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ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence marks 20th anniversary by honoring trailblazers


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ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence marks 20th anniversary by honoring trailblazers

By John Glynn

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2015 — The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence has selected 20 lawyers to receive one of its three major awards —  President’s 20th Anniversary Vision Award, Sharon L. Corbitt Award and 20/20 Vision Award. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Commission and the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. The awards ceremony reception will take place on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, during the ABA Annual Meeting.

Also, the ABA will present its highest honor — the ABA Medal — to Roberta Cooper Ramo, the ABA’s first female president (1995-96) who also established the ABA’s task force on domestic violence and eventually the Commission with the intent to get more lawyers involved in the cause to assist survivors of domestic violence.

“We are honored to recognize these 20 extraordinary individuals for the work they have done to respond to domestic and sexual violence,” ABA President William C. Hubbard said.  “We are grateful for the legislative contributions of Vice President Biden and Senator Leahy. We look forward to commemorating the progress that has been made in the field and all of the effective partnerships that have been created to help combat this violence.”

The ABA President’s 20th Anniversary Vision Awards honor pioneering leadership in response to domestic and sexual violence over the last 20 years, as well as support given to lawyers in the field and the commission as a viable and effective community response. The Sharon L. Corbitt Award recognizes service by lawyers from all areas of practice, including nonprofits, large firms, solo practitioners, corporate counsel and judges who demonstrate exemplary service to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking in the spirit of Sharon L. Corbitt. The 20/20 Vision Award honors the important work accomplished by the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the creation of the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence 20 years ago. Recipients played an instrumental role in mobilizing the legal profession against domestic and sexual violence by either creating, supporting, advancing or advocating for the commission or VAWA over the past two decades.

The honorees are:

ABA President’s 20th Anniversary Vision Award recipients:

·        Vice President Joseph Biden: In 1990, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act and has fought legislatively for the last 20 years to end violence against women.

·        Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.: In 2013, Leahy introduced and supported the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which broadened the protections for all victims of domestic violence.

Sharon L. Corbitt Award recipient:

·        Wanda Lucibello, chief of the Special Victims Division, Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, is the executive assistant district attorney for Victim Advocacy. She has conducted multiple training programs for police, prosecutors and service providers in the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases in conjunction with the National College of District Attorneys and the New York Prosecutors Training Institute. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, the most recent of which was the Lawyers’ Committee Against Domestic Violence “In the Trenches” Award. She is also an adjunct professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City.

20/20 Vision Awards recipients:

·        Jacqueline Agtuca, director of policy, National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, has dedicated her legal career to increasing protections for women at the tribal, state, federal and international levels by providing services to victims and advocating for legal reforms under VAWA. She is the editor of the Restoration of Native Sovereignty and Safety for Native Women Magazine and recently authored the book, “Safety for Native Women: VAWA and American Indian Tribes for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.”

·        Cherri N. Allison, executive director, Alameda County Family Justice Center, has more than 21 years experience in the field of domestic violence prevention and family law. In 2007 and 2009, she co-authored “Domestic Violence Remedies in California Law Cases.” Additionally, she authored a chapter entitled, Traditional Response to Domestic Violence: Criminal and Civil Legal Systems in the United States published in “Violence and Abuse in Society: Understanding a Global Crisis: ABC-CLIO; 2012.”  She co-teaches a class on domestic violence law and ethics at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

·        Allen M. Bailey, owner, Law Offices of Allen M. Bailey in Anchorage, Alaska, is a former prosecutor who now represents mostly domestic violence victims. He has written extensively on the topic of domestic violence, including a chapter on Child Custody Litigation Strategies in “The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice,” 2nd Ed., ABA (2004). He currently serves on the board of directors of Abused Women’s Aid In Crisis, Inc., and served as president 2010-11. He has received numerous public service awards, including one from the Alaska Women's Resource Center.

·        Mike Bedke, partner, DLA Piper, over the last 30 years, in addition to providing direct legal representation to domestic violence survivors, has worked to foster unique partnerships between lawyers and domestic violence advocates. One of his major achievements was to bring together law enforcement and military leaders, with the heads of over two dozen social service organizations, who then worked together to combat domestic violence. About 10 years ago, he developed a public service announcement featuring NFL Hall of Famers aimed at engaging men in the effort to end domestic violence. He also ran 138 miles across the Sahara Desert with a banner and a logo on his backpack that read: Run For Peace. Stop Domestic Violence. He raised awareness and nearly $100,000 speaking to numerous audiences about transforming “victims” into “survivors.” Currently, he serves on the board of trustees of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

·        Jerry J. Bowles, retired circuit judge, Commonwealth of Kentucky, initiated Kentucky’s first specialized domestic violence and sexual assault unit, where he served as director and chief prosecutor. He has been active at the local, state, national and international level regarding issues of intimate partner violence and sexual assault and served on numerous task forces and committees regarding the issue. Currently, he serves as vice president of the board of the Mary Byron Project, a national foundation that fosters innovations and strategies to end domestic violence. He has lectured nationally and internationally on domestic violence and family violence issues.

·        Sarah Buel, clinical law professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, has spent the past 37 years working with domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, juvenile justice and human rights matters.  Previously, she was a clinical law professor at the University of Texas, where she started and co-directed their domestic violence clinic. She was a prosecutor in Texas and Massachusetts for seven years, helping to establish award-winning domestic violence and juvenile programs. A domestic violence survivor, she worked full time and went to school at night for seven years to obtain her undergraduate degree in 1987. She then graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1990, where she founded the Harvard Battered Women’s Advocacy Project, the Harvard Women in Prison Project, the Harvard Children and Family Rights Project, was a member of the Harvard Women’s Law Journal and for two years was an active member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. She also narrated the Academy Award-winning documentary, Defending Our Lives.

·        Matthew J. D'Emic, judge, New York State Supreme Court, appointed to the bench in 1996, was assigned to the Brooklyn Domestic Violence Court in 1998, a specialized court handling domestic violence felonies. In 2002, he was also assigned to preside over the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, the first mental health court in New York State. He is an adjunct professor of clinical law at Brooklyn Law School and has been recognized for his work in both the domestic violence court and mental health court and serves on several not-for-profit boards, including the Guild for Exceptional Children, the Mercy Home for Children and Xaverian High School.

·        Margaret B. Drew, director of Clinics and Experiential Learning, University of Massachusetts School of Law, has represented survivors of intimate partner abuse since the early 1980s. In private practice, she represented survivors in civil protection order, divorce, custody and related matters at the trial and appellate court levels. Drew understood that the ability to appeal a judgment could ensure safety for a survivor and the survivor’s children. In so doing, Drew influenced how courts understand domestic violence and achieved justice for her clients. Drew provided significant pro bono services during her practice. She has trained judges, lawyers, advocates, medical personnel and others in the law and dynamics of domestic violence. Drew continues to mentor those who represent survivors and continues to represent survivors and consults on cases nationally. Drew addresses abuse and other gender equality concerns as co-editor of the Human Rights at Home blog.

·        Terry L. Fromson, managing attorney, Women’s Law Project, a Pennsylvania-based public interest legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the rights and status of women, led a national effort to stop insurance companies from discriminating against victims of domestic violence; was principal contributor to several publications dedicated to improving employer, judicial, school and insurer responses to domestic and sexual violence; and helped change the law to provide victims of domestic violence a safe and confidential process to change their names in Pennsylvania and to take time off from work to seek assistance in Philadelphia. Fromson played a leading role in the successful 15-year effort to improve police and prosecutorial response to sexual and domestic violence in Philadelphia, which led to the FBI’s adoption of an expanded definition of rape. Currently, Fromson serves as an advisor to the American Law Institute’s project to update the Model Penal Code’s sexual assault provisions and engages in litigation, files administrative complaints and authors amicus briefs to obtain redress for individual victims and to eliminate institutional bias.

·        Sally F. Goldfarb, professor, Rutgers Law School, was a senior staff attorney at the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund (now known as Legal Momentum). At NOW LDEF, she conceived of, founded and chaired the National Task Force on the Violence Against Women Act, which was the first broad-based national coalition to advocate for legal and policy reform on issues of violence against women. More than 20 years later, the task force continues its essential work. She was instrumental in drafting the original Violence Against Women Act, especially its civil rights provision.  Her expertise on violence against women is recognized at the international level. On three occasions, she was a member of expert groups on violence against women convened by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women or UN Women.

·        Julie Goldscheid, professor, CUNY Law School, will assume the position of senior associate dean for academic affairs in July. Her scholarship focuses on gender equality, with a particular focus on gender-based violence and economic equality. Previously she held positions including senior staff attorney and acting legal director at Legal Momentum, where her litigation and policy work included defending the constitutionality of the civil rights remedy of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act in courts nationwide, and before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison. She was also general counsel at Safe Horizon, a leading victim services organization. She has served on the board of directors of the Stonewall Community Foundation and other nongovernmental organizations, and has been active in bar association committees and task forces. She has taught at Columbia Law School, NYU School of Law, Penn State Law School and Brooklyn Law School.

·        Grace Huang, public policy coordinator, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, focuses on legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of the interests of domestic violence survivors at the state and federal level. Previously, Huang practiced immigration law at the law firm of Gibbs Houston Pauw, and she practiced family, immigration and public assistance law at a legal aid organization. She also is a steering committee member of the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence, a member of the Washington State Supreme Court’s Gender and Justice Commission and participates in the steering committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

·        Lisalyn R. Jacobs, vice president for governmental affairs, Legal Momentum, has testified before congressional committees at both the state and federal levels. She has also fought for and secured needed protections for poor women and survivors of violence in a number of key federal laws including two reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act (2005 and 2013), the 2006 reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the 2009 amendments to the Stimulus law. Jacobs works closely with the Obama administration on a variety of issues including campus sexual assault and workplace and other economic protections for victims of violence. 

·        Mark Schickman, attorney at law, Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP, practices labor and employment law and litigation in San Francisco.  He was president of the Bar Association of San Francisco and served on the board of governors of the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California. His professional activity includes training employers to prevent workplace sexual harassment, and he helped draft the ABA Model Workplace Policy on Domestic and Sexual Violence and obtain its approval by the ABA House of Delegates. Schickman has carried several domestic violence resolutions through the ABA House, including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the provision of housing rights for domestic violence victims and the effort to afford greater protection to sexual assault victims in the military and on Native American lands.

·        Michael R. Smalz, senior attorney, Ohio Poverty Law Center, has worked on family law, domestic violence and other poverty law issues in Ohio since 1988 and has been practicing law for over 30 years.  A member of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committees on Domestic Violence and Children, Families and the Courts, Smalz has also served on many Supreme Court, bar, and administrative agency committees and task forces and the Ohio Child Support Guidelines Council. Smalz has argued, served as counsel or filed amicus briefs in nearly a dozen Ohio Supreme Court cases and has given trainings and presentations for attorneys and nonattorneys on domestic violence, child support, fair housing law, public utility law, appellate practice and other topics.  He has published articles on federal civil rights laws, the primary caretaker custody doctrine and domestic violence and is the author of two guidebooks on fair housing law.

·        Sharon Stapel, executive director, New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP), is a national expert on LGBTQ and violence issues and has worked on various public policy issues including VAWA, the use of condoms as evidence of sex offenses, police profiling, access to domestic violence shelters and access to civil orders of protection. In 2011 Stapel was named a White House Champion of Change for her LGBTQ intimate partner violence work and in 2013 she was recognized by President Obama for her work on an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act. Prior to joining AVP, Sharon directed domestic violence legal programs at South Brooklyn Legal Services and the Legal Aid Society, and created Legal Aid’s first dedicated domestic violence project, taught law school and undergraduate courses and worked at antiviolence organizations in Massachusetts and South Africa.

·        Joan Zorza, founding editor, Domestic Violence Report since the 1970s has represented more than 2,000 victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, including child victims, at Greater Boston Legal Services and the National Center on Women and Family Law (NCOWFL). She started the National Battered Women’s Law Project at NCOWFL, the country’s first national law program dedicated to ending violence against women and children. There she assisted and trained hundreds of attorneys, battered women’s advocates, legislators, judges and police. She later founded Domestic Violence Report and Sexual Assault Report, which still publishes cutting-edge articles on virtually all issues concerning violence against women. She drafted and lobbied many provisions in the first and second Violence Against Women Acts.

The mission of the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, founded in 1994, is to increase access to justice for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking by mobilizing the legal profession. The commission addresses the acute need to increase the number of well-trained and supported attorneys providing representation to victims by providing creative training opportunities for lawyers, law students and other legal advocates.

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