Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has named thirteen Suffolk Law alumnae “Top Women of Law,” including Clinical Professor Maritza Karmely. The other Suffolk Law honorees are: Angela Atchue JD ’01; Fangli Chen JD ’06; Susan Church JD ’95; Mary Ferriter JD ’87; Jessica Graf JD ’97; Shannon Capone Kirk JD ’98; Lisa J. Marino JD ’91; Angel Kozeli Mozina JD ’07; Suffolk University Trustee Hon. Amy Nechtem JD ’85; Andrea L.C. Reid JD ’06; Elizabeth Roberts JD ’07; Tannaz N. Saporano JD '95; and Carol Starkey JD ’88.
Karmely is the director of Suffolk Law’s Family Advocacy Clinic (FAC), which works with indigent immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The FAC handles issues including child support, custody, parenting time, asset division, alimony and abuse prevention orders. It is a year-long clinical program, which is ideal for the FAC clients as they can work with the same student attorneys for the academic year.
In one case example, FAC students successfully negotiated an agreement with opposing counsel that allowed their client to relocate with her child to her home state outside of New England. The client had been abused by her child’s father, who was seeking custody. “That kind of move outside state lines is a big request to make of a judge. To successfully make that kind of request, the students needed to be extremely well-prepared,” says Karmely.
“We get students up and running — we get them to a place where they’ve done mock trials for everything, done drafts of everything,” she says. “They’re going in ready. But the hard work is getting them confident enough to deal with what they won’t be ready for. You have to help them understand that they won’t have all the answers—that they’ll need to roll with it and figure out Plan B. That can be very hard. You’ve done two years of law school where you believe facts are set. But what you see in real practice is that facts are not set; they’re changing daily. The law is much more certain than the facts are.”
Karmely, who teaches in the areas of family law and domestic violence, works as a regular trainer and mentor to several new attorneys taking on pro bono cases with the Women's Bar Foundation’s Family Law Project for Battered Women. Since 2004, Karmely has participated in the Family Law Task Force, a statewide coalition of legal services lawyers providing representation and public policy advocacy for indigent clients in the area of family law and domestic violence. The state legislature often requests that the task force respond to family law issues, such as proposed custody bills. Karmely’s most recent article, Presumption Law in Action: Why States Should not be Seduced into Adopting a Joint Custody Presumption, 30 Notre Dame Journal of Law Ethics & Public Policy 321 (2016), addresses concerns with using rebuttable presumptions in custody determinations, particularly in families going through domestic violence.
Karmely also has served on the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) board since 2011 and served as the co-president in 2016. CLEA is a national organization focused on fostering excellence in teaching and scholarship, reforming legal education, promoting justice and diversity, advocating on behalf of clinical education, and supporting and sustaining a community of clinical legal educators at every stage of their development.