FIRST PROGRAM IN THE COUNTRY TO OFFER LEGAL AND SUPPORT SERVICES TO VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MARKS 10 YEARS

Pace Women’s Justice Center’s Family Court Legal Program has served over 8,000 victims and survivors of domestic violence and trained over 250 law students

Center was the first to provide professional training to law students in representing domestic violence victims and survivors

WHITE PLAINS, NY, October 14, 2009 – A daylong “Celebration of Justice for Women” starts at 3:00 pm, October 15, 2009, with a ceremony and brief symposium at the White Plains Courthouse to mark the tenth anniversary of the Family Court Legal Program, administered by the Westchester County Office for Women. It will be followed by the Pace Women’s Justice Center’s 12th Annual Benefit dinner at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown at 6:00 pm, where County Executive Andrew J. Spano will receive the “Creative Vision for Women’s Justice Award.”

Speaking at the symposium will be a number of experts on dealing with domestic violence, including the keynote speaker, Amy Barasch, Esq., Executive Director of New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

The Family Court Legal Program (“FCLP”), established in 1999, was the first program in the country to offer comprehensive legal and support services in one place to women applying for orders of protection, while also providing professional training to law students in representing domestic violence victims and survivors. Attorneys from the Pace Women’s Justice Center and students from the Pace University School of Law are at the courthouse in White Plains and Yonkers, Monday – Friday. Services are free and provided on a walk-in basis. The FCLP is a collaborative partnership with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Victims Assistance Services, the Westchester County Office of Child Support Enforcement, the Probation Department, the entire Family Court staff, and domestic violence shelters.

Ten years ago, by asking Pace Law School to provide clinical legal representation, County Executive Spano not only took a dramatic step toward safeguarding some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but also helped forge “a link between the law school and the county for the benefit of both,” in the words of Professor Janet Johnson, then the Executive Director of Academic Programs for the Pace Women’s Justice Center and a central force in the Program’s creation.[i]

Since it opened, the Family Court Legal Program has served over 8,000 victims and survivors of domestic violence and trained over 250 law students. Women are not the only beneficiaries of this program – 2,579 children have been included in the orders of protection that have been issued.

The Center has been the recipient of several grants recently, helping to further their work and reach. In honor  of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, New York State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein (34th District) presented a check last week to the Center in the amount of $10,000 for outreach and training programs on domestic violence issues to community groups. The Center will also be receiving funding and support for its programs from New York State Senators Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Suzi Oppenheimer and Andrea Stewart Cousins.

“We applaud the initiative to help ensure the confidentiality and safety of domestic violence survivors, and are extremely grateful that Senators Klein, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Suzi Oppenheimer and Andrea Stewart-Cousins work so diligently for the citizens of New York State and for their support of the Center in our mission to end violence against women,” said Jane Aoyama-Martin, Executive Director, Pace Women’s Justice Center.

Ceremony and symposium details

The keynote speaker at the courthouse celebration is Amy Barasch, Esq., the first director of the Family Court Legal Program and current Executive Director of New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. The event will also include the premiere of a video, “Seeking Safety at the Family Court Legal Program,” which will be available on-line to help victims of domestic violence understand the process of securing legal remedies for domestic violence. The video will also be shown at the dinner and features three victims who were helped through the program and will also be at the dinner.

Other speakers will be District Attorney Janet DiFiore; the Honorable Alan D. Sheinkman, Administrative Judge of the 9th Judicial District; Michelle S. Simon, Dean of  Pace University School of Law; Camille Failla Murphy, Director of the Westchester County Office for Women; and Jane Aoyama-Martin, Director of the Pace Women’s Justice Center. An open house at the Family Court Legal Program will begin at 4:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public. For more information call the Office for Women at (914) 995-5972.

Benefit and silent auction details

The 12th Annual Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown at 6:00 pm are sponsored by the Pace Women’s Justice Center of Pace University’s School of Law. Founded in 1991, Pace Women’s Justice Center is the largest legal services provider in Westchester specializing in domestic violence and elder abuse. With a staff of 20 plus over 5,000 annual hours contributed by pro-bono attorneys, volunteers and law students, the Center makes direct legal services and legal information readily available to those in need.

In addition to the Family Court Legal Program, the Center also sponsors a Family Law Lecture Series, Elder Abuse Civil Legal Services and Elder Law Clinics, a Moderate Means Divorce Panel, trainings, and a Legal Helpline that receives over 3,000 calls per year (914-287-0739).

County Executive Spano was chosen to receive the “Creative Vision for Women’s Justice Award” because of his vision and support of the Family Court Legal Program over the past 10 years.

Before the dinner, a Silent Auction in the Pavilion Promenade will offer more than 200 donated items, including weekend getaways, jewelry, and dinners at many popular Westchester. For more information on the dinner: Call the Center @914-422-4069 www.law.pace.edu/wjc

About Pace Law School: Founded in 1976, Pace Law School has over 7,500 alumni throughout the country and the world. It offers full- and part-time day and evening JD programs on its White Plains, NY, campus. With its Environmental Law program consistently ranked among the top three in the nation (US News & World Report), the school also offers the Master of Laws in Environmental Law, Real Estate Law and in Comparative Legal Studies and an SJD in Environmental Law. Pace is also the first law school in the nation to offer a course of study focused on climate change law, which is included as a specialty “track” as part of its Master of Laws in Environmental Law. The School of Law is part of a comprehensive, independent and diversified University with campuses in New York City and Westchester County. www.law.pace.edu

About Pace University: For 103 years Pace University has produced thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lienhard School of Nursing, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu

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[i] Hearsay, All of Pace’s Clinics, “The State Asks Pace to Lead the Way in Women’s Justice,” Volume XXII, No. 3, May 1999.

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