News and Information
April 30, 2019

Palma Pustilnik Receives the 2019 Legal Aid Award

Palma Pustilnik, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of Sexual Assault Advocacy Services at the Charlottesville office of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society (CVLAS) has received the 2019 Legal Aid Award honoring excellence in legal aid society work. 

The award recognized those who exhibit: 1) Innovation and creativity in advocacy; 2) experience and excellence in service; and 3) Impact beyond his or her own program's service area.

Pustilnik was nominated by her supervisor, Robin J. Leiter-White who noted that, “While most legal aid attorneys might appear in different courtrooms several times a week, Palma frequently is appearing in different courtrooms several times a day. Despite the stressful nature of her cases, Palma always manages to be ‘the most reasonable person in the room’ – a favorite line of hers.” 

Pustilnik devotes her entire practice to family law and domestic and sexual violence cases and helped to create the Sexual Assault Advocacy Fund at CVLAS together with a group of University of Virginia alumni in 2014. Since then, Pustilnik has added another facet to her busy practice by representing and advising students who have been the victims of sexual crimes. She frequently trains legal aid and private attorneys on DV-related topics in an effort to expand the quantity and quality of legal services available to survivors throughout the state.

Martin Wegbreit, the Director of Litigation for CVLAS and the very first winner of the Virginia State Bar Legal Aid Award in 1992, said in his nomination of Pustilnik, “Family law, domestic abuse, and sexual assault are the number one priority service requested of legal aid programs, but the tremendous work done by advocates in this field has been underappreciated and under recognized.”

“Simply stated, in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Wegbreit continued, “there is no attorney more experienced, expert, forceful, knowledgeable, or steadfast in the area of domestic abuse and sexual assault than Palma Pustilnik.”

Pustilnik, who routinely handles over 100 cases at a time, has also found time to serve as a former president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association, and currently serves on the VSB Council as one of two members representing the 16th Circuit. She is also a member of the Access to Justice Commission’s Judicial Education Committee

A graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Georgia School of Law, Pustilnik will receive her award at the Legal Aid Luncheon as part of the VSB Annual Meeting on Friday, June 14. For more information about the luncheon and to register for the event, please email Cris Gantz at

Updated: May 10, 2019