Cohen Milstein – Leading the Country in Fighting Sexual Abuse, Sex Trafficking, and Domestic Violence

Cohen Milstein is a litigation and advocacy leader in fighting sexual abuse, sex crimes, including sex trafficking, and domestic violence – before judges, juries and state legislatures.  Our work representing victims in their pursuit of justice has resulted in precedent-setting settlements and victories, including addressing repressed memory issues and state statutes of limitations. Our advocacy efforts to make foster care systems safer for children is frequently cited by judges. Our advocacy work, generally, addressing sexual abuse, sex trafficking and domestic violence is recognized by Newsweek, The Hill, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Tampa Bay Times, and other national and regional media outlets.

In championing the rights of our clients, who include children and adults, as well as adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we have battled formidable institutions, including well-funded religious organizations, schools and universities, state foster care and protective services organizations, and healthcare institutions, as well as individual perpetrators.

Our guiding principle: Help victims secure their right to justice and the right to be heard.

Leadership:

  • Michael Dolce, Of Counsel, leads Cohen Milstein’s Sexual Abuse, Sex Trafficking, and Domestic Violence team. Mr. Dolce is a highly respected trial lawyer and a former, Chief Legislative Aide.  As a grassroots political activist, he was instrumental in convincing the Florida legislature to repeal the state’s statute of limitations for civil and criminal prosecution of child sexual battery.  He is, himself, a childhood sexual abuse survivor. Having lived through violent abuse, the ensuing trauma, and the pursuit of justice, he is determined to be a voice for sexual abuse victims and to secure justice for them.
  • Takisha Richardson, Associate, is a former Assistant State Attorney and Chief of the Special Victims Unit of the State Attorney’s office for Palm Beach County, Florida. She brings more than a decade of experience both as an attorney and as a team supervisor responsible for the prosecution of crimes against children and the elderly, and sexually motivated offenses. Prior to that role, she prosecuted felony cases at all levels and was an Assistant Public Defender. Ms. Richardson has tried over 100 jury and non-jury trials, most of which involved sexual abuse and/or homicide matters.

Approach:

  • Clients work directly with Michael Dolce, Leader of Cohen Milstein’s Sexual Abuse, Sex Crime & Domestic Violence team, and Ms. Richardson. Throughout the process, Mr. Dolce’s goal, and that of Ms. Richardson, is to help clients have a voice, feel heard, and be a present force.
  • Because of Mr. Dolce’s personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, he is well-suited to listening to clients’ needs (and doubts) and proactively addressing clients’ interests.
  • Because of Ms. Richardson's background as an Assistant State Attorney and Chief of the Special Victims Unit of the State Attorney's office in Palm Beach County, FL, as well as an Assistant Public Defender, Ms. Richardson is a highly respected advocate of victims' rights and trial attorney, with first-hand experience of navigating the judicial system.
  • Mr. Dolce and Ms. Richardson appreciate, first-hand, the paradox victims face when seeking justice with the aid of law enforcement and judicial systems, institutions survivors worry are not prepared to fully protect victims’ rights. Professionally, both Mr. Dolce and Ms. Richardson have extensive experience addressing such situations to maximize victims’ rights.
  • Mr. Dolce and Ms. Richardson are personally invested in clients’ interests throughout the process, including participating in criminal investigations, personally filing notices of appearance, preparing witnesses for criminal trials, and attending victim impact hearings.

Representative Litigation:

  • Garrett v. University of South Florida Board of Trustees:  Representing a University of South Florida doctoral candidate, who is the victim of rape by a fellow student, in a high-profile Title IX lawsuit against the university.  Our client claims that the university failed to protect her against her assailant after she disclosed the rape to university authorities, while actively empowering her assailant. After originally not wanting to draw attention to her victimization, our client courageously chose to share her story with the regional media, including Tampa Bay Times, as a means to help other victims.
  • John Doe: Successfully represented a 49-year-old south Florida resident in Virginia state court whose repressed memories of traumatic sexual abuse began to surface two years prior to filing the lawsuit. Successfully settled the lawsuit on behalf of our client, despite the challenges of repressed memory evidence and the passage of 40 years since the sex crimes were committed.
  • Jane Doe vs. Tim Crowe: Successfully represented a childhood sexual abuse survivor in a direct action against the perpetrator, resulting in a $19.2 million compensatory damage verdict, ranked one of the Top 100 verdicts nationwide by The National Law Journal’s Verdict Search (2009).

Precedent-Setting Legislative Advocacy:

  • Repeal of Florida Statute of Limitations: In 2010, the Florida House and Senate passed a bill (HB 525), repealing the state’s statutes of limitations which prevented victims to pursue criminal or civil sexual abuse lawsuits after a certain period of time. Michael Dolce led a grassroots army of some 200 survivors and supporters in this six-year crusade, overcoming powerful and well-financed opposition, including the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Founder, Grassroots Political Committee: Created and chaired, Protect Our Kids First, Inc., this grassroots political committee formed in 2004 to amend Florida’s Constitution. Supported more than 200 sexual abuse survivors.
  • Florida Foster Care System 4063 Adoption Procedures:  As a legislative aide to State Senator Walter “Skip” Campbell, Michael Dolce oversaw legislation to re-write and improve the Constitutionally-sound outcome of adoption proceedings, to make sure adoption placements we properly secured and children’s rights properly respected.
  • Scholarly Judicial Touchstone:  Michael T. Dolce. “A Better Day for Children: A Study of Florida’s Dependency System with Legislative Recommendations.” Nova Law Review, Volume 25, Issue, 2001, Article 2; is frequently cited across the nation by law professors and judges, including the North Carolina Supreme Court (In re: THT).

Continued Advocacy and Leadership:

Legislative, Judicial & Legal Expert

  • Board of Directors, Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (2011-present)
    • Chair, Public Policy Committee
    • Oversees education outreach to the Florida Legislature
    • Oversees education and outreach to Florida judiciary, law professionals, law enforcement professionals and other first-responder professional
    • Member, Certification Panel, for Florida’s state-wide rape crisis centers
  • Member: Sex Abuse Response Team (SART), a national coalition responsible both for advocacy on behalf of victims of sexual abuse and for maintaining national Law Enforcement protocols.
  • Legal Expert: “Pursuit of Truth,” is an award-winning movie documentary, released in 2013. Michael Dolce is a featured legal expert.
  • Legal Expert: Invited by the Office of the Florida State Courts Administrator, Sexual Violence Focus Group to address several projects to help the judiciary, including updating the Florida Sexual Violence Bench Book.  

survivor organizations - national Spokesperson:

  • Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests
  • National Center for Victims of Crime

National media - Op-Ed Writer:

National Media - Spokesperson:

Awards:

  • Coalition for Independent Living Options (CILO) Inc.: Recipient of the Special Award for Service and Commitment to Promoting Independence for Disabled Persons and Victims Services (2017)
  • National Center for Victims of Crime: Recipient of the Distinguished Service Award (2010)
  • Florida Council Against Sexual Violence: Recipient of the Survivor Activist Award (2010)
  • Florida Justice Association: Recipient of the Special Contribution to Advancement of Civil Justice Award (2010)

Contact:

Michael Dolce, Of Counsel

t: 877 515-7955

mdolce@cohenmilstein.com