, the 2012 fellow, was recognized Monday by Ellen P. Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives at the Law School. Chapnick said the fellowship conceived nearly two decades ago has flourished.
“It is the Columbia Law School students who have brought it to life,” she said. “Alicia Lobeiras is no exception to the fellows’ tradition of excellence.”
After the ceremony, Lobeiras said she initially thought working with women at the center would be depressing. Instead, it was inspiring.
“It really showed how strong they are,” she said. “That’s something you only get working with these women one-on-one.”
Alicia Lobeiras '14 and Joy Ziegeweid '12
Joy Ziegeweid '12, a former Abely Fellow, also attended Monday night’s ceremony. She graduated from Columbia Law School in May and works as a Skadden Fellow at Sanctuary.
“I think the relationship between Columbia Law School and Sanctuary for Families is fantastic,” Ziegeweid said. “It makes it possible to do substantive pro bono work from the start of law school.”