Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund) is the country's oldest national legal advocacy organization dedicated to achieveing women's equality. Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and broad education programs, Legal Momentum has been at the forefront of national efforts to achieve gender equality in the areas of economic justice, education, violence against women, child care, reproductive freedom, and family life.
Principal StaffElizabeth Grayer, President
Sandra Brown Basso, Coordinator, Executive Department
Silda Palerm, Executive Vice President and Legal Director
Timothy J. Casey, Senior Staff Attorney
Françoise Jacobsohn, Program Manager
Michelle A. Caiola, Senior Counsel
Brigitte A. Watson, Program Coordinator
Immigrant Women Program
Silda Palerm, Executive Vice President and Legal Director
National Judicial Education Program
Lynn Hecht Schafran, Senior Vice President and Director
Eliana Theodorou, Program Associate
Government Affairs Department
Lisalyn R. Jacobs, Vice President for Government Relations
Astrid Fiano, Communications Associate
Carol Noblitt, Chief Development Officer
Julie Repcheck, Deputy Director of Development
Roberta Taormina, Development Assistant
Finance and Administration
David Levin, Director of Finance and Administration
Cynthia D. Foulks, Office Administrator
Jonathan Goldberg, Systems Administrator
Lynn Schafran – domestic violence and sexual assault
Michelle Caiola – pregnancy discrimination in the workplace
Tim Casey – women and poverty
Francoise Jacobsohn – women in male-dominated employment field
Areas of Expertise:Affirmative Action, Discrimination, Employment & Unemployment, Immigration & Migration, Disparities, Housing, Legal Issues, Population & Reproductive Rights, Poverty, Safety Nets, Taxes & Tax Reform, Economic Development & Security, Education & Education Reform, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Violence
Projects & Campaigns
As part of its on-going commitment to low-income families, Legal Momentum has long focused on the need for child care. Legal Momentum is broaening its work into a campaign to provide a comprehensive system of quality, affordable child care for every family in America.
Poverty and Welfare Reform
Legal Momentum supports the State Advocacy Project, an initiative that promotes child care, reproductive rights, employment rights, and ending domestic violence for low-income women.
Recognizing that 90% of adult TANF recipients are female, Legal Momentum views welfare as a women's issue. Currently, our work has focused on ensuring that a fair and sensible welfare policy that addresses the barriers to women's economic security will be implemented upon Congressional reauthorization.
Legal Momentum supports placing women in non-traditional jobs, such as firefighting and law enforcement, as well as construction trades and technology fields. Following the World Trade Center disaster of 9/11/2001, Legal Momentum launched Women Rebuild NY/Women Rebuild America, a program designed to further training and job opportunities in these areas.
Legal Momentum advocates on behalf of battered immigrant women and victims of trafficking. The organization's Immigrant Women Program, based in the Washington, DC office, has extensive contact with grass-roots organizations and works with federal legislators to ensure the rights and protections of immigrant survivors of violence and sexual abuse. We also advocate for immigrant women to receive economic benefits to which they are lawfully entitled.
Violence against Women
Legal Momentum crafted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) and currently leads the fight for passage of the Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA).
Under our Economic Rights for Survivors of Abuse (ERSA) program, we are litigating cases on behalf of women whose careers and well-being are affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Legal Momentum's Project on Federalism monitors and seeks to educate the public about the Supreme Court's recent decisions limiting the federal government's ability to legislate such vital areas of national policy as violence in the home, guns in schools, protection of our environment, and many other civil and women's rights issues.
The National Judicial Education Program to Promote Equality for Women and Men in the Courts (NJEP), develops trainings, publications, and video curricula to educate judges and prosecutors on gender issues.
Reports & Resources
Know Your Rights: Parents Receiving Public Assistance in New York City
Nowhere to Turn: New York City's Failure to Inform Parents on Public Assistance About Their Child Care Rights
Still Nowhere to Turn: New York City's Continuing Failure to Inform Parents on Public Assistance About Their Child Care Rights
Poverty and Welfare Reform
Legal Momentum. 2009. Ensuring the Economic and Personal Security of Women and Girls.
Bonus for Building Real Opportunities for Poor Families: State Action Packet
Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement, 1960-1973, Martha Davis (1993). Describes the emergence of welfare rights litigation in the 1960s and highlights the strategies of important constitutional cases.
Dangerous Indifference: New York City's Failure to Implement the Family Violence Option
Welfare Reform Information Packet (1998). Includes background on child exclusion (family cap) and illegitimacy ratio.
What Congress Didn't Tell You: This 50-state report begins to track state responses to welfare reform in the area of reproductive choice and specficially focuses on the illegitimacy bonus, the family cap, and the abstinence-only sex education funding.
Working First But Working Poor: The Need for Education & Training in Wefare Reform (Executive Summary and Full Report Available): A Study by Legal Momentum and the Institute for Women's Policy Research on how women welfare recipients are denied access to job training for good-paying jobs in fields traditionally populated by men.
Household Workers' Rights Under Federal Law Fact Sheet
Know Your rights: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Harassment and Workfare
Manual for Survival for Women in Nontraditional Employment
Nontraditional Employment for Low-Income Women: A Guide for Advocates
The Women of Ground Zero: A Documentary: A 12-minute film documenting the efforts of six women form various backgrounds who helped at the disaster site on and after 9/11.
Violence Against Women & ERSA:
The survey on which this report is based is a unique, comprehensive effort to understand when TANF successfully assists victims of family violence, and when the program falls short, leaving victims to fend for themselves.
Action Packet: State Laws Can Help Domestic Violence Victims At Work
The Impact of Violence in the Lives of Working Women: Creating Solutions, Creating Change: Designed to aid employers, managers, supervisors, and human resource professionals, this guide explains how violence against women affects the workplace and how businesses can develop solutions that assist women employees who have suffered.
Protecting Women's Welfare in the Face of Violence: Critiques welfare reform proposals in light of data on the relationship between violence against women and poverty.
Report From the Front Lines: The Impact of Violence on Poor Women: This qualitative study demonstrates that domestic violence and poverty interact to keep women on public assistance. Also included is a copy of the Family Violence Amendment.
State-by-State Laws on Discrimination Against Domestic Violence Victims
State-by-State Laws on Domestic Violence Workplace Policies
State-by-State Laws on Employment Leave for Domestic Violence Victims
State-by-State Laws on Unemployment Insurance
Employment Rights for Survivors of Abuse (ERSA) General Brochure
Domestic Violence and Unemployment Insurance: A Manual for Clients and Advocates
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits (also available in French)
Employment Rights of Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Domestic Violence Survivors
Job Protections & Accommodations for Disabilities Caused by Domestic Violence
Safety Planning in the Workplace: Protecting Yourself and Your Job (also available in Chinese, French, Hindu, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese)
Survivors' Right to Take Time from Work to Participae in Criminal Proceedings (also available in French)
Taking Leave from Work for a Family Member's Serious Condition
Taking Leave from Work for Your Own Serious Condition
Welfare-to-Work Programs in New York
Workplace Discrimination Against Abused Women (also available in French)
Your Legal Rights When an Abuser Injures You at Work
Law/Legal Issues and NJEP:
National Judicial Education Program (NJEP)Publications List
Credibility in the Courts: Why is There a Gender Gap?
Implementation Resources Directory, a publication of the Gender Fairness Strategies Project: Provides an annotated list of actions taken and materials available to address gender bias in state courts that can be replicated or adapted in other jurisdictions.
Is the Law Male? Let Me Count the Ways: Illustrates the concept of the law as male by analogizing it to the medical community's treatment of the male body as the norm.
Overwhelming Evidence: Reports on Gender Bias in the Courts
There's No Accounting For Judges: Recounts recent cases in which judges imposed minimal sentences on wife beaters and murderers, the intense response of the communities in which these cases occurred, and the ways in which judicial selection, election, education, evaluation, and discipline can be used to prevent recurrence of this type of gender bias.
Women of Color in the Courts
NJEP curricula materials for judges and prosecutors also available.
An Annotated Summary of the Regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (1997). A summary and an analysis of Title IX regulations, including housing and facilities, counseling, scholarships, and athletics.
Public Education Programs for African-American Males: A Women's Educational Perspective, Walteen Grady Truely and Martha F. Davis (1995). Reviews educational research data and theories relevant to recent public school programs targeting African-American males and analyzes the programs from a gender equity perspective.
Drawing the Line: A Handbook for Creating Residential Picketing and Buffer Zone Laws in Your Community: Explores the legal basics of how to enact and implement residential picketing and buffer zone ordinances to protect clinics and their staff from anti-choice violence and harassment. It covers legal standards, perovides an overview of recent court decisions, and offers guidelines for drafting municipal ordinances.
Stop the Terrorism: Understanding Your Rights Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE): Explains how you can use FACE in your community to prevent, stop, and redress anti-abortion tactics including clinic blockades and invasions, and acts of violence, intimidation, and property damage directed at those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.
Legal Resource Kits:
Collections of materials providing general legal information are available on the following topics:
Domestic Violence and Child Custody
Employment Sexual Harassment & Discrimination
Filing a Judicial Complaint in State Courts
How to Find a Lawyer (also available in Spanish)
Incest and Child Abuse
Sexual Harassment in Housing
Sexual Harassment in the Schools
Violence Against Women
NOW LDEF also distributes the following publications of the National Center on Women and Family Law, which is now closed:
Analysis and Policy Implications of the New Domestic Violence Police Studies (1994).
Battered Women - Procedure for Change of Name and Social Security Number (1995).
Batterer's Pathology: Questions and Implications (1993).
Defending a Battered Woman Accused of Parental Abduction (1992).
The Effect of Woman Abuse on Children, 2nd. ed. (1994).
Guide to Interstate Custody: A Manual for Domestic Violence Advocates, 2nd. ed. (1995).
Improving the Health Care Response to Domestic Violence Through Protocols and Policies (1994).
Mandatory Arrest Laws (1994).
Mandatory Arrest: Problems and Possibilities (1994).
Mediation - A Guide for Advocates and Attorneys Representing Battered Women (1990).
Mediation and You (1991).
Mediator's Guide to Domestic Abuse (1989).
Mediation of Domestic Violence Cases (1994).
Medical Domestic Violence Protocols and Standards (1994).
Mutual Orders of Protection (1994).
National Handbook on Teen Dating Violence and the Law. For teens and college-age students.
Non-Disclosure Laws: Protection for Domestic Violence Victims (1994).
State Domestic Violence Laws Regarding Firearms (1993).
State Laws Exempting Battered Women from Mediation (1992).
Status of Marital Rape Exemption Statutes in the United States (1996).
Suing the Police After DeShaney (1995).
Voter Address Confidentiality for Domestic Violence Victims (1995).
Woman Battering: A Major Cause of Homelessness (1991).
Back issues of The Women's Advocate newsletter also available.
Legal Momentum, represented by Kaye Scholer LLP, has filed an amicus curiae brief in the state of Washington, in support of a plaintiff with legal immigrant status who was battered by her spouse and struggled to find independence due to the termination of government funded food assistance for immigrants. Battered women, like the plaintiff, are be forced to stay in or return to abusive relationships due to lack of financial support. Learn more about the Immigrant Women Program.
Findings from a Legal Momentum study prove that the rates of impoverished single mothers in the United States is exceptionally higher than the rate of single mothers in the 15 other high income countries with similar economic standards. The U.S. ranked at 49%, Denmark (8%), Sweden (10%), and Finland (11%). Read the full report here.
"The "immigration enforcement above all else" model has a particularly brutal impact on immigrant women.
Legislation must address plight of Immigrant Women and Families
New York (December 15, 2009) - Legal Momentum applauds the introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D.-Ill.), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus task force on immigration.
Leading poverty experts propose bold plan to rescue families and repair nation’s emergency measures
Washington, DC (December 7, 2009) -Eleven of the nation’s leading experts on poverty have proposed a $400 billion emergency relief plan to create and save jobs for millions of Americans while also offering adequate resources to vital safety net programs. The national study, Battered by the Storm: How Safety Net is Failing Americans and How to Fix It, concludes that the economic crisis is still on the rise for millions of Americans, while at the same time the social safety net is failing to support many of them. It offers one of the boldest, most comprehensive plans to combat poverty and unemployment — beginning now.
"To end the joblessness epidemic in this country, we need a massive jolt of public jobs, of aid to states and cities, and of finance for vital safety net programs," says John Cavanagh, Director of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.
- Levels of long-term unemployment, underemployment and discouraged workers are reaching historic levels;
- The percentage of poor children receiving temporary assistance under TANF (the main federal “welfare” program) has fallen from 62% in 1995 to 22% in 2008;
- TANF benefits are far from sufficient to support the families that depend on them: 2008 assistance payments averaged only 29% of the money needed to bring families up to the official poverty line;
- Even while labor force participation of mothers has increased, the supply of affordable child care has lagged behind, creating a significant barrier to employment for many, especially single mothers; and
- Roughly 57% of unemployed people are receiving unemployment compensation; for those receiving benefits, amounts are less than half of wages, and many are losing work-related health benefits.
- $40 billion public jobs program to create one million new jobs;
- $270 billion to cover state and local deficits, which could sustain vital funding for critical safety net programs and could save the jobs of millions of workers;
- Just over $100 billion for the expansion of programs that provide income or income equivalents to help people weather the storm: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), unemployment insurance, and food stamps; and
- New policies to address the housing foreclosure crisis.
What We Do
NCRW is a network of leading university and community based research, policy, and advocacy centers with a growing global reach dedicated to advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls. We also have a Corporate Circle comprised of senior diversity professionals from leading U.S. and global member companies and a Presidents Circle of college and university leaders who share our commitment. NCRW harnesses the collective power of its network to provide knowledge, analysis, and thought leadership on issues ranging from reducing women’s poverty to building a critical mass of women’s leadership across sectors.