In the Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic (FVWR), students are invited to join the fight towards attaining justice and safety for victims of intimate partner violence.
Serving the unmet needs of local survivors of domestic violence in Western New York, the Family Violence & Women's Right Clinic seeks to fill the gap to ensure victims of violence receive the proper legal representation needed in many areas of the law, including: family offense petitions, child support, custody, and visitation cases.
The Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic (FVWRC) proudly celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. In 1992, the Clinic was created and founded by then co-directors, Suzanne Tomkins '92 and Dr. Catherine Cerulli '92. Professor Isabel Marcus offered substantial support and input during the formation of the Clinic. In the early years, the Clinic helped to lay the groundwork towards the establishment of an infrastructure which created and supported Domestic Violence (DV) community collaborations in Western New York.
The Clinic helped to develop protocols and policies for many counties, localities, and other public and private domestic violence organizations throughout the eight counties of Western New York and beyond. The Clinic worked with local and statewide advocacy groups to support statewide domestic violence legislative reform. The Clinic placed law students in DV-related placements in Western New York; countless students graduated and became leaders in their fields, assuming leadership positions in the field of family violence.
In 2015, the Clinic was re-structured to a model in which students enrolled in the clinic become certified to practice law under the supervision of Assistant Clinical Professor Judith Olin as student attorneys with a Student Practice Order from the 4th Department. During the semester, Student Attorneys represent individual victims of violence. While a typical Clinic client earns too much to qualify for a free, pro bono attorney, the clinic supports a population that is unable to afford private counsel, thus allowing the Clinic to serve clients that would otherwise go without legal counsel.
Students also have the opportunity to work on projects which impact the local community, including: delivering teen dating violence prevention education to high schoolers, the preparation of self-help pamphlets for survivors and the provision of community legal education for DV service providers.
Students work closely with staff from the Family Justice Center of Erie County and other victim serving domestic violence organizations, who refer cases for legal representation.