Clinic fundraising initiative to honor Tomkins and Cerulli

Clinical Professor Suzanne Tomkins '92

A $100,000 fundraising initiative will support two awards to further the mission of SUNY Buffalo Law School’s Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic, and honor the two women who started the clinical program. The initiative was announced Oct. 19 at a clinic-sponsored conference on intimate partner violence attended by close to 300 people.

“Both Sue Tomkins and Kate Cerulli are visionaries. We wanted to make a fitting tribute to Sue and Kate’s work, to honor them, to honor their work and to honor the ongoing work of the students under their mentorship.”
Susan V. Mangold, Professor of Law

Published November 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM

A $100,000 fundraising initiative will support two awards to further the mission of SUNY Buffalo Law School’s Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic, and honor the two women who started the clinical program. The initiative was announced Oct. 19 at a clinic-sponsored conference on intimate partner violence attended by close to 300 people.

The awards honor Clinical Professor Suzanne E. Tomkins, who co-directs the Program for Excellence in Family Law, and Catherine Cerulli ’92, director of the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the University of Rochester. Tomkins and Cerulli co-founded the clinic, then known as the Family Violence Clinic, in 1992.

The awards are intended to support student work in the area of intimate partner violence.

The Suzanne E. Tomkins Women, Children and Social Justice Advocacy Fellowship will fund work by a law student on a specialized project to advocate on the issue of intimate partner violence during the summer or the academic year. The Catherine Cerulli Women, Children, and Social Justice Research Award will assist a student with research, such as funding travel to present at a conference or to seek publication of research findings.

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Tomkins has spent much of her Law School career creating, implementing and evaluating multidisciplinary responses to violence between intimates. She has developed countywide protocols throughout the region and has helped create a similar response in Ukraine through Project Harmony, a program funded by the U.S. Department of State. She recently presented the keynote address at the International Domestic Violence Conference in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Tomkins also serves as faculty adviser to the Law School’s Domestic Violence Task Force, a volunteer student group that promotes awareness of domestic violence through presentations and training, advocates in Family Court for targets of domestic violence, and offers a legal clinic for battered women in collaboration with Haven House, a local shelter, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Cerulli has been working on issues surrounding domestic violence and child abuse for over 20 years. She earned a Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University at Albany, where her doctoral dissertation addressed intimate homicide. Cerulli was formerly an assistant district attorney in Monroe County, N.Y., where she created a special misdemeanor domestic violence unit. She was also a consultant and conducted statewide training for criminal justice practitioners, addressing advocacy and domestic violence legislative issues.

“Both Sue Tomkins and Kate Cerulli are visionaries,” said Professor Susan V. Mangold, co-director of the Program for Excellence in Family Law, in announcing the establishment of the awards. “They predict the issues that are coming down the pike and help our community develop a response that becomes a model for the state. They’ve brought those models to Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and other parts of the world. … We wanted to make a fitting tribute to Sue and Kate’s work, to honor them, to honor their work and to honor the ongoing work of the students under their mentorship.”

The Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic works to prevent domestic violence and promote the legal rights of targets of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence, including women, children, elderly persons and same-sex partners. Students and faculty of the clinic seek justice and provide legal resources for people on the margins of our society: the homeless, the impoverished and economically disadvantaged, immigrants and the disabled.

Since the 1950s, student lawyers at SUNY Buffalo Clinical Legal Education program have worked under the supervision of skilled faculty to engage in practical legal thinking and ethical practice through client representation, policy development, and effective problem-solving work in experiential settings. There are currently eight clinics and three practicum courses offered through the program.

For information about how to donate to support these awards, please contact Lucy Dadd at 716-645-2113 or ladadd@buffalo.edu.