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2009 Abely Awards
Chief Judge Lippman and former Chief Judge Kaye presided at our annual Abely Awards as we paid tribute to three exceptional individuals who have made a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence.



On Monday, September 21st, Sanctuary for Families, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and Columbia Law School hosted the 2009 Abely Awards saluting dedicated individuals who have made a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence.

“It all began with recognizing the indomitable spirit of Maryellen Abely,” shared Laurel W. Eisner, Sanctuary’s Executive Director.   Maryellen Abely was a dedicated pro bono attorney for Sanctuary for Families, alumna of Columbia Law School, and associate at Davis Polk for many years.  After a long battle with cancer, she passed away in 1995.  The Abely Awards celebrates her life, and the contributions of pro bono attorneys, domestic violence advocates, and law students whose efforts help Sanctuary for Families meet the needs of thousands of domestic violence victims each year.

After welcoming remarks by Sharon Katz, partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, the Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York, made introductory comments and noted Sanctuary’s leading role in serving the needs of domestic violence victims in our community.   New York State Senators Ruth Hassel-Thompson and Eric Schneiderman were in attendance, as were members of Sanctuary’s Board of Directors,  President’s Council, Legal Advisory Council, pro bono attorneys, longtime Sanctuary supporters, friends and volunteers.

Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye presented the 2009 Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety to Casey Gwinn.  A former prosecutor of domestic violence crimes, Casey is a national leader in the domestic violence movement.  He established the San Diego Family Justice Center, an innovative “one-stop shopping” location where victims can meet with police, prosecutors, lawyers, social workers and others who can help them escape the abuse.  The federal government encouraged the expansion of Gwinn's model to other jurisdictions and there are now 41 family justice centers nationwide. He was also one of the first proponents of so-called "evidence-based prosecution", a now well-established prosecutorial technique for holding abusers accountable when the victim is unable to testify. “This is my calling,” said Casey,“to keep doing this work so that no child will grow up in a home with domestic violence and continue the cycle themselves.” Casey currently serves as the CEO of the YWCA of San Diego, and President of the Board of the National Family Justice Center Alliance.  

Hannah M. Pennington received the 2009 Abely Pro Bono Achievement Award for her tenacious and successful representation of a domestic violence victim.  In her introduction of Hannah, Dorchen A. Leidholdt, the Director of Sanctuary’s Legal Center, highlighted the ruthless and relentless behavior of the batterer in the complex divorce and custody case that Hannah took on while working as an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.   Hannah’s client was in the audience and joined Hannah on the stage during an emotional moment as she accepted the award.    

The event concluded with recognizing Frances Kelly, a second-year law student at Columbia Law School and the 2009 Maryellen Abely Fellow.  Dean Ellen P. Chapnick, the Dean of Social Justice Program, highlighted Frances’ compassion and astute understanding of the needs of domestic violence victims.   
The Abely Awards would not be possible every year without the dedicated leadership of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council, in particular Co-Chairs Kathleen Kundar and Mary Ann Mailman, and Council members Helene DeRade Campbell and Nina Kressner Cobb.  

Ellen Weldon of Ellen Weldon Design and Elizabeth Goldfeder of GK Framing donated their time and talent once again to design and frame the certificates presented to each of this year’s honorees.  The event was photographed pro bono by Gillian Segal, freelance photographer and author of the book New York Characters (2001).  

To learn more about the Abely Awards and to view a list of former honorees click here>