Legal Momentum News Brief - January/February 2015

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February 11, 2015

Legal Momentum Welcomes New EVP and Legal Director
Penny M. Venetis joined Legal Momentum on January 20, 2015 as Executive Vice President and Legal Director. Penny leads Legal Momentum’s litigation, policy, and advocacy efforts to advance women’s rights. She works closely with Legal Momentum’s program staff to address fairness in the courts, violence against women, employment equity, and women’s economic security. She will also work on developing ways to fight human trafficking and prevent and punish sexual assaults on campuses. Penny’s work at Legal Momentum continues her lifelong passion for using the law as a tool for social change.

Penny comes to us from the Rutgers School of Law–Newark, where she specialized in civil rights and international human rights impact litigation and directed the International Human Rights Clinic. At Rutgers, she instituted women’s rights projects in the Law School clinics, developed human trafficking advocacy projects, and recruited and supervised pro bono attorneys from major law firms to work on the clinics’ landmark cases.

Governor Cuomo Nominates Carol Robles-Román as SUNY Trustee
On January 12, 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his new appointments for his administration. He nominated Carol Robles-Román to serve on the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY); the State Senate is expected to confirm Carol’s nomination. Governor Cuomo championed women’s rights, having introduced the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda in 2013 and established the Women’s Equality Party last year.  The Governor also announced in October 2014 that SUNY will implement a comprehensive new policy that requires affirmative consent for sexual activity, protects victims of sexual violence from punishment for underage drinking, and creates a much-needed sexual assault victims’ bill of rights. Carol’s SUNY nomination was covered by several media outlets, including the Times-Union and New York Daily News.

Thomson Reuters Trust Women Conference Leads on Human Trafficking
Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi with Carol Robles-RomanIn November, the Trust Women Conference in London brought together more than 550 high-level delegates from 55 countries to discuss solutions to the global challenges facing women, especially human trafficking. Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, was a featured panelist at the conference. She met with 2014 Nobel laureate (for anti-human trafficking work) Kailash Satyarthi, Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., and other prominent leaders about devising ways to protect women and girls and make governments more responsive to trafficking victims. The conference resulted in a concrete “Actions” agenda—a list of 30 proposals for practical and innovative solutions to empowering women around the world.

Carol’s panel, How to Make Mega-Cities Women-Friendly? explored the challenges women face in large urban areas. Carol explained how, as New York City Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs, she helped spearhead innovative Family Justice Centers and public-private partnerships to achieve a victim-centered approach to solving problems that affect women and children.

Carol will help lead two of the conference’s Actions agenda initiatives. First is the Sister City Mentorship Model, where jurisdictions that have successfully implemented the Family Justice Center model will assist other cities in developing such centers. Second is creating uniform international protocols for identifying and reporting child trafficking.

 Photo: Kailash Satyarthi and Carol Robles-Román

 Legal Momentum Files Briefs in Two Supreme Court Cases on Key Issues Affecting Women’s Rights
Legal Momentum filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases about central issues affecting women’s rights. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, which the Court heard on January 21, 2015, centers on victims of domestic violence who are being evicted from public housing if they make too many calls to police. Legal Momentum’s brief argues that housing discrimination against domestic violence victims is a form of gender discrimination that has devastating consequences. The brief emphasizes that women should not have to choose between their safety and their housing.

Mach Mining, LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which the Court heard on January 13, 2015, challenges the requirement that the EEOC must try to conciliate (resolve outside of court) discrimination cases before filing suit against employers. Employers often use this requirement to delay resolving discrimination claims, causing them to drag on excessively. Legal Momentum’s brief educates the Court on how these delays can have dire repercussions for all women facing discrimination, especially those working in non-traditional occupations, such as construction and mining, where ongoing discrimination can result in unsafe conditions for women.

Legal Momentum Urges Presidential Task Force on Policing in the 21st Century to Address and Solve Issues That Impact Women and Girls
In December 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order to create the Task Force on Policing in the 21st Century to investigate and report on ways to strengthen public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that it protects, while also promoting effective crime reduction. Shockingly, the Task Force to date does not have any issues related to women and girls on its agenda! On January 21, 2015, Legal Momentum’s new Executive Vice President and Legal Director, Penny Venetis, wrote a letter urging the Task Force to investigate and report to the President on gender issues, and offering Legal Momentum’s technical assistance and legal expertise. She focused on the ways that women and girls, especially women and girls of color, are adversely affected by actions taken by law enforcement, such as law enforcement’s failure to take domestic violence and rape cases seriously (and properly investigate and prosecute them), and how women and girls of color are more likely to enter the criminal justice system.

Legal Momentum Brings Expertise and Legal Analysis to Working Groups on Campus Sexual Assault
Hundreds of administrators, faculty, and students from more than 60 colleges gathered this past summer at the Dartmouth Summit on Campus Sexual Assault to lay the groundwork for a coordinated national effort to provide safe learning communities for women in higher education. The working groups formed at the Summit reconvened in Annapolis, Maryland on January 29 and 30, 2015, to discuss implementing the programs. The Summit and the Annapolis meeting were co-organized by Claudia J. Bayliff, who also serves as Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program’s (NJEP) consulting Project Attorney, and rape expert and long-time NJEP faculty member Dr. David Lisak. NJEP Director Lynn Hecht Schafran attended the Summit and the Annapolis meeting as Legal Momentum’s delegate to the Legal Issues Working Group. Lynn provided legal analysis and expertise respecting a number of the most important legal issues with which schools are grappling.

Legal Momentum’s New President’s Advisory Council

Jane Cooper and Nachel Mathoda

We invite professionals and other advocates who are building their careers (in any field) to join the new Legal Momentum President’s Advisory Council. The Council brings together emerging leaders interested in advancing the rights of women and girls in the United States. Members of the Legal Momentum President’s Advisory Council work collaboratively to create solutions for achieving social, political, and economic equality for Legal Momentum’s constituents.

Jane Cooper, Associate at Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, who has championed the new council, said, “I am thrilled to be able to support Legal Momentum and expand the word and the work of the organization. With this President’s Advisory Council, we will engage dynamic and energetic volunteers who are passionate about Legal Momentum’s mission.”

For information on how to join, email

Photo: President's Advisory Council Co-chairs Jane Cooper and Nachel Mathoda

 Legal Momentum Educates Judges and Other Justice System Personnel
Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) presented two days of training—one for advocates and other professionals, and one for judges—to the Winnebago County, Illinois courts about identifying and responding to intimate partner sexual abuse (IPSA) in domestic violence cases. Domestic violence victims often disclose sexual abuse while in court testifying about the physical violence their partners perpetrate against them, but don’t ask for protection from sexual abuse in their order of protection applications. Judges and advocates need strategies to encourage victims to disclose this abuse earlier. IPSA is a leading risk factor for predicting whether an abuser will go on to kill his victim. The Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Court received a grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to work with NJEP to improve its response to these cases.

Legal Momentum Educates on Gender Justice, Creating Safer Workplaces, Stalking and Sexual Assault
We Are Gender Justice Warriors!
On January 14, 2015, Carol Robles-Román presented Gender Justice Warriors: Creating Power and Change for Women and Girls for the Association of Junior Leagues International’s weekly “Webinar Wednesday” series. In the well-attended session, Carol highlighted Legal Momentum’s work to advance women’s rights and outlined 10 “Personal Power Principles” that help women become effective leaders. The recorded presentation can be viewed on AJLI’s website.

Creating Resilient Workplaces
On January 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, together with the Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma, hosted a webinar titled Creating Resilient Workplaces: Safe Space Leads to Engaged, Productive Workers. The webinar was designed to help employers learn strategies for fostering inclusive policies in their workplaces. Legal Momentum’s V.P. for Government Relations, Lisalyn Jacobs, presented on workplace policies for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Lisalyn has helped federal agencies create their workplace violence policies and worked with private employers to help implement such policies.

Stalking and Sexual Assault
On January 28, 2015, Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program hosted a webinar titled The Intersection of Stalking and Sexual Assault
. The webinar was presented by Michelle Garcia, Director of the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime. The webinar, which was attended by over 350 professionals, including victim advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and educators, explained how stalking is often co-perpetrated with sexual assault. It explained how professionals can use this information to help victims be safe and hold offenders accountable.

Carol Robles-Román Elected Director of Veteran Feminists of America

The Veteran Feminists of America (VFA), whose mission is to honor, record, and preserve the history of the accomplishments of the feminist movement, and to educate the public on the changes brought about by the women's movement, elected Carol Robles-Román to its Board of Directors. Carol will work with VFA President Eleanor Pam and board members including Muriel Fox (an honorary Legal Momentum board member) to find strategies to achieve Legal Momentum’s and VFA’s common goals and strengthen both organizations.  

Kentucky Cantata Theater Talkback Engages Audience
Kentucky CantataKentucky Cantata, a memorable play by Paul David Young, is the story of an idealistic 18-year-old girl who leaves her rural Kentucky home to pursue an acting career in New York City, and is raped almost immediately after landing at LaGuardia. It is a horrific subject that Young, who was a partner in an international law firm before he became a playwright, handles with dignity and grace.

The February 3, 2015 performance was followed by a “talkback” featuring Legal Momentum’s Carol Robles-Román. Carol spoke about Legal Momentum’s new signature project to train sexual assault lay advocates to help victims of sexual violence navigate the criminal justice system. The new project is funded by the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

Photo by Sasha Karasev

Upcoming Events

Women’s Transformative Leadership—March 3, 2015
On March 3, 2015, Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, will give the morning keynote address, The State of Women and Global Leadership—What’s Working, What’s Not?, at the Thomson Reuters conference on Women’s Transformative Leadership: Empowerment by Improving Participation and Representation. The event will address the challenges affecting women’s leadership opportunities and showcase women who are “stars.” It will also recognize men who are committed to gender equity.

10th Annual Women of Achievement Awards—March 5, 2015
Legal Momentum’s 10th Annual “Women of Achievement” Awards Dinner will take place on Thursday, March 5, 2015, at 6 PM at the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco. This year’s celebration honors seven outstanding women in business, law, and public service. For more information, or to purchase tickets or reserve a table at the event, go to, email
, or call 212-925-6635, extension 169 or 155.

15th Annual Aiming High Awards—May 6, 2015
Four outstanding women leaders who have shattered the glass ceiling to reach the pinnacle of their professions will be honored at Legal Momentum’s 15th Annual “Aiming High” Awards Luncheon. The luncheon  will take place on Thursday, May 6, 2015, at 11:30 AM at The Plaza in New York City. For more information, or to purchase tickets or reserve a table, go to, email, or call 212-925-6635, ext. 155 or 169.

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