I want to express my sincere gratitude for your amazing gift of support to LACLJ. You have truly made a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As challenging as this past year was for so many of us, the challenges faced by our most vulnerable communities tested our social safety nets, and thanks to your unwavering support, we ensured that over 900 survivors were empowered to create their own futures.
The work is far from over. Every week, we hear of another tragic domestic violence story that could have been prevented. Our goal is to ensure that every survivor, regardless of their socio-economic condition or immigration status, has access to the legal remedies in time before their situation becomes fatal.
We truly could not do this work without you. We sincerely thank you for your generosity, your commitment to supporting survivors, and your confidence in our work.
Norayma Cabot, Executive Director
I was just 16 years old when I came to the United States. My then husband and I moved so we could build a better life for our son. We knew he would have more opportunities to go to school and live a good life. We were scared with the gang violence in our home country and were worried about his safety.
But when we arrived in America, my husband became aggressive. I didn’t know anyone in this country and I felt lonely. I started going to school but he didn’t like that I would talk to my male classmates. He would even show up to my classroom and watch my every move. I ended up quitting school, but he began to control me more. I had to bring my kids with me any time I left the house or else I wouldn’t be able to leave. He controlled what clothes I wore and any time I tried to leave, he would get physically abusive and even said he’d kill me in front of my kids.
When I left, he took my kids and took me to court. He told them I was a bad mother and the court gave him shared custody. I didn’t understand the system because I didn’t know this country. When my kids would tell me their dad was mistreating them, I tried calling the police, but they said they couldn’t help me. I didn’t know where to turn to for help. I felt hopeless and became depressed. I wanted to die.
I spoke with a social worker at the Department of Child and Family Services and she connected me to LACLJ. She told me that survivors have access to help and resources here and encouraged me to call them.
I started going to therapy and tried to get a good job so I could provide for my kids. But I didn’t have my papers, so every job I tried to apply to, I couldn’t get. LACLJ helped me apply for a U Visa in 2016, but I was still struggling to make ends meet. I still couldn’t get a work permit.
Thanks to the help of LACLJ, in November 2020 I received my work permit. I don’t have to struggle as much to take care of my family.
I went through so much psychologically and felt like there was no one here who could help me. Now I know there are resources out there for women living with fear like me. Now I can try to move forward for my family and give them a better life.
In the fourth month of the COVID 19 outbreak, when many nonprofits were struggling to ensure their missions continued and the need to inspire donors to support their work was high, LACLJ received news from our partners at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy that help was on the way. Through one of their Santa Monica partners (and an LACLJ volunteer), Kelly Weil, the team at CPM joined to hold a company-wide fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars, dollars that went directly to serve survivors.
This was all at a time when “safer at home” did not mean the same thing to those experiencing violence at home.
Since 2015, firm partner Kelly Weil and senior associate Carlos Urzua have been volunteer attorneys with LACLJ doing pro bono legal work on behalf of victims of domestic abuse (both physical and financial). Weil and Urzua have been successful in obtaining numerous Domestic Violence Restraining Orders on behalf of domestic abuse survivors and their children, as well as custody orders which help keep children safe. Confronting one’s abuser in the courtroom is a terrifying proposition for abuse victims, and Weil and Urzua are proud to be able to provide quality legal representation to those in need. Weil also sits on the Leadership Council and helps to raise money for LACLJ’s continued operations.
Kelly Weil shares why she supports us with time and treasure:
“LACLJ is one of those rare organizations that has a real, direct impact on the community it serves. Most cases resolve within a couple of months and have lasting effects that set victims and their families on a straight path forward.
On a personal level, serving as a volunteer attorney for LACLJ has had an immense impact on my courtroom skill set – allowing me to put on and cross examine witnesses and experience real wins for my clients. LACLJ provides the opportunity for lawyers to gain valuable courtroom experience while bettering the lives of domestic abuse survivors.”
LACLJ is forever grateful to Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy for continually setting the bar as to how companies can support nonprofits.
Alison Rondon, Akin Gump
Brett Manisco, Akin Gump
Camille Edwards, Akin Gump
Christopher Barwick, Akin Gump
Courtney Matsuishi, Akin Gump
Divya Rao, Akin Gump
Faeghi Sharif, Akin Gump
Gary McLaughin, Akin Gump
Hyonsoon Kim, Akin Gump
Jennifer McDermott, Akin Gump
Jessica H. Ro, Akin Gump
Jett Stearns, Akin Gump
Jordan Rand, Akin Gump
Joshua Tate, Akin Gump
Kevin Shone, Akin Gump
Lauren Connell, Akin Gump
Maka Hutson, Akin Gump
Mary Hutson, Akin Gump
Michelle Marshall, Akin Gump
Peter I. Altman, Akin Gump
Rachel Ramos, Akin Gump
Rex Heinke, Akin Gump
Tomas Arriaga, Akin Gump
Ursula Rothrock, Akin Gump
Victor Salcedo, Akin Gump
Ariel Neuman, Bird Marella
Elliot Schatmeier, Bird Marella
Donna Brittenham, Brown Neri Smith & Khan LLP
Emily McCanna, Brown Neri Smith & Khan LLP
Sara Colón, Brown Neri Smith & Khan LLP
Eric Kennedy, Buchalter
Jessica De Palma, Buchalter
Stephen Kelly, Cypress
Jose Valdez, Franco Law Group
Andrew Hazlett, Gibson Dunn
Caeli Higney, Gibson Dunn
Chaplin Carmichael, Gibson Dunn
Charles Stevens, Gibson Dunn
Christopher Chorba, Gibson Dunn
Daniel Weiner, Gibson Dunn
Diana Feinstein, Gibson Dunn
Emily Sauer, Gibson Dunn
Eric Vandevelde, Gibson Dunn
Ilissa Samplin, Gibson Dunn
Isabella Sayyah, Gibson Dunn
Jason Lo, Gibson Dunn
Jeremy Weese, Gibson Dunn
Jillian Nicole London, Gibson Dunn
Juan Hernandez, Gibson Dunn
Katherine Jan, Gibson Dunn
Katie Marquart, Gibson Dunn
Lauren Fischer, Gibson Dunn
Marcellus McRae, Gibson Dunn
Matthew Coe-Odess, Gibson Dunn
Maya Hoard, Gibson Dunn
Meera Bhaskar, Gibson Dunn
Meredith Simons, Gibson Dunn
Michael Farag, Gibson Dunn
Michael Holecek, Gibson Dunn
Milagros Villalobos Navas, Gibson Dunn
Rodney Stone, Gibson Dunn
Sabina Jacobs Margot, Gibson Dunn
Samantha Garza, Gibson Dunn
Sameera Ripley, Gibson Dunn
Samuel King, Gibson Dunn
Sean Tierney, Gibson Dunn
Thad Davis, Gibson Dunn
Virginia Smith, Gibson Dunn
Yekaterina Reyzis, Gibson Dunn
Courtney Black, Hueston Hennigan
Haoxiaochan Cai, Hueston Hennigan
Sara Banco, Hueston Hennigan
Alexandra Fries, Jones Day
Brett Wierenga, Jones Day
Brian Hershman, Jones Day
Brittney Kubish, Jones Day
Christopher Spiers, Jones Day
Elizabeth Burnside, Jones Day
Irma Kroneman, Jones Day
Jason Wright, Jones Day
Kelsey Bryna, Jones Day
Kerry Fowler, Jones Day
Kristin Poirier-Whitley, Jones Day
Sarah Conway, Jones Day
Eric Pettit, King & Spalding LLP
James Unger, King & Spalding LLP
Elise Tincher, Kirkland & Ellis
Adam Bittel Peterson, Latham & Watkins
Annacrizelda Chavez Funtelar, Latham & Watkins
Benjamin Hecht, Latham & Watkins
Catherine Frances Shaw, Latham & Watkins
Devon Lynne MacLaughlin, Latham & Watkins
Jennifer Ann Pesce, Latham & Watkins
Jessic Bina, Latham & Watkins
Kathryn Harrington, Latham & Watkins
Markus von der Marwitz, Latham & Watkins
Max Andrew Shapiro, Latham & Watkins
Michael Reiss, Latham & Watkins
Nicole Nour, Latham & Watkins
Robert Allen, Latham & Watkins
Sebastien Wadier, Latham & Watkins
Tyler Pierce, Latham & Watkins
Vaness King, Latham & Watkins
Wenqian Ye, Latham & Watkins
Ben Nicholson, Milbank
Tony Cassino, Milbank
Amy P. Lally, Sidley Austin
Danielle Griffith, Sidley Austin
David R. Carpenter, Sidley Austin
Farrah Vazquez, Sidley Austin
Galit A. Knotz, Sidley Austin
Julie D. Melvin, Sidley Austin
Catherine Liu, Venable LLP
Edward Kmett, Venable LLP
Sharoni Finkelstein, Venable LLP
Araceli Franco Rodriguez
Jessica Nicola Torres
Katherine Ayon Sosa
Rosalinda Del Rio
Chloe Von Helmolt
Kenneth Gonzalez Santibanez
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
An Anonymous Fund of the Orange County Community Foundation
Berkeley Research Group
Brody & Shemwell, APC
California Community Foundation
Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation
City National Bank
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Green Hasson Janks Foundation
Harris Ginsberg LLP
Haynes and Boone
Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP
Kibler Fowler & Cave LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Kutak Rock LLP
Latham & Watkins LLP
Law Offices of David W. Brody
Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl
Leichter Leichter-Maroko LLP
Lucas & Barba LLP
Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers LLP
Monrovia Rotary Club
Morrison Foerster Foundation
Munger, Toles & Olson LLP
New York Life Foundation
O’Melveny & Myers
Parker, Milliken, Clark, O’Hara, & Samuelian, APC
Phillips Jessner LLP
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Rose Hills Foundation
Sidney Stern Memorial Trust
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Southern California Edison
Super Bowl LVI Champions Live Here Legacy Program
The Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation
The Play Equity Fund
The Sidley Austin Foundation
The Walt Disney Company
TM Financial Forensics
Trabolsi Levy Gabbard LLP
Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles
Wilkinson Stekloff LLP
FY20-21 Board of Directors
Alanna Frisby Hernandez
Andrew K. Walsh
Elliot Harvey Schatmeier
Eric D. Vandevelde
Jennifer Ziegler, Treasurer
Kimberly Posin, President
Phillip Sanchez, Secretary
Randall Jackson, Vice President
FY20-21 Leadership Council
Katherine C Aldin
Sonia A. Vucetic
Gladys La Torre
Mariliz Romero De Aquino
Sandy De Jesus Cortes
Teresa Vargas Valdes
Yeison Soto Valdez
Speaking with Mirna today, you feel the immense gratitude she has for LACLJ and for the life she now lives. From living in a deep depression and a constant “hell”, Mirna now lives a life in which she feels 100% safe and sends her son and two daughters to school before she goes to work. Mirna is filled with confidence and peace, quite the contrast from when we met her.
Mirna is a survivor of human trafficking and sexual assault. Her life in Honduras was filled with threats and those threats being followed through. After receiving money from her trafficker in Honduras to come to the US, her life here was never the same, nor what was promised. The trafficker took most of her pay and continually threatened her and her children, two of whom were still in Honduras. From being threatened at her job at a bakery to the trafficker, showing his power over her, throwing her and her daughter out on the street when it was cold or rainy, Mirna’s story is one filled with the expression “a living hell” many times.
Mirna found us through her nephew who is also a survivor. Our legal team worked with her to help her receive access to public benefits, a work permit, immigration support and emotional work which all has brought her to her situation now. “I am totally grateful to everyone at LACLJ and I don’t know what my life would be like now, or if I even could call it a life. They brought me from hell to the life I now know, a life where I feel safe, secure, and happy along with my three children. Thank you to everyone who supports LACLJ not only for me, but for all of the others who are yet to be helped.”
In 2021, LACLJ Senior Attorney, Amanda Jancu, led advocacy efforts in partnership with other legal services agencies to advocate for survivors who were being forced to go to the Sheriff’s Department in person to process their restraining orders – a practice that put low-income survivors at greater risk of COVID-19. While survivors with more resources could utilize private services for a fee to serve their restraining orders, low-income survivors rely on the public service of the Sheriff’s Department.
Amanda organized service providers and a coordinated effort to advocate for a change in policy that would not require survivors to risk contracting COVID-19. She also worked with the L.A. Times, who published an article on May 10th, 2021 reporting on the challenges survivors have been facing while trying to get their restraining orders served by the Sheriff’s Department during the pandemic.
Thanks to her leadership, we are happy to share that the Sheriff’s Department has agreed to accept photocopies of original signatures (as opposed to only accepting original signatures). Now, survivors can more safely submit their restraining order documentation electronically and feel a sense of relief not putting them and their families at further risk of violence or COVID-19.
In 2020, LACLJ reached out to its partners Kirkland & Ellis and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles to address a rising issue for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Some immigrant survivors are eligible to apply for a U visa, but because of the time it takes to review the applications, and a long waitlist, they are left for years without lawful permission to work. These delays prevent them from obtaining stability. The government has the authority to issue work permits pending review, however it’s been over a decade and USCIS had refused to issue even one. The reality is that many of the survivors we serve have waited over 4 years and still no word about their work permit.
“Due to USCIS’ delay, these survivors continued to feel unsafe. They did the difficult work of coming forward and cooperating with law enforcement. Yet years later they still cannot work lawfully. Forcing USCIS to do its job is what we owe these brave survivors for making our communities safer.”
— LACLJ Directing Attorney Michelle Carey
Together with our partners, we represented 10 plaintiffs in our case against USCIS. We’re happy to report that the Court denied USCIS’ motion to dismiss our case, finding that “the wait for approval is unreasonable.” USCIS then agreed to issue our clients’ long-awaited work permits. This victory is a huge step in helping immigrant survivors achieve stability by granting them the opportunity to work legally in the U.S. and protecting them from removal. Filings for this lawsuit are also being used as templates by practitioners across the country who are modeling our successful arguments and hoping to achieve the same outcomes for their clients. Thank you to our partners for taking on this fight with us and for being a part of this coordinated, nationwide effort to secure justice for immigrant survivors!
Growing up, I always knew I was undocumented. Escaping the violence in Guatemala, my parents brought me and my sister to the United States when I was seven years old. And even then, I knew there was something missing, something I didn’t have that would prevent me from experiencing this country like everyone else. I helped fundraise for school trips out of state but my parents were too afraid to let me go. I talked about going to college with my friends, but knew I wouldn’t be able to get financial aid. Even when I applied to law school, I was undocumented.
So when I received my green card three months before starting law school, I knew I had been given an opportunity to use my position to give back to others in my community. During law school, I learned about the huge need to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Los Angeles. We have a lot of nonprofits in LA, but there still aren’t enough resources to make sure every survivor is safe and stable. I was excited to work at LACLJ where we help survivors no matter their immigration status.
I remember one of the first cases assigned to me was a sexual assault survivor, Katrina*. She was shy at first, but was later able to open up to me as I helped her apply for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status classification. Katrina had been sexually abused by her grandfather. She became suicidal and experienced homelessness while we waited for her application to be approved. Katrina came to us as a child, but was now a young adult anxious about being financially stable.
I understood where she was coming from. It wasn’t too long ago that I was her age, undocumented, and didn’t know how I would support myself. I couldn’t even open a bank account.
Thankfully, we were able to help get Katrina into stable housing and she received her green card this year!
It was a huge sense of relief and I was happy to celebrate this moment with her. It’s truly a privilege to be able to help survivors empower themselves and rebuild their lives.
That’s why I love the work we do at LACLJ. We recognize the humanity in people, no matter their trauma or immigration status. We’re all passionate about helping survivors and not just with their legal matters. Whenever a survivor comes to us in crisis, it’s all hands on deck. The team drops everything to help.
We still have a long way to go to ensure survivors have access to all the resources they need to be safe. Immigrant survivors shouldn’t have to wait a decade to receive a work permit and become financially stable. We need to learn to be kind to one another and support others in need. I feel privileged to be in a place where I can give back and provide stability for someone, one person at a time.
In May 2020, we launched our first remote U Visa Clinicwith pro bono partner Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
In our pre-COVID world, LACLJ’s Pro Bono Manager, Amira Samuel, had been discussing facilitating a U Visa Clinic with Gibson Dunn Partner & Pro Bono Chair, Katie Marquart. When the pandemic hit, Katie and her team wanted to make sure low-income immigrant survivors could still rely on their support to submit their U Visa applications.
Together, we experimented with a new model to provide services remotely. Gibson Dunn was able to collaborate with their corporate client to support survivors under these incredibly difficult circumstances. We provided trainings over videoconferencing and connected with clients through videochat and telephone calls.
“We’re incredibly grateful to Gibson Dunn for their willingness to pivot from a live clinic to a virtual clinic so that we can continue to serve survivors who are trying to pursue safety and self-determined futures. Notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic, every one of our clients got the representation they deserved. And together, we were able to help move their lives forward.”
Amira Samuel, LACLJ Pro Bono Manager
Because of their flexibility and dedication to pro bono, seven survivors and their families’ cases are now moving forward. One of the cases includes a 30-year old mother who survived abuse by her husband and is trying to start a new life with her young son. Another includes a mother of four children who we had previously helped with her custody and visitation case against her abuser. Now, both of these women’s U Visa applications have been submitted and they are hopeful for their futures. In FY19-20, Gibson Dunn provided nearly 1,500 pro bono hours to LACLJ, including 250 hours spent for the U Visa Remote Clinic. Their support not only helped many families in need, but also allowed LACLJ to increase our staff capacity to serve new clients.