The ceremony, held at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, brought together advocates and victims of crime to observe their combined efforts from throughout the year to continue the healing process in the wake of tragedy. The theme of this year’s event – Strength. Resilience. Justice. – reflected a vision of the future, one in which all victims are strengthened by the response they receive, organizations are resilient in response to challenges, and communities are able to seek collective justice and healing.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to our crime victim service providers and the crime victim advocates, whose tireless efforts are instrumental in rebuilding lives, protecting the rights of victims, and in helping crime victims and affected communities receive justice,” said Attorney General Porrino.
Attorney General Porrino bestowed awards to several victims’ rights advocates at the ceremony as part of the annual Office of the Attorney General Excellence in Victims’ Justice observance. The winners of those awards were:
CRIME VICTIMS’ RIGHTS AWARD
Dawn Solari, Esq.
Counsel for Victim Services, SAFE in Hunterdon County
Dawn M. Solari, Esq., Counsel for Victim Services, SAFE in Hunterdon, has been employed at SAFE, the only dual domestic violence/sexual violence agency in Hunterdon County, since Jan. 2016. In that capacity, she represents clients at Final Restraining Order hearings and provides general victim advocacy for domestic and sexual violence victims. Dawn retired on Nov. 1, 2015 as a Senior Assistant Prosecutor with the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office after a career of almost 30 years. She was an A.P. longer than anyone in the history of the office on a continuous basis. She specialized in prosecuting child abuse, sex crimes, crimes against the elderly and the disabled, and domestic violence. She prosecuted the first child sexual abuse case against a member of the clergy in 2003, the physical abuse case of a 7 yr. old adopted Russian boy in 2004, the physical abuse case of 3 developmentally disabled women by their caregiver and the official misconduct case of their caseworker in 2012. Over the years, she has received various awards from state and county agencies, the Prosecutors’ Association, and the State and County Bar Associations.
Dawn received her B.A. in Politics from N.Y.U. in 1982 and her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1985. Most importantly, she is the proud wife for almost 33 yrs. to her husband Rob and the prouder mom to her 2 grown children, Justin and Caitlin.
First Assistant Prosecutor, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office
First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet has been fighting for victims and their rights for 27 years. He graduated, with Honors, from Rutgers University School of Law with a Juris Doctorate degree and was admitted to the New Jersey State Bar in 1989. In 1990, he began his career at the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecutor in the Juvenile Unit. In 1996, he was promoted to Section Chief of that unit and remained there through 2002. From 2003 to 2011, he was an Assistant Prosecutor rendering his legal expertise in various units, such as the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit and the Career Criminal and Gang Unit. In January of 2011, Christopher was promoted to Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor, which included the responsibility of Section Chief of the Major Crimes Unit and Trial Teams Operations. In November of 2013, he was elevated to First Assistant Prosecutor, where he supervises 206 staff members, while taking a hands-on approach with every case. Throughout his tenure he has prosecuted cases ranging from juvenile matters to violent crimes, including homicides, aggravated sexual assaults and kidnappings. He has been treating victims with dignity and respect since 1990, while always fighting the opposition with his tenacity and his knowledge of the law. Christopher Kuberiet constantly emphasizes that “victims do not choose to be victims” and is unwavering in his support for the rights of crime victims.
Victim Witness Coordinator, Atlantic County Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy
Jacqueline Simonson earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at Stockton University before becoming Atlantic County’s first, and one of New Jersey’s first Victim-Witness Coordinator in 1987. During her 30 year career, she oversaw the development and improvement of services and procedures and oversaw the expansion and training of the VW Unit from a staff of one (herself) herself—to today’s staffing level of seven advocates and support personnel.
Ms. Simonson helped create and has served as President of the New Jersey Victim-Witness Coordinators’ Association, is the Assistant Chairperson of the Local Advisory Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse LACADA of Atlantic County, and is certified by The National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) in “Advanced Community Crisis Response Team Training.” Through her work piloting the development of the Infoshare VW Portal, she has been instrumental in creating more data modules to enhance the capacity of all 21 Victim- Witness Units in New Jersey to better serve victims of crime, ultimately empowering victims to increase personal control of their recovery and healing from the trauma of victimization.
Ms. Simonson worked with the NJ Division of Criminal Justice in the planning and statewide implementation of the Victim Information Notification Everyday (VINE) system and has assisted NJ DCJ with grant reviews.
Ms. Simonson routinely provides training and awareness seminars for other VW support practitioners, law enforcement personnel, schools, and civic organizations to expand the general understanding of professionals and the public of victim-witness needs.
Ms. Simonson lives in Atlantic County with her husband of 27 years, Charles Simonson, and their 2 sons.
RONALD W. REAGAN AWARD
Michele C. Lefkowitz, Esq.
Director of Legal Programs for Partners for Woman and Justice, Essex County
Michele Lefkowitz is the Director of Legal Programs for Partners for Women and Justice, a non-profit organization that advocates in the courts and through policy for victims of domestic violence and their children. Michele has been a practicing attorney for 16 years. Beginning her career in complex commercial litigation, Michele eventually found her passion as a pro bono attorney working with abused women and children. Michele transitioned to public interest work five years ago when she joined Partners for Women and Justice. Since joining Partners, she has helped hundreds of victims obtain Final Restraining Orders, custody of their children and financial stability through awards of child and spousal support. Michele relies on the excellent team of staff attorneys and paralegals that she leads to ensure high quality legal advocacy for all of Partners’ clients. She has also been able to expand Partners’ capacity for handling victims’ cases by cultivating, training and mentoring a large number of dedicated pro bono attorneys. Michele not only advocates in court, but has also done significant work in helping to effect systemic change in policies that impact the safety, well-being and the quality of life of all domestic violence victims in New Jersey. Michele has proven herself a zealous advocate to the domestic violence community and will continue to commit herself to the cause.
Michele is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law and New York University. She is admitted to practice in New Jersey, New York, several Federal District Courts, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She serves as a member of the Essex County, Union County, and Middlesex County Domestic Violence Working Groups and is on the Pro Bono Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association..
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