Shani Adess and Erin Mears co-presenting an award honoring Court Assistant Robert Alessandrino.

Shani Adess and Erin Mears co-present an award honoring Court Assistant Robert Alessandrino.

On July 23, law students, attorneys, and court personnel, including the Hon. Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, Administrative Judge for the Family Court of the City of New York, gathered for the annual Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP) Summer Celebration. The event, hosted by Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, was an opportunity to recognize Judges, Court Attorney Referees, Clerks of the Court, and other court staff for their role in supporting litigants who are victims of domestic violence.

CAP is a unique program that provides trained, supervised law students to assist domestic violence victims in a range of services including direct in-court advocacy and referrals to counseling and shelter. NYLAG has been a Founding Program Partner with CAP since its inception in 1997, and has helped train thousands of law students to advocate for victims seeking an order of protection in NYC Family Courts.

Together with Erin Mears, CAP Supervising Attorney from Sanctuary for Families, NYLAG’s CAP Supervising Attorney, Shani Adess presented an award honoring Robert Alessandrino, court assistant in Kings County Family Court.

“When students have the opportunity to work with clerks of the court who go above and beyond to provide support and facilitate the filing of petitions, and to appear in front of court attorney referees and judges who are fair and knowledgeable about domestic violence, it leaves them with a powerful first impression of how well Family Court can work,” said Adess. “These first experiences show how dedicated Family Court staff can be, and motivates a new generation of attorneys who are dedicating their careers to serving victims of domestic violence and other public interest areas.”

Under the supervision of a NYLAG CAP attorney, students help victims draft petitions for an order of protection, and advocate on their behalf in the courtroom. Students also follow up with the victim after intake and prepare her for the next court date, when the abuser is supposed to appear in court. CAP students use their knowledge of the law and courtroom skills to obtain additional relief, such as temporary child support. This helps the victim achieve economic independence, a key factor in preventing further abuse. In more complex cases, a NYLAG CAP attorney provides direct representation for victims in family and matrimonial actions that are crucial to long-term safety and economic sufficiency.