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ECBAWM and Public Citizen Represent Amici Legal Scholars Supporting Amazon Workers in Second Circuit Case

ECBAWM, along with Public Citizen Litigation Group, represents eleven law professors with expertise in civil procedure and federal courts in an amici curiae brief filed in Derrick Palmer, et. al v. Amazon, Inc, et al in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Palmer v. Amazon, the plaintiffs allege that defendants Amazon.com, Inc. and Amazon.com Services, LLC (collectively, “Amazon”) failed to comply with New York State health and safety requirements during a deadly pandemic. The lower court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss, ruling that “pursuant to the doctrine of primary jurisdiction,” the plaintiffs were required to seek relief through the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and not the courts.

The law professors, who hail from New York University School of Law, City University of New York School of Law, University of Texas School of Law, George Washington University Law School, New York Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wake Forest University, University of Alabama School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center, filed their brief in support of defendants’ appeal of the decision to dismiss.

The district court erred in dismissing “state-law claims arising from the defendants’ allegedly unsafe working conditions,” by relying “on an expansive conception of primary jurisdiction that finds no warrant in the precedent of the Supreme Court or in this Court,” the professors explained in the brief. The professors request that the Second Circuit reverse the lower court’s decision with respect to the application of the primary jurisdiction doctrine.

ECBAWM partner Debbie Greenberger represents the amici curiae law professors.

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ECBAWM Secures Landmark Settlement Between Voting Rights Advocates and Private Security Company Charged with Voter Intimidation

A federal judge has approved a sweeping settlement in a lawsuit brought by voting rights advocates against a private security contractor, Atlas Aegis, for illegal voter intimidation in Minnesota. ECBAWM’s clients, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWV-MN), celebrated the settlement as a major victory for democracy.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy E. Brasel approved a consent decree that resolves all remaining claims in the lawsuit. Under the consent decree, which lasts until January 1, 2025, Atlas Aegis and its Chairman and co-founder Anthony Caudle are:

  • Prohibited from deploying armed agents within 250 feet of (or otherwise monitoring) any early voting location during early voting, a polling place on election day, places where ballots are being counted, recounted, or canvassed; or where county canvassing boards or the State Canvassing Board are meeting to canvass, inspect, or declare the results of that election; or where Minnesota’s presidential electors are meeting to vote in the presidential general election.
  • Prohibited from otherwise taking any action to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters, people aiding voters, or people engaged in tabulating, counting, or reporting votes.
  • Required to notify CAIR-MN and LWV-MN in writing 25 days before any federal election if they are supplying security personnel for any non-election-related protective services (e.g., providing security for an art exhibition or concert) where armed security personnel may be visible to the public within 250 feet of a polling place on election day.

Any violations of the consent decree will be enforceable as contempt of court.

The consent decree approved by the federal court requires the plaintiffs to state as follows:

“This matter has been resolved by agreement. The parties have agreed that Defendants shall be restricted in their actions as set forth in the terms of the attached Consent Decree. Defendants have not admitted any liability and specifically deny they have committed any statutory violation.”

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Matthew Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad, as well as Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Court Certifies Class in ECBAWM, STOP Religious Headcovering Lawsuit

On February 16, 2020, federal judge Analisa Torres of the United States District Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification on behalf of all New Yorkers forced to remove their religious head coverings for photographs while in NYPD custody. ECBAWM filed the case for the Plaintiffs, together with the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (“STOP”). The decision means that Plaintiffs’ case for damages will proceed as a class action and that, if found liable, the City must pay damages to each and every individual whose religious rights were violated under the NYPD policy.

“Every New Yorker whose religious head covering was forcibly removed by the NYPD in violation of their religious rights should be entitled to compensation. This decision gives us a mechanism to make that happen,” said O. Andrew F. Wilson, a partner at ECBAWM.

This ruling followed Judge Torres’s September 30, 2020 rejection of the City of New York’s motion to dismiss 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.

Judge Torres wrote: “The Policy compels all individuals to remove religious headwear when sitting for a booking photograph…As a result, every member of the class will have the same claim because each member objects, due to their sincerely-held religious beliefs, to some or all of the activity the policy compels.”

Emma L. Freeman, an attorney at ECBAWM, said: “The Court’s ruling confirms that all New Yorkers—no matter what their religious practices—deserve compensation for being forced to take an uncovered mug shot.”

“This lawsuit already blocked the NYPD from removing New Yorkers’ head coverings in the future, but today’s decision brings us one step closer to justice for New Yorkers who were harmed in the past,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “Far too many New Yorkers have already been targeted, humiliated, and stripped for their religious head coverings. These New Yorkers deserve justice for what they’ve suffered, and it’s long past time for the City to pay.”

Plaintiffs’ class action Complaint is available here. The Court’s Decision and Order certifying the class is available here.

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Emma L. Freeman, as well as S.T.O.P.’s Albert Fox Cahn.

If you or anyone you know has been forced to remove a religious head covering while in NYPD custody, please contact ECBAWM through its website.

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ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel Featured on “Finding Humanity” Podcast Episode About Cyberbullying

ECBAWM partner and civil rights attorney Ilann Maazel was featured on the latest episode of Finding Humanity, a podcast produced by the Humanity Lab Foundation and Hueman Group Media that provides in-depth coverage of complex social and political issues.

In “How a Bullying Survivor Found His Voice: Brandon Farbstein,” Ilann explains how a court would evaluate claims that a school was liable for the bullying or harassment of a student. “Is it severe and pervasive? Did the school have notice? And was the school ‘deliberately indifferent’ in its response, meaning was their response so weak that it allowed the harassment or bullying to continue? And when those things are all true, the school is itself liable for the bullying.”

Though most schools have adopted measures to curtail “in person” bullying, cyberbullying presents additional challenges. “There are two aspects of online bullying that make it very difficult to tackle,” says Ilann. “The first is that it often is anonymous, and it can be very difficult for a school to root out the culprit or the culprits and take action. The second issue is that by its nature, it is pervasive. An anonymous post can be shared with hundreds or thousands of people and that can create a horrible effect that’s much worse than just one or two kids in school. Now, you go to school and (a) have no idea who’s been bullying you, and (b) for all you know, every single person in that hallway or classroom has been sharing that post, and that just makes it devastating.”

Despite these challenges, Ilann says he still feels there is reason for some optimism. “I see hope because judges have kids. Jurors have kids. Our legal system understands that something needs to be done and our legal system is slowly addressing the challenge.”

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ECABWM Partner Zoe Salzman Co-Authors Washington Post Op-Ed Calling for Justice for Tamir Rice Under Biden Administration

Today the Washington Post published an opinion piece co-authored by ECBAM partner Zoe Salzman and Billy Joe Mills, founding partner of FirmEquity LLC. Both firms represent the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was brutally shot and killed by Cleveland police officers in 2014. In “Tamir Rice deserves justice. The Biden administration could finally deliver it,” Salzman and Mills explain why one of the top priorities for the Justice Department under the Biden administration should be the reopening of the case against the police officers who are responsible for Tamir’s death.

Noting that career DOJ attorneys had twice sought to convene a federal grand jury to bring charges against Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, the authors write, “[B]oth times those requests were stymied by Trump administration political appointees at the Justice Department. They sat on the requests for years, though the department typically rubber-stamps such requests in weeks. … [T]hey opted to run out the clock on the relevant statutes of limitations, which allowed them to silently kill the investigation without formally ending it.” After a whistleblower complaint that included these and other stalling tactics by the Justice Department, the investigation was formally closed without further explanation.

“The Justice Department is supposed to uphold the rule of law without yielding to the bruising tide of politics,” write Salzman and Mills. “We call on the Biden administration’s incoming attorney general, Merrick Garland, who has professed his commitment to the rule of law, to reopen the investigation into the killing of Tamir Rice.”

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