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Pro Bono Client Wins Certiorari in a Case Brought Under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act

Paul, Weiss obtained a grant of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of pro bono client Narkis Golan in Golan v. Saada. Over the past three years, Paul, Weiss has represented Ms. Golan at trial, and on three separate appeals at the Second Circuit.

Ms. Golan was referred to Paul, Weiss in September 2018 by Sanctuary for Families, after she fled Italy with her then-two-year-old son (“B.A.S”) to escape a physically, psychologically and sexually abusive relationship with her husband, Jacky Saada. Mr. Saada filed a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, as implemented through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, seeking a return of B.A.S. to Italy. After a two-week trial in January 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York held, among other things, that returning B.A.S. to Italy, his country of habitual residence, would place him at grave risk of physical or psychological harm. Nonetheless, the court ordered the return of the child to Italy, holding that there were sufficient ameliorative measures that would ensure the safety of the child. Specifically, Mr. Saada was ordered to, among other things, stay away from Ms. Golan, dismiss the criminal charges he had filed against her and begin cognitive therapy.

The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the most important ameliorative measures crafted by the district court were unenforceable. The Second Circuit directed the district court to consider the full range of remedies that might allow both the return of the child to their home country and their protection from harm, as required under Second Circuit precedent. By contrast, other courts of appeal either disfavor or do not require the same broad consideration of potential ameliorative measures. The Second Circuit’s directive further reinforced this existing circuit split.

On remand, the district court imposed new ameliorative measures, including ordering the parties to seek a protective order from the Italian court overseeing the parties’ custody dispute and requiring Mr. Saada to pay Ms. Golan $150,000 to cover her travel and living expenses. The Second Circuit affirmed.

On January 27, 2021, we filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, and the Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States. We met with the Solicitor General’s office, and the Solicitor General submitted a brief recommending that the Supreme Court grant the petition.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the following question presented: whether, upon finding that return to the country of habitual residence places a child at grave risk, a district court is required to consider ameliorative measures that would facilitate the return of the child notwithstanding the grave risk finding.

This case has been a true Paul, Weiss team effort and many people have made invaluable contributions at trial, through multiple appeals and in the Supreme Court. The team includes litigation partners Kannon Shanmugam and Claudia Hammerman, counsel Daniel Levi, and associates Marissa Doran, Aimee Brown, Alison Benedon, Carl Rizzi, Randall Bryer, Sylvia Sui, Matteo Godi, Danielle Marryshow, Megan Adams and Samantha Fry.

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