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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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$3.2 Million Settlement Reached in Illegal Wiretap Class Action

A federal class action brought on behalf of individuals whose communications were illegally intercepted through a scheme orchestrated by a former Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney has been settled with New York City and employees of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office for $3.2 million.

ECBAWM attorneys Richard D. Emery, Samuel Shapiro and Scout Katovich, along with co-counsel Wiggin & Dana LLP, represent the class, whose communications were intercepted as the result of former Brooklyn ADA Tara Lenich creating fake court orders to fraudulently obtain wiretaps for the phones of a detective with whom Lenich had an affair and a woman Lenich believed to be in a romantic relationship with the detective.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the agreement settles Federal Wiretap Act allegations against the City of New York and employees of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Lenich did not participate in the settlement.

You can read more about this case in Law360. The case is Rosenfeld et al. v. Lenich et al. (1:18-cv-06720, E.D.N.Y.).

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ECBAWM Sues Real Estate Developer Over Holocaust Denial Comments

ECBAWM filed suit today on behalf of Alison Greene. The complaint alleges that Ms. Greene was the victim of anti-Semitic and gender discrimination at the hands of her prior employer, the real estate developer El Ad Group. According to the complaint, El Ad Executive Vice President William “Bill” Harvey, made Holocaust denial comments, saying the concentration camps were not “that big a deal” and “the Holocaust wasn’t as bad as people said it was.” The complaint explains that Ms. Greene, who is Jewish and was very upset by these remarks, complained to El Ad’s legal and human resources departments, but El Ad did nothing and an El Ad human resources employee actually laughed at Ms. Greene when she reported her distress at these remarks. The complaint further alleges that El Ad also tolerated rampant sexism and gender discrimination against Ms. Greene and other female employees. “No company should tolerate anti-Semitism and Holocaust denials in New York City in 2020, especially not one with El Ad’s Israeli origins,” said ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman.

Read the complaint here and press coverage about the case here.

ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman represents Alison Greene.

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Lawsuit Challenges Louisville’s Military-Grade Protest Response

ECBAWM and co-counsel the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Louisville, Kentucky, its Mayor Greg Fischer, and several Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (“LMPD”) officials and officers to enjoin the LMPD from using military-grade crowd control weapons against peaceful protesters, and it seeks damages on behalf of several such protesters who have already been harmed by these brutish tactics.

After the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other Black people who have died at the hands of police, people in Louisville joined in the wave of protests across the country to advocate for an end to racist and violent policing. In response to this courageous exercise of First Amendment rights, the LMPD attacked the peaceful crowds, indiscriminately firing at them with tear gas, pepper bullets, flash bangs, and other military-grade weapons designed for enemy combat. In some cases, officers fired live ammunition into the crowds, striking several protesters. When journalists attempted to document this unconstitutional use of force, officers tracked them down and sprayed them with more pepper bullets and beat them with batons.

“Louisville is using weapons of war against its own citizens,” said ECBAWM partner Sam Shapiro. “It is trying to silence peaceful protestors through unjustified arrests and trumped-up charges. Shockingly, its mayor and the leadership of the LMPD are endorsing this unconstitutional conduct. Our clients are committed to fighting back against these practices. They are bringing this case to make Louisville safe for all peaceful protestors.”

To read the complaint, click here.

To read a press release about this lawsuit, click here.

ECBAWM’s Earl S. WardO. Andrew F. WilsonSam Shapiro, and Andrew Jondahl, along with attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky represent Plaintiffs.

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ECBAWM Client’s Essay on Prison Abuse Published in The Appeal

In his article for The Appeal, “In This Moment of Reckoning Around Police Violence, Don’t Forget the Unseen Abuses of People Who Are Incarcerated,” our client Vernon Horn writes of his firsthand experiences being brutalized while in prison. Mr. Horn served 17 years for a crime he did not commit before being exonerated. We currently represent Mr. Horn in his civil lawsuit against the City of New Haven, three individual police officers, and a Connecticut firearms examiner based on conduct that we allege included fabrication and concealing of evidence leading to his wrongful conviction.

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