The Buffalo-based Garman Family Foundation recently awarded the Family Justice Center a $25,000 grant to further develop the partnership between the Center and the UB School of Law’s Women’s Rights & Family Violence Clinic, which provides comprehensive services to clients, mostly women, experiencing intimate partner violence.
In the Domestic Violence High Risk Collaboration, says clinic director Judith Olin ’85, students will work directly with Family Justice Center clients who are identified as being at the highest risk for serious, even lethal, violence. “We will address legal issues that may be stopping them from leaving the situation,” says Olin, including issues involving housing, employment, child support, divorce and child custody. Under her supervision, clinic students will represent clients in court on some issues and refer them to other legal services providers on others.
This new effort will enable students to serve clients in immediate danger, Olin says, and teach them how to ensure the client’s safety. Studies have shown that victims of family violence are at highest risk when they decide to leave their home situation. Advocates work with them on a safety plan, for example counseling them to find protective shelter before filing a legal case. “We need to be very careful in terms of respecting the client’s safety and making sure that our representation doesn’t expose the client to any more risk,” Olin says.
Students will meet with clients in the Family Justice Center’s Main Street facility, focusing on those who cannot afford a private attorney but earn too much to qualify for other free legal services. The grant money will also fund a student summer fellowship to carry on the work between academic years.
“The relationship we have with the clinic is critical to what we do,” says Tiffany Pavone ’02, director of operations at the Family Justice Center. “The students will fill an important gap in representing domestic violence victims who are at the highest