S&C Lawyers Honored for Securing Release of Domestic Violence Survivor Under Landmark New Law

April 1, 2021

Reuters named a team of S&C lawyers its “Pro Bono Heroes” for the month of March, in recognition of the more than 3,000 hours they dedicated to the release of their client, Tanisha Davis, a survivor of extreme domestic abuse. Tanisha is one of the first women to be resentenced and released under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), a landmark law passed in 2019 which allows domestic violence survivors to apply for reduced sentences that take into account the context of their abuse.

Tanisha was convicted of manslaughter in 2013 after stabbing her long-time abuser during an incident of domestic violence, for which she was sentenced to 14 years in prison. S&C lawyers began representing Tanisha in 2014, and in 2019 the team saw a breakthrough opportunity for her under the new law.

In early 2021, S&C convinced the prosecutors' office in Tanisha's case that she was an appropriate candidate for release under the DVSJA. With the prosecutors' full agreement, Tanisha was resentenced to time served. She walked out of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility on March 9, 2021—one of the first women released from prison under this new law.

Angela Ellis, who led the S&C team with supervision by Nic Bourtin, recalls Tanisha's reaction to the life-changing news. “She just gasped, and then started crying. It was really joyful.” A video about their experience working on the case may be viewed here, along with the article, “Pro Bono Heroes: Sullivan & Cromwell Team Breaks New Ground for Domestic Violence Survivor.”

In addition to Nic and Angela, the team also included Steve Hsieh, Cari Jeffries, and Madeline Jenks. Legal assistants Sadie LoGerfo-Olsen and Allie Williams, as well as former associates Zack Markarian and Meghan Gilligan Palermo and former legal assistant Sakshi Mahajan also provided valuable assistance.