ECBAWM, along with the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP) and MFY Legal Services, Inc., won a significant victory against major debt collection agencies in a suit alleging fraudulent debt collection practices. These practices include “sewer service,” where a debt collector files a false affidavit with the court claiming they served someone with a legal complaint. When the person does not show for court, the debt collector obtains a judgment against them and targets the individual for payment. In a published opinion, Sykes et al. v. Mel Harris and Associates, LLC, et al., __ F. Supp. 2d. __ 2010 WL 539571 (S.D.N.Y 2010), denying in part the debt collectors motion to dismiss, Judge Denny Chin held that the complaint alleged valid claims under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, civil RICO, and New York state law. ECBAWM attorneys Matthew D. Brinckerhoff and Eisha Jain represent plaintiffs in this litigation.
“Suit Claims Fraud by New York Debt Collectors,” The New York Times
ECBAWM attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the predominantly white Town of Yorktown in Westchester County operates its Section 8 housing voucher and other affordable housing programs in a manner that discriminates against African Americans and Latinos. The Complaint alleges that the town applies a local residency preference to give federally funded vouchers primarily to white Town residents at the expense of non-white County residents. The Complaint also alleges that the Town discourages non-whites from applying to its housing programs and periodically closes its waiting list to non-residents while permitting residents to continue to apply. Zoe Salzman and Diane L. Houk of ECBAWM represent the plaintiff in the case.
Representing a coalition of civil rights and civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, ECBAWM filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court arguing against the practice of requiring civil rights plaintiffs to pay defendants’ attorneys fees (so-called, “reverse fee-shifting”) where some of their claims are found frivolous, but others survive. The case, Fox v. Vice, involved claims that an elected sheriff used law-enforcement powers to intimidate a political opponent. The amicus brief was authored by ECBAWM’s Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Andrew Wilson, and Debra Greenberger.
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Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel settled a $33 million class action lawsuit against the City of New York in a groundbreaking class action challenge to the City’s illegal practice of strip-searching all pretrial detainees at City jails. ECBAWM attorneys Richard Emery, Matthew Brinckerhoff, and Elizabeth Saylor represented approximately 100,000 pretrial detainees in this case.
The lawsuit challenged the City’s years-long policy of illegally strip-searching pretrial detainees, without the reasonable suspicion required by the Constitution. Many of those subjected to these unconstitutional searches were accused of misdemeanors like trespassing, shoplifting, or failing to pay child support. In the words of ECBAWM founding partner Richard Emery, “There was no reason to believe they were concealing drugs or anything else.” Even worse, all female detainees in DOC facilities were subjected to coerced gynecological exams without basis, without informed consent, and under threat of punishment. In addition to the significant monetary reward, the settlement forced the City to permanently end this egregious policy. To read the New York Times’ coverage of the settlement, click here.
Sam Shapiro joined the firm in October 2010. Previously, Mr. Shapiro worked at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. He also served as a Fellow for Global Rights in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, documenting economic and social rights abuses caused by the exploitation of natural resources.
Mr. Shapiro received his B.A. from Northwestern University in 2004 and graduated cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2008. While in law school, he served as a senior editor on the Georgetown Journal of International Law and worked at the International Labor Rights Fund in Washington, DC, a nonprofit advocacy organization focusing on the promotion of workers’ rights in the global economy. During his time in law school, Mr. Shapiro also worked at Human Rights Watch in New York City, an international non-governmental organization working to secure basic human rights worldwide.
ECBAWM filed suit on behalf of the New York State Conservative Party, along with co-counsel the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law representing the Working Families Party, challenging the constitutionality of how New York counts so-called “double votes,” which occur when a person votes for a candidate on more than one party line. State law presently requires that double votes be counted only for the major party (almost invariably the Republicans or the Democrats) and not for the minor party.
“Before Vote, City Officials Fretted About New System,” New York Times
Mobility impaired transit riders filed a lawsuit against the MTA and New York City Transit challenging the city-wide cuts to bus lines that began on June 27, 2010. The suit alleges that these service reductions have left the City’s disabled riders without public transportation service comparable to that provided to non-disabled people, in violation of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So far the cuts have eliminated 89 bus lines, forcing many New Yorkers to find alternative means of transport and stranding those who are unable to take the subway or walk to farther bus stops. Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM, together with South Brooklyn Legal Services and the New York Legal Assistance Group.
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In a race discrimination case filed by ECBAWM on behalf of a non-profit fair housing organization, Federal District Court Judge Paterson found that the organization had standing to bring the lawsuit. The organization is challenging two Throgs Neck housing cooperatives’ use of a three-shareholder reference requirement as a condition of becoming a shareholder. The Court found that the plaintiff’s Complaint sufficiently alleged both intentional race discrimination and discrimination based on disparate impact. The plaintiff is represented by Diane L. Houk.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas, finding baseball player Roger Clemens could not sue Brian McNamee, his former trainer, for defamation in Texas. Richard Emery and Debra Greenberger of ECBAWM, along with Earl Ward and David Miller, represent Mr. McNamee. The Fifth Circuit subsequently denied Clemens’ petition for rehearing en banc.
“Clemens Loses Appeal to Revive Defamation Suit Against Trainer,” Bloomberg News
ECBAWM successfully defended the Community Synagogue Center from a lawsuit seeking to set aside the Synagogue’s election of officers and trustees. The court held that the petitioners were not entitled to vote in the Synagogue’s election under New York Religious Corporations Law and lacked standing to challenge the election. ECBAWM lawyers Richard Emery, Ilann Maazel, and Eisha Jain represented the Synagogue.