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Addressing Domestic Violence 2021: Remote Family and Immigration Law Practice During Pandemic or Disaster

Speaker(s): Charlotte A. Watson, Dr. Shobana Powell, DSW, LCSW, Hamra Ahmad, Hon. Judy Harris Kluger (Ret.), Leslye E. Orloff, Linda Lopez, Luba Reife, Professor Ellen C. Yaroshefsky, Professor Joan M. Shaughnessy, Rachel Goldsmith, LCSW-R, Stephanie Penrod
Recorded on: Feb. 5, 2021
PLI Program #: 305859

Charlotte A. Watson serves as Executive Director of the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts and as Special Projects Coordinator for the Office of Policy & Planning. She develops educational and training programs for local and state courts and creates economic, technological solutions for delivering high quality training across multiple venues and provides technical assistance to the courts on issues related to domestic violence and human trafficking. Ms. Watson brings over forty years of leadership experience in addressing violent crimes against women. She has been instrumental in strengthening New York’s laws on domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking.

Her career began in Texas as a founder of one of the first programs to meet the needs of victims of rape and domestic violence. She moved to New York in 1986 to serve as Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place, an internationally recognized domestic violence organization. She served on the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence Board of Directors, chairing the legislative committee and on the Advisory Board of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. In 1999, she was appointed by the Governor to serve as the Executive Director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and later as the State Refugee Coordinator and Senior Advisor on Human Trafficking to the Governor. While working in the governor’s office, she crafted the New York State response to human trafficking and in 2006, organized the first statewide conference on human trafficking bringing together stakeholders from every sector to begin building a coordinated effort for change in New York.

Ms. Watson joined the Unified Court System in 2007 where she has presented numerous judicial educational programs on topics related to gender-based violence and assisted in the development of human trafficking and domestic violence courts.  In 2015, she co-edited the Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence, 6th Edition and organized the National Summit on Human Trafficking and the State Courts which brought together chief judges and their teams from forty-six states and four territories to develop action plans for their states.  In 2020, as executive director of the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, she worked with the Committee to create and deploy a broad survey of attorneys practicing in New York State courts looking at gender bias and culminating in the release of the groundbreaking Gender Survey 2020 report.

Ms. Watson has created numerous coalitions and collaborations during her career to bring about unprecedented partnerships and change. She was one of the first in the country to involve men in the effort to end domestic violence and partnered with the NY Giants and the NY Yankees in this effort. She has been on numerous television and radio programs and quoted in many newspapers. Ms. Watson was named by Gannett Newspapers as one of the 100 Most Influential Westchester, Rockland, Putnam Citizens of the 20th Century, listed in Who’s Who of American Women; Who’s Who Among Young American Professionals; Who’s Who in the World and cited in the Congressional Record. She was honored by the Lawyers Committee Against Domestic Violence with the In the Trenches Award and has been named one of New York’s New Abolitionists.

Dr. Shobana Powell, LCSW, DSW has a decade of experience in the anti-trafficking and gender-based violence field, focusing on child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, policy and legislation, multi-disciplinary team development and coalition building.  Dr. Powell has a Bachelor's degrees in Social Work and Spanish from New York University, a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Southern California.   Through her doctoral research, she developed the Survivor Equity and Inclusion Framework, which is a model for anti-trafficking organizations to replace survivor re-exploitation in the anti-trafficking movement with survivor equity and inclusion. 

Currently, Dr. Powell serves as a consultant with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, creating and implementing a state-wide Child Welfare Sex Trafficking Prevention training and certification program.  She also serves on the New Yorkers for the Equality Model policy coalition and is the Director of the Louisiana for the Equality Model policy coalition, which both focus on survivor-centered human trafficking legislation.

Previously, Dr. Powell served as the Director of Micro Grants at Sanctuary for Families in New York City, where she managed emergency COVID-19 relief funding for survivors of gender-based violence for 80+ organizations.  Dr. Powell also served as the Director of the Survivor Leadership Coalition at Sanctuary for Families, where she trained and oversaw a diverse team of survivors of gender-based violence who made system-wide change through advocacy, direct service work, training and program development. 

In her past work in Louisiana, Dr. Powell provided individual therapy to survivors of complex trauma and served as Director of a Juvenile Mental Health Court, where she conducted court-ordered mental health and sex trafficking evaluations and testified in court regarding diagnoses and treatment recommendations.  She also founded and directed a regional human trafficking coalition and developed the first juvenile sex trafficking probation unit and multidisciplinary team in the State of Louisiana.  She has trained nationally and internationally on best practices for working with survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence and developing interdisciplinary community approaches to violence prevention.

Dr. Powell has received the Crime Victims’ Rights Awards in Louisiana and a National Association of Counties Award for her work in the field of human trafficking.  She now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California with her husband and her two very furry dogs.

Ellen Yaroshefsky is the Howard Lichtenstein Professor of Legal Ethics and Director of the Monroe Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. 

She teaches ethics courses and criminal procedure, organizes symposia, and writes and lectures in the field of legal ethics with a concentration upon issues in the criminal justice system. Ms. Yaroshefsky counsels lawyers and law firms and serves as an expert witness. 

She is the longstanding co-chair of the Ethics Advisory Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and regularly advises NACDL lawyers around the country.  She is the former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Ethics, Gideon and Professionalism Committee of the Criminal Justice Section. 

She serves on various national, state and local bar associations and formerly served as a Commissioner on the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics and 
From 1994-2016 she was a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the Jacob Burns Center for Ethics in the Practice of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. Prior to joining the Cardozo faculty, she was an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, a public defender at the  Seattle-King County Public Defender Association and then in private practice.  

She has received a number of awards for litigation and received the New York State Bar Association awards for “Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Criminal Law Education” and for “A Lifetime in Legal Ethics.”    


Hamra Ahmad is Director of Law and Policy at Her Justice, a nonprofit organization providing legal services to women living in poverty throughout New York City by training and mentoring volunteer attorneys to address individual and systemic barriers.

Prior to joining Her Justice, Ms. Ahmad was Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Justice Center (HVJC), a nonprofit organization providing civil legal services to immigrants.   She has also served as Director of the Center for Legal Services at My Sisters’ Place, a nonprofit organization working with victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.  She co-authored a chapter in the Services for Trafficking Victims: A Brief Guide for Lawyers on best practices when working with trafficking survivors. She is a leading expert in the area of Immigration and Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking, conducting trainings and presentations to law enforcement, judges, and social service agencies.

Ms. Ahmad also implemented the Immigration Project of the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, providing a variety of immigration services to the large East African resettlement population.  Ms. Ahmad received her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School.  She is licensed to practice law in New York and Minnesota.

Joan Shaughnessy teaches federal procedure, professional responsibility and poverty law.  Professor Shaughnessy is the Roger D. Groot Professor of Law at Washington & Lee and is a core faculty member of the Shepherd Program for the  Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability. She was formerly Associate Dean of the law school.   She holds a B.A. from State University of New York at Binghamton and a J.D. from the University of Chicago.  She practiced law as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton.  She has taught as a visiting professor at Washington University School of Law, Washington College of Law at American University and Brooklyn Law School. Her scholarly interests include child welfare, complex litigation and feminist theory.

Leslye Orloff is an Adjunct Professor and Director of the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP) at American University, Washington College of Law. NIWAP provides training and technical assistance that supports attorneys, judges, police, prosecutors and victim advocates in their work with immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.  NIWAP also advocates for laws, policies and practices that enhance legal protections for immigrant women and children and immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Ms. Orloff’s 38-year career includes working collaboratively with experts across the country to develop and implement immigration relief, public benefits access and family law protections for immigrant women, children and survivors. She was involved in drafting the Protection for Immigrant Victims of Violence Against Women of the Violence Against Women Acts of 1994, 2000, 2005, and 2013, the Trafficking Victims Protection Acts of 2000 and 2008, legal services access for battered immigrants in 1997 and 2005 and welfare access for battered immigrants in 1996. She has also worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to implement these laws.   She was a co-founder and co-chair of the National Network to End Violence Against immigrant Women (1992-2011).

Ms. Orloff has published numerous law and social science journal articles, curricula, and training materials for attorneys, law enforcement, judges and other professionals on legal rights and services options for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes.  National recognition of Ms. Orloff’s work on behalf of immigrant women includes: Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Council on Women and Girls COVID-19 Domestic Violence Taskforce 2020; 2015-2016 Chair Health-Mental Health Subcommittee of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers; 2015 Social Educational Exchange Fellowship from the Eurasia Foundation for Gender Issues;  2012 Daynard Public Interest Fellowship, Northeastern University Law School, the 2007 Sheila Wellstone Award for her work on VAWA; the 2007 annual Maryland Rosalynn B. Bell Award; a Harvard Law School Wasserstein Public Interest Law Fellowship in 2002; and a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship in 1994. Ms. Orloff received her J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Brandeis University.

Luba Reife is the Deputy Director for the Manhattan Family Law Project at Sanctuary for Families, a New York City-based non-profit organization dedicated to aiding victims of gender based violence. Prior to working at Sanctuary for Families, Luba spent eight years working for the New York City Law Department, first as a juvenile prosecutor in Family Court and subsequently as a civil litigator for the City’s Special State Law Enforcement Defense Unit, defending the City in cases against the police. As a prosecutor, Luba handled juvenile delinquency matters, ranging from misdemeanor assaults to felony sex crimes in Brooklyn and Manhattan Family Courts. Luba is a 2008 graduate of New York Law School and worked for several years as a parole officer for New Jersey’s Intensive Supervision Program before deciding to become a lawyer.

Rachel Goldsmith LCSW-R is the Director of Social Work for the Civil Practice of The Legal Aid Society.  In this role, she oversees all social work services within the Civil Practice including housing, elder, immigration, and education practice. Previously, Rachel was the Associate Vice President for Domestic Violence Shelters at Safe Horizon.  As AVP of shelters, she provided leadership and management direction to Safe Horizon’s 8 domestic violence shelters where over 700 adults and children reside each evening.  Rachel supervised shelter directors, managed a grant under THRIVE NYC, oversaw shelter-based childcare services, conducted internal and external trainings, and acted as an agency spokesperson appearing in print, radio, and live TV interviews.  Throughout her career she has worked collaboratively with attorneys on a range of court matters including immigration, housing, domestic violence, and custody. Rachel obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University and holds an Advanced Certificate in Trauma Studies from The Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.  In addition to her work at The Legal Aid Society, Rachel is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

Stephanie Penrod is the Managing Attorney at the Family Violence Law Center (FVLC) in Oakland, CA, which provides free crisis and legal services in civil restraining order, limited family and housing law matters, and Title IX administrative proceedings for survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault in Alameda County.  Since the onset of the pandemic, FVLC observed a 37% increase in crisis line calls over the fourth quarter, a notable increase in the severity of violence reported, and a growing need for direct financial and housing support resulting from pandemic-related unemployment and lost wages.  As FVLC’s Managing Attorney, Stephanie supervises all legal staff and volunteers; oversees legal intake, case assessment and litigation strategy; develops, implements, monitors and reports on all legal program activities; and provides regular trainings to outside agencies on domestic violence and the law.  Stephanie originally joined FVLC as a staff attorney and Mobile Response Team advocate and has over twelve years of experience providing legal representation and direct support services to survivors.  Stephanie graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Organizational Development and Women’s Studies and holds a J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law.

Since assuming the role of Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families in 2014, Judge Kluger has secured substantial new sources of private and public funding, growing the agency budget from approximately $15 million to a budget of $27 million today. Under Judge Kluger’s leadership, Sanctuary’s Legal Center launched new programs to address the unique needs of college sexual assault survivors seeking Title IX advocacy or legal representation, incarcerated gender violence survivors seeking parole, clemency, and resentencing under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act and Orthodox Jewish survivors seeking religious and civil divorces. Sanctuary’s innovative Economic Empowerment Program has also expanded, adding a second location at the Manhattan Family Justice Center and introducing new training programs to address skill gaps in a wider array of clients. To better support families on their paths to recovery, Sanctuary’s Clinical Department has implemented a family-focused, evidence-based therapeutic model to help rebuild parent-child relationships.

Beyond programmatic growth, Judge Kluger has fostered structural change within Sanctuary. In 2015, she worked with staff and the Board to develop a five-year strategic plan which has expanded high-need programming, driven impact-focused assessments of services, and advanced Sanctuary’s strategic leadership in the movement to end gender violence through legislative advocacy and community outreach. As the agency grew from 150 to nearly 240 staff, Judge Kluger oversaw the agency’s move to a larger office in downtown Manhattan and implemented agency-wide anti-racism work which includes two-day training workshops for every staff and the creation of a permanent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Prior to joining Sanctuary, Judge Kluger served for 25 years as a judge in New York State. Her last judicial position was as Chief of Policy and Planning for the court system where amongst her responsibilities was oversight of New York State’s 300 problem-solving courts. Judge Kluger’s experience as a judge instills in her a deep knowledge of and commitment to the issues facing Sanctuary’s clients. Over the course of her career, Judge Kluger has been recognized with the New York Women’s Bar Association’s President’s Special Award; the New York Law Journal’s Lawyers Who Lead by Example award; the New York State Bar Association, Excellence in Public Service award; the Lawyer’s Committee against Domestic Violence in the Trenches award; and Sanctuary’s Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety; Fund for Modern Courts 2020 Career Public Service Award.

Linda Lopez started as a staff attorney at Sanctuary’s Legal Center in 1994.  In 2006, she became Deputy Director of the Center where she works with the Director to advocate on behalf of victims of gender based violence.  Ms. Lopez is founder of the Uncontested Divorce Workshop where she trained over 600 students in five New York City law schools to work with indigent battered women in obtaining uncontested divorces. She is a seasoned practitioner of Family and Matrimonial law and is bi-lingual in the Spanish language.  She oversees Sanctuary’s Community Outreach and Training Initiative which provides outreach, training and direct representation to underserved communities.  She is a graduate of CUNY Law School where she participated in the Battered Women’s Clinic.  Ms. Lopez has made numerous television and radio appearances both in the Spanish and English language.  She has trained extensively on the issue of domestic violence both locally, nationally and internationally and has served as a panelist on numerous workshops and forums.  She served on the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, New York City Bar Association’s Committee on the Courts and the New York City Bar Association’s Family Law Committee and as a judicial screening panelist.  In 2011 she was awarded the NYC Bar Association Legal Services Award.