September 25, 2017
Senior Counsel Richard Rothman was honored with the Abely Pro Bono Achievement Award by Sanctuary for Families, one of the leading anti-domestic violence organizations in the world, at the 21st Annual Abely Awards ceremony and cocktail reception on September 25, 2017. At the event, Mr. Rothman was recognized for “his leadership in expanding and strengthening the highest quality pro bono legal resources for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.”
Drawn to the cause of combatting gender violence, Mr. Rothman represented, beginning in 2014, a number of victims of human trafficking whose convictions for prostitution -- and other crimes that were the product of their having been trafficked -- were vacated as permitted under New York law. In a landmark case, he and his Weil team succeeded in having one woman’s 124 convictions vacated across several New York counties.
Mr. Rothman then began working in partnership with Sanctuary, including helping other victims of trafficking and domestic violence. Working closely with Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of Legal Services at Sanctuary, he helped obtain parole for a woman who had been the victim of horrific domestic violence and who had killed her abuser after having made a 911 call that provided no help. The client had already served 23 years, with three parole applications denied, when the team secured her release in February 2017. Associate Arielle Gordon played a prominent role in that success.
In pursuing that case, Mr. Rothman and Ms. Leidholdt became acutely aware of the special problems associated with parole and clemency applications on behalf of victims of gender violence and the improved chances for obtaining parole that good legal counsel provided. They started an initiative to recruit lawyers from leading firms to provide pro bono representation of incarcerated victims and to do advocacy and education. The initiative is backed by, among others, former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.
Mr. Rothman says that he has found Sanctuary to be “a truly remarkable organization. The combination of the dedication and passion and just great, pure lawyering skills is extremely impressive and accounts, I think, for why they’ve been so successful. They have been a great agency, not just for me but for others at the Firm.”
Sanctuary for Families is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence. Each year, Sanctuary empowers thousands of adults and children to move from fear and abuse to safety and stability, transforming lives through a comprehensive range of services.