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Mi Familia Vota, Texas NAACP and Individual Plaintiff Seek Emergency Order to Prevent Public Health Risk to Texas Voters

ECBAWM, along with Free Speech for People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Lyons & Lyons, P.C., represents Mi Familia Vota, the Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and an individual plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.

Plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to immediately excise the mask mandate exemption in Governor Abbott’s July 2, 2020 Executive Order relating to the use of face masks (Executive Order GA-29). While the Order specifically states that “requiring the use of face coverings is a targeted response that can combat the threat to public health using the least restrictive means,” and that “wearing a face covering is important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming fellow Texans,” it also includes an exemption for all people at polling places:

“Every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; provided, however, that this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following:

8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”

This exemption to Executive Order GA-29 creates an unacceptable and unnecessary health risk to all poll workers and voters, but especially to Black and Latino voters, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are likely to experience serious COVID-19 illnesses more frequently and with a higher rate of death as compared to white COVID-19 patients. Black and Latino voters are also more likely to wait in longer lines than white voters, increasing the chances for exposure to COVID-19.

Despite evidence of this increased risk and the Governor’s own acknowledgment, supported by scientific findings, that masks help combat the spread of COVID-19 by the “least restrictive means,” Governor Abbot has refused to withdraw the exemption for mask wearing at polling sites. Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that the exemption is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because it disproportionately burdens the rights of Black and Latino voters.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Debra L. Greenberger represent the plaintiffs.

Additional coverage of this case:
“5th. Cir. Revives Challenge to Texas’ Voter Mask Exemption” (Law360.com)
“Federal appeals court revives challenges to Texas election policy allowing poll workers to forgo wearing masks” (Jurist)

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ECBAWM Clients Sue Trump Administration for Voter Intimidation

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and individual plaintiffs sue President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf for voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ threats to send “sheriffs” and other “law enforcement” to the polls, their encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes” to monitor the polls, their undermining of mail-in voting, their violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, and their rejection of the peaceful transfer of power, collectively constitute illegal voter intimidation. A motion for preliminary injunctive relief and expedited declaratory relief was filed simultaneously with the complaint. The plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants from continuing to intimidate voters and seek a declaration that defendants’ voter intimidation tactics are unlawful.

To read more about the lawsuit click here.
To read the complaint click here.

Media coverage of the lawsuit can be found at The Hill, Forbes, Newsweek, and other national outlets. 

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Sam Shapiro, and Marissa Benavides represent the clients together with Free Speech for People and Mehri & Skallet, PLLC.

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ECBAWM Clients Challenge Campaign To Send Armed Guards to Minnesota Polls

Free Speech for People, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, and Lathrop GPM LLP, filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Plaintiffs, The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, against a private mercenary contractor, Atlas Aegis, for voter intimidation in Minnesota. The complaint alleges that Atlas Aegis’s plan to hire and deploy armed ex-soldiers to polling sites in the state constitutes illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To read more about the lawsuit, click here.

More coverage of the lawsuit can be found on The Minnesota Reformer, Talking Points Memo, and Minneapolis Star Tribune.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs together with Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Time Magazine Publishes Profile of Jamel Floyd Family

Time magazine has published an in-depth profile of the family of Jamel Floyd in the aftermath of his death. Mr. Floyd died on June 3, 2020 at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, after Federal Bureau of Prisons corrections officers pepper-sprayed him and subjected him to excessive force. ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld and associate Nick Bourland represent Jamel’s family in an investigation into his death.

The complete article by Time reporter Sanya Mansoor is accompanied by a photo essay by Yuki Iwamura of Jamel’s wake, funeral, and internment.

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ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel’s Analysis of Recent NYS Police Reform Legislative Actions Published by the New York Law Journal

In his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel analyzes recent actions taken by the New York State legislature in the wake of protests against police brutality and a growing awareness of systemic racism. Evaluating the potential impacts of the repeal of Section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law (shielding police disciplinary records from disclosure), the “chokehold ban,” the new right to record the police in public, the “Amy Cooper” law creating civil liability for the summoning of police in certain circumstances, and other actions, Maazel writes, “The New York State legislature has taken (mostly) positive action. But there is still much work to do.”

You can read the full article here.

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Federal Judge Extends Voter Registration Deadline In Arizona

Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate Victory Which Will Allow Thousands More to Register In Advance of the November 2020 Election

In response to a voting rights lawsuit, a federal judge in Arizona issued an order on October 5 extending the voter registration deadline in the state to October 23, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on voter registration.

“[A] core tenet of democracy is to be ruled by a government that represents the population,” U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan wrote in his decision. “Due to COVID-19, a portion of the population is prevented from registering to vote, and thus the integrity of the election is undermined in a different way; that portion is going unrepresented. Extending the deadline would give more time for those voters to register and let their voices be heard through the democratic process.”

ECBAWM LLP, together with Free Speech for People and Osborn Maledon P.A., represent Mi Familia Vota, the Arizona Coalition for Change, and an individual voter registration organizer who filed the lawsuit on September 30, seeking a court order extending the October 5 voter registration cutoff.

“This is a huge victory for democracy,” says Flavio Bravo of Mi Familia Vota. “With this court-ordered relief, thousands more voters will be able to register to vote in the midst of this pandemic and will be able to participate in the November 2020 election.”

This year, organizations that register citizens to vote were effectively prevented from registering voters from March 30, 2020, when Arizona imposed a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on day-to-day interactions in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, to the middle of August when those restrictions were lifted. As a result, new voter registration has been far lower than in previous years.

With the lifting of the state’s restrictions, plaintiffs have recently pivoted their operations to adapt to the pandemic, registering thousands of Arizona voters. Yet Arizona’s voter registration deadline—earlier than most states, threatened to prematurely halt those efforts.

“This ruling is a vindication of the fundamental right to vote,” says Reginald Bolding of the Arizona Coalition for Change. “Court intervention here was necessary to address the impact of the pandemic on voter registration. Thanks to this ruling, many more voters will have their voices heard in this election.”

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Zoe Salzman, and Nick Bourland represent the plaintiffs together with Free Speech For People and Osborn Maledon P.A.

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Sports Illustrated Article Highlights Need for Justice in Ohio State University Sex Abuse Scandal

The October 5 Sports Illustrated cover article “Why Aren’t More People Talking About the Ohio State Sex Abuse Scandal?” describes the horrific abuse some of ECBAWM’s 93 clients suffered at The Ohio State University. This is one of the biggest sex abuse scandals in the history of American education. Author Jon Wertheim presents a well-researched, in-depth story of OSU’s 40-year betrayal of its own students.

If you have been affected by the sexual abuse at Ohio State, please call us at 212-763-5042, email ohiosurvivors@ecbawm.com, or use this form.

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Federal Court Rejects Motion to Dismiss ECBAWM’s Religious Head Covering Class Action Against the City of New York

On September 30, 2020, federal judge Analisa Torres denied a motion to dismiss brought by the City of New York against a class action lawsuit filed by ECBAWM and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York on behalf of all New Yorkers forced to remove their religious head coverings for mug shots while in NYPD custody. The Court upheld Plaintiffs’ claims under the Federal Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), both of which protect the rights of all New Yorkers to express their beliefs through religious clothing. The Court’s decision means that ECBAWM and CAIR-NY will continue to press forward with their efforts to end the NYPD’s practice of forcing arrestees to undress for mug shots and vindicate the rights of all who have been subjected to this harmful policy.

“This decision allows all New Yorkers to pursue their claims against the NYPD for gratuitously stripping them of their religious clothing,” said O. Andrew F. Wilson, a partner at ECBAWM.

“The Court’s decision recognizes that the U.S. Constitution and federal law both protect the right of every New Yorker to wear their chosen religious headgear—even while in police custody,” said ECBAWM attorney Emma Freeman. “This is a significant victory for people of all faiths.”

ECBAWM’s O. Andrew F. Wilson and Emma Freeman represent the plaintiffs. To read the Complaint, click here.

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Celli to Lead Independent Investigation of Rochester City Government in the Wake of the Death of Daniel Prude

The Council of the City of Rochester, NY, has selected ECBAWM’S Andrew G. Celli, Jr. to lead an independent investigation of Rochester city government in the wake of the death of Daniel Prude, a mentally ill man who died in police custody last Spring. The death had been attributed to a drug overdose, but police body camera footage and the report of the Monroe County Medical Examiner released in September show that Mr. Prude died of asphyxia while being restrained by Rochester police. The investigation will focus on whether there was an attempt by any city official or employee to suppress the truth about the circumstances of Mr. Prude’s death. In addition to Mr. Celli, ECBAWM partner Katherine Rosenfeld and associate Scout Katovitch will conduct the investigation. Stories about ECBAWM’s investigation can be found in Spectrum News, the Democrat and Chronicle, and in WXXI News, both here and here.

The subpoenas issued in this investigation can be found here.

ECBAWM also represents the Rochester City Council in defending a case brought by the local police union to invalidate a charter amendment that created an all-civilian Police Accountability Board with the power to discipline officers found to have committed misconduct. You can read about ECBAWM’s work in Rochester in the Democrat and Chronicle.

 

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ECBAWM Represents City of Hoboken Against Big Oil Companies for Climate Change Deceptions

ECBAWM and co-counsel, Krovatin Nau LLC, represent Hoboken, New Jersey in litigation filed yesterday against ExxonMobil, several other big oil companies, and the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s largest lobby, to hold them accountable for more than a half-century of deception about climate change, which has led to devastating impacts on Hoboken.

The defendants have waged massive, decades-long disinformation campaigns to deceive the public about the central role of fossil fuels in causing climate change, all while spending billions of dollars to protect their own infrastructure from climate change and raking in billions of dollars in profits from their ever-expanding production, marketing, and sale of fossil fuels. Hoboken is on the front lines of the climate crisis masked by Defendants’ deceptions. As Superstorm Sandy’s overwhelming destruction made clear in 2012, accelerating sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms caused by climate change pose grave threats to the city, particularly its residents of color, who disproportionately live in flood-prone areas.

Hoboken has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on flood adaptation and mitigation measures made necessary by climate change, and it will incur significant additional costs in the future. Through this case, Hoboken seeks to hold some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs they have imposed on the city.

To read the complaint, click here.

To read a press release about this lawsuit, click here. Read coverage of the lawsuit from NJ.com, ABC7, and InsideClimateNews.

ECBAWM Attorneys Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Ananda V. Burra, and Max Selver, along with Gerald Krovatin of Krovatin Nau LLC, represent the City of Hoboken.

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