OUR MISSION

DV LEAP makes the law work for survivors of domestic violence by challenging unjust trial outcomes; advancing legal protections through expert pro bono advocacy; training lawyers, advocates, and judges on best practices; and spearheading domestic violence litigation in the Supreme Court.

We Are National Thought
Leaders

Judges, survivors, lawyers, people from across the nation seek our advice, resources, training and expertise. Decades of litigation work on domestic violence make us uniquely qualified to fill the gaps in pursuit of justice.

We leverage every
dollar

In 2019 we rallied over $5.5 million dollars worth of pro bono legal work from the nation’s top law firms. This means your support goes farther. Every dollar donated has 10 times the impact! 

We Mobilize Top-Notch Lawyers To advocate for survivors

Our pro bono lawyers are some of the best legal minds in the world from top law firms. DV LEAP brings the highest quality resources to bear on the side of vulnerable people.

our core values

Justice
We value justice for survivors and strive for an accessible, fair, legal system that provides for safety and holds offenders accountable.  

Intersectionality*
We value intersectionality and recognize the linkages between, and multiplicity of, a person’s identities, perspectives, abilities, and lived experiences; and intentionally collaborate with diverse individuals and communities to strengthen our work on behalf of survivors.   

Client-centeredness
We value client-centeredness by believing survivors, elevating their voices, supporting their self-empowerment, and using trauma-informed approaches in our work. 

Transformation
We value the transformation of individuals, communities, and systems for a more just, healed, and equitable society, free of domestic violence.  

Integrity
We value integrity and hold ourselves accountable for authenticity, self-awareness, and uprightness in character and action.  

*Definition of intersectionality: Intersectionality describes the multiple identities that people hold simultaneously. It also captures the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups. Law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality, the idea that when it comes to thinking about how inequalities persist, categories like gender, race, and class are best understood as overlapping and mutually constitutive rather than isolated and distinct.  

Sources: Merriam-Webster. (n.d.).Intersectionality. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved February 21, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intersectionality Crenshaw, K. (1993). Demarginalizing the interaction of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of anti discrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist politics. In D.Weisberg, (Ed.), Feminist legal theory: Foundations (pp. 383–411).Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Vision

a world where the courts understand abuse and apply just laws to protect survivors

Our History

DV LEAP was founded in 2003 in response to an urgent need for expert appellate litigation to reverse unjust trial court rulings and to protect the legal rights of women and children victimized by family violence. DV LEAP's founder Joan Meier litigated domestic violence cases and participated in local and national law reform effort for decades. Yet she and her colleagues met with increasing resistance in the courts to their advocacy for battered women.

A major turning point occurred in 2002 with the D.C. Court of Appeals ruling in United States v. Ba, concerning Civil Protection Orders. The decision created a loop hole for abusers to claim that their victim actually consented to the violation of the CPO. Since a violation had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, such a claim was virtually impossible to disprove. This inspired DV LEAP’s Founder to intervene.

This intervention resulted in an alliance with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and six domestic violence organizations. Together they forced a change in the appellate decision. For Joan Meier, this case crystallized her recognition that victims' voices were absent at the appellate level and inspired the founding of DV LEAP.

Our Founder's Story

The satisfaction of seeing the court vindicate true justice for a victim of domestic abuse is like nothing else.

When I began DV LEAP, my greatest fear was that, in the end nothing would change. As a practicing lawyer and professor at George Washington University Law School, I witnessed first-hand survivors of domestic violence reaching out to the courts for protection, both for themselves and their children, only to be denied that protection - often in ways that humiliated or disrespected them, or increased the danger to them and their children.

Most survivors assume that if they come forward honestly, risking their lives and their children’s lives by defying their abuser, the justice system will be there to provide protection and justice. For many reasons thousands of victims experience the very opposite in our nation’s courts.
 



Fifteen years later I can say that we’ve seen progress, but it’s been a hard one. Our successes run the gamut from landmark supreme court victories, to a mother finally seeing the abuse of her child come to an end. Every inch of protection and justice we have obtained for survivors required substantial effort from the lawyers, but even greater courage and sacrifice from the survivors who have persevered in seeking justice and safety through appeal, despite earlier defeats.

At DV LEAP, we take cases where an abuse victim has been wrongfully denied justice, and we appeal their case to a higher court -- mostly free of charge. In winning an appeal we protect the victim and their children, but in doing so, we also impact the law, which wraps all future survivors in that same protection. We believe this unique work creates a ripple effect, which is the key to lasting change in justice for victims of abuse. And we need your help.

I invite you into this work with a determined and hopeful heart.

Sincerely, Joan Meier
Founder, DV LEAP

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Evelyn Becker, Esq.
Asheville, North Carolina
Board Chair
Pro Bono Consultant
Washington, DC
Partner
Baker Botts LLP
Washington, DC
Partner
Crowell & Moring LLP
Bethesda, Maryland
Board Treasurer
Partner
CohnReznick
Chatlotte, North Carolina
Partner
McGuireWoods LLP
New York, New York
Senior Associate
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
New York, New York
Multimedia Journalist
Washington, DC
Board Secretary
Partner
Jones Day
Washington, DC
Adjunct Professor
Georgetown University
Placitas, New Mexico
Principal
Joan Wood & Company

Advocacy Council

DV LEAP's Advocacy Council members serve as ambassadors by promoting DV LEAP's mission and programs; organizing educational & outreach events; and hosting fundraisers to support pro bono representation of domestic violence survivors. As a compliment to the DV LEAP Board of Directors, the Advocacy Council is also an opportunity for young professionals to gain exposure to a nonprofit governing body.

Emily Booth
Washington, DC
Associate
Morgan Lewis
Amanda DeGroff Munger
Washington, DC
Founder/President
The AM Group
Julia Duke
Washington, DC
Law Clerk
Milbank, LLP
Christa Nicols
Washington, DC
Policy Counsel
Brady United Against Gun Violence
Emma O'Rourke-Friel
Washington, DC
Law Clerk
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
Iulia Padeanu Mellon
Washington, DC
Associate
Foley Hoag LLP
Taryn Rath
Washington, DC
Associate
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
Katie Smithgall
Washington, DC
Associate
Jones Day
Katherine Sochacki
Washington, DC
Associate
Venable LLP
We are expanding!
Email flora@dvleap.org for more information! 

Pro Bono Legal Volunteers

Pro Bono Team of the Year 2020
Crowell & Moring LLP
Attorneys:
Christine Hawes & Trina Fairley Barlow

The 2020 Pro Bono Team of the Year is a powerhouse duo from Cowell and Moring, Trina Fairley Barlow and Christine Hawes. Trina and Christine are currently partnering with DV LEAP on their third custody case. Despite the challenges that these cases present for appeal, both of the prior two cases they led were successful. In each, a violently abusive father was awarded unsafe visitation. DV LEAP and Crowell represented the mothers, both survivors of the fathers’ abuse and desperate to protect their kids.

Christine as lead counsel is tireless in her dedication. In the most recent appeal, she spent hours in the trial court tracking down missing parts of the record, which she then mastered for a flawless oral argument. Trina as supervising partner manages the perfect balance of leadership and support, drawing from her past experience as a Best Interests Attorney to offer valuable perspective. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment to DV LEAP’s work and the impact they are making on behalf of survivors.                                                                                      

- Sasha Drobnick, DV LEAP Legal Director   

PRO BONO NETWORK:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Arent Fox LLP
  • Arnold & Porter LLP
  • ‍Baker McKenzie
  • ‍Ballard Spahr LLP
  • ‍Blank Rome LLP
  • ‍Brown Rudnick LLP
  • ‍Bryan Cave
  • Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
  • ‍Covington & Burling LLP
  • Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
  • ‍Dykema Gossett PLLC
  • Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
  • Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell & Bank LLP
  • Foley Hoag LLP
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus & Deringer LLP
  • Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP
  • Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
  • Goodwin Procter LLP
  • ‍Groom Law Group
  • Herrick Feinstein LLP
  • Hogan & Hartson LLP
  • ‍Hunton & Williams LLP
  • Jenner & Block LLP
  • Jones Day 
  • K & L Gates LLP
  • Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
  • King & Spalding LLP
  • Kirkland & Ellis LLP
  • Kramon & Graham PA
  • Manatt Phelps & Phillips, LLP
  • Mayer Brown LLP
  • McCarter & English LLP
  • McDermott Will & Emery
  • McGuireWoods LLP
  • Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo P.C.
  • Morgan Lewis & Bockius
  • Morrison & Foerster LLP
  • O'Melveny & Myers, LLP
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP
  • Paul Hastings LLP
  • Perkins Coie LLP
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Ropes & Gray LLP
  • Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP
  • Seyfarth Shaw LLP
  • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP
  • Sidley Austin LLP
  • Steptoe & Johnson LLP
  • Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP
  • The Kaplan Law Firm PLLC
  • Troutman Sanders LLP
  • Venable LLP
  • Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
  • Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Zuckerman Spaeder LLP

Want to get in touch with us? Please submit inquiries here

Please fill out the form below if you need help or would like to volunteer your services.  Please note that sending us information does not form an attorney-client relationship and we cannot guarantee that we will be able to help you. Please be sure to include your contact information as well as any upcoming court or fiing deadlines.
650 20th Street NW Washington, DC 20052

As Legal Director, Sasha leads DV LEAP’s national appellate advocacy on behalf of family violence survivors. Prior to joining DVLEAP, Sasha practiced family law and was recognized by the state bar association as well as local domestic violence organizations for her extensive pro bono representation of survivors and low-income clients. The experience as a trial litigator both informed and energized Sasha’s commitment to using the appellate process to give survivors a path to justice.  

Sasha spent her early career advocating for gender equity in education nationally and internationally. She worked extensively in South Africa to promote Black women’s equal access to higher education for the American Council on Education, then directed two American Association of University Women Educational Foundation fellowship programs providing women access to post-graduate education opportunities. Sasha received her B.A. from Georgetown University and her J.D. from the New York University School of Law.

So what DV LEAP was able to do is explain to me all these surprises that I wasn’t expecting in the court system. But also, moving forward, they really helped me strategize, like witnesses, how we’re gonna present things, because they’d already seen where things go wrong. It actually helped me a lot in the trial phase. We strategized how we presented the evidence in the custody trial to help us prepare for what we thought was going to be an appeal.  It ended up working out that I got full legal custody. At that point, they ordered like 6 months of supervised visitation which we ended up fighting about for years, and eventually visitation was terminated completely.

When visitation was terminated, *Stephanie was 8. And I said to her, “The judge said you don’t have to go back anymore.” And she looked at me and said, “Are you serious, is this real?” And I said, “It’s very real.” She looked at me and said, “This is the best day ever.”  And she just looked off, and that was the end of it. It was incredible. And ever since then, she’s not had to go back. She is a completely normal and happy kid because she no longer has that fear.

I read articles on a daily basis of somebody [who] tried to leave; their kids were forced back to see the abuser, and those kids are dead. Or the kids and their mom are dead. Nobody who’s in that situation should have to feel like there’s death on either side. You know what I mean?

Every time my kids went to unsupervised visitation, I was worried I’d never see them again.

I am so lucky. I totally lucked out. I think it’s a very rare outcome to be where I am, and I attribute a lot of that to my fortunate circumstances in being able to have Joan guide us through what we were doing.

So what DV LEAP was able to do is explain to me all these surprises that I wasn’t expecting in the court system. But also, moving forward, they really helped me strategize, like witnesses, how we’re gonna present things, because they’d already seen where things go wrong. It actually helped me a lot in the trial phase. We strategized how we presented the evidence in the custody trial to help us prepare for what we thought was going to be an appeal.  It ended up working out that I got full legal custody. At that point, they ordered like 6 months of supervised visitation which we ended up fighting about for years, and eventually visitation was terminated completely.

When visitation was terminated, *Stephanie was 8. And I said to her, “The judge said you don’t have to go back anymore.” And she looked at me and said, “Are you serious, is this real?” And I said, “It’s very real.” She looked at me and said, “This is the best day ever.”  And she just looked off, and that was the end of it. It was incredible. And ever since then, she’s not had to go back. She is a completely normal and happy kid because she no longer has that fear.

Sasha Drobnick
Legal Director
Legal Director
Sasha Drobnick

As Legal Director, Sasha leads DV LEAP’s national appellate advocacy on behalf of family violence survivors. Prior to joining DVLEAP, Sasha practiced family law and was recognized by the state bar association as well as local domestic violence organizations for her extensive pro bono representation of survivors and low-income clients. The experience as a trial litigator both informed and energized Sasha’s commitment to using the appellate process to give survivors a path to justice.  

Sasha spent her early career advocating for gender equity in education nationally and internationally. She worked extensively in South Africa to promote Black women’s equal access to higher education for the American Council on Education, then directed two American Association of University Women Educational Foundation fellowship programs providing women access to post-graduate education opportunities. Sasha received her B.A. from Georgetown University and her J.D. from the New York University School of Law.

Executive Director
Lee Ann De Reus

Lee Ann brings a unique combination of nonprofit leadership and academic scholarship to her role as Executive Director of DV LEAP. An ardent advocate for women's and human rights, she has over two decades of experience linking research and action for change to benefit vulnerable groups in the US and in Africa. Dr. De Reus is an internationally recognized expert on gender, sexualized violence, women’s rights, and activism with speaking engagements at TEDxPSU, the Oslo Freedom Forum, and France24 TV.

She is the co-founder and chair of the board of directors of Panzi Foundation USA, a nonprofit that assists survivors of gender-based violence at Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under her leadership, the funds raised by the Foundation increased tenfold in only four years. Her efforts on behalf of PFUSA were recognized by Purdue University, her alma mater, with the 2017 Distinguished Service Alumni Award. At Penn State Altoona, Dr. De Reus was an associate professor for 20 years in the departments of Human Development and Family Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies where she conducted research on gender-based violence and taught courses on intimate partner and family violence.

Staff Attorney
Elizabeth Vogel

Elizabeth (Lizzy) is a staff attorney at DV LEAP where she contributes to DV LEAP’s efforts to make the law work for survivors of domestic violence.  Lizzy is thrilled to be using the skills and knowledge she gained as a family law litigator over the past five year to create structural change by supporting DV LEAP’s expert pro bono advocacy that advances legal protections for survivors by challenging unjust trial outcomes at the appeals level.  Prior to joining DV LEAP, Lizzy was a family law staff attorney at Bread for the City where she advocated on behalf of survivors of domestic violence. Lizzy started her legal career at Neighborhood Legal Services Program, first as a Howard C. Westwood Fellow and then as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation. Her Equal Justice Works Fellowship focused on the family law needs of teen parents.  

Lizzy obtained her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center,  where she was a recipient of the Jeffrey Crandall Award (awarded annually by Georgetown to one graduating law student for their commitment to legal aid), Equal Justice America Fellowship, and J.W. Saxe Memorial Fund Award. Lizzy received her B.A. from Swarthmore College with a special major in Educational Studies and Political Science. Prior to law school, Lizzy spent five years teaching middle school English in the Bronx. She also received a Master’s Degree in Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education.

Development Associate
Flora Patel

As the youngest hire to the team, Flora brings passion and dedication to her role as Development Associate. In addition to running DV LEAP’s social media pages and website, Flora analyzes data, coordinates events, and cultivates relationships with donors.

Flora discovered her passion for nonprofit work and college football as a student at the University of Georgia where she double majored in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Women’s Studies. She’s has worked for the Human Rights Campaign and with the University of Georgia’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations, which opened her eyes to the world of fundraising and development. As a first-generation American and survivor herself, Flora’s desire to help others stems from her own experiences, and she takes pride in that she is able to use her skills to advocate for survivors.

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