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ECBAWM Sues Landlords and Brokers for Lying to and Ghosting Renters with Section 8 Vouchers

ECBAWM attorneys filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center against the management company, owners, and real estate agents for three rental apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Queens who denied renters with Section 8 housing vouchers the opportunity to rent available apartments. The complaint alleges that Defendants lied to renters with vouchers about available apartments and repeatedly ghosted them – ignoring their calls and texts after learning they intended to pay rent with a voucher. Defendants’ “discrimination by disappearance” violates the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, which prohibit discrimination based on renters’ source of income.

The named Defendants are E L J Management Company, Jacbay Inc., Astoria 35 Inc., Harari Realty Corp., Contact Realty Corp., and Christian Quiceno. Defendant E L J is the management company for all three buildings. It manages approximately a dozen apartment buildings with over 1,500 combined units in New York City.

ECBAWM attorneys Diane L. Houk and Max Selver represent the Fair Housing Justice Center. A link to the filed Complaint can be found here.

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ECBAWM and Romano & Kuan Win Federal Jury Trial for Client Rendered Quadriplegic by NYPD Officer’s Assault

On April 13, 2022, after a four-day trial, an eight-person jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Defendant NYPD Officer Luis Linares assaulted and committed battery against our client Eliezer Lopez when he pushed Mr. Lopez over a railing in the Crotona Park neighborhood of the Bronx in December of 2015. After Officer Linares’s push, Mr. Lopez fell 15 feet and landed on the back of his head, rendering him permanently paralyzed from the neck down. Mr. Lopez died in May 2019 after spending the last three-and-a-half years of his life confined to a hospital bed as a result of Officer Linares’s assault.

At the trial, the jury rejected Officer Linares’s claims that Mr. Lopez jumped over the railing and that he never touched Mr. Lopez. ECBAWM and co-counsel Romano & Kuan marshaled testimony from an expert witness who testified that the nature of Mr. Lopez’s injuries was inconsistent with Officer Linares’s testimony, along with testimony from Mr. Lopez himself and an eyewitness who contradicted Officer Linares’s account. The attorneys also uncovered key discrepancies between Officer Linares’s testimony and that of his fellow officers when questioning them on the stand.

ECBAWM attorneys Earl Ward and Max Selver, together with Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, represent the Plaintiff Suhail Laureano, Eliezer Lopez’s wife, who is proceeding as a representative of his Estate. Following the jury’s verdict that Officer Linares committed assault and battery, the parties are preparing for a second jury trial to determine the amount of damages.

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ECBAWM Attorneys Settle Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Against National Real Estate Firm for $4 Million

In an agreement negotiated by ECBAWM attorneys, Redfin Corporation has committed to changing its national minimum home price service and referral policies for five years and pay $4 million dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance and nine of its member organizations. Redfin has also agreed to implement an outreach and recruiting plan to increase racial diversity in its workforce, advertise its service to reach non-White consumers, and require agents and local partner realty firms to attend fair housing training.

The lawsuit alleged that Redfin discriminated based on race and national origin. An investigation conducted by the plaintiff organizations showed that Redfin offered no service to buyers and sellers of homes in communities of color at a disproportionately higher rate than in white areas based on the company’s minimum home price policy. As one of the settlement’s terms, Redfin will expand its service for several years in ten metropolitan areas for buyers of homes priced below median home prices in order to provide service to more homes located in communities of color.

ECBAWM Attorneys Diane L. Houk and Sam Shapiro represented Plaintiffs, together with Jeffrey Taren of MacDonald, Hoague & Bayless.

Press
“Redfin Settles Suit by Fair-Housing Groups Over ‘Minimum Price Policy’,” Bloomberg News

Related
ECBAWM Clients File Race Discrimination Suit Against National Realty Firm Alleging Redlining

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Fourth Circuit Cites Amicus Brief Filed by ECBAWM

In an opinion issued today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit quoted and relied on an amicus brief filed by ECBAWM on behalf of law professors Aziz Huq and Erwin Chemerinsky. The case involves claims brought by a former federal public defender in North Carolina who alleges she was sexually assaulted by members of the public defender’s office. The amicus brief ECBAWM filed argued that the District Court misapplied the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

ECBAWM partners Ilann Maazel and Sam Shapiro authored the brief, which can be found here.

The Fourth Circuit opinion can be read in its entirety here.

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Diane L. Houk Named Partner

ECBAWM is proud to announce that Diane L. Houk has been elected a firm partner, effective immediately.

A graduate of Columbia Law School, Houk began her career in the 1980’s representing plaintiffs in housing and employment discrimination cases in private practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She served as General Counsel to a local fair housing organization during this time.

In 1991, Houk joined the United States Department of Justice in the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division, where she would ultimately serve for 13 years innovating and litigating to combat housing segregation in communities from coast to coast. In 2000, Diane was named Special Litigation Counsel and, in that role, oversaw the Section’s land use and zoning work in the areas of race, national origin and religious discrimination.

By 2004, Houk was recognized as a national leader in the fair housing movement. She moved to New York City to found the Fair Housing Justice Center which has since grown to become a major force against housing discrimination in the New York City metro.

In 2009, Houk returned to private practice at ECBAWM. She has been central to the firm’s practice, profile, and culture. She has litigated – and won – dozens of landmark cases, including against Facebook, Redfin, and the Town of Eastchester, and continues to pursue cases for individual plaintiffs who face unlawful barriers to housing because of their race, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, and source of income.

“There are thousands of New Yorkers who have Diane Houk to thank for their very homes,” said ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. “And she has done all this by dint of sheer intellectual firepower, a relentless work ethic, toughness on a heroic scale, endless patience and persistence, and a stubborn and righteous insistence that landlords and their counsel obey the law.”

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Marjorie Taylor Greene TRO Application Fails; Challenge Seeking to Disqualify Her from Re-Election Will Proceed

Judge Amy Totenberg of the U.S. District for the Northern District of Georgia has denied Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s application for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that, if granted, would have halted disqualification challenge proceedings against Rep. Greene and allowed her to be included on the ballot for the May 24 primary elections. In its 73-page ruling, the Court cited Rep. Greene’s “failure to cite persuasive legal authority or even include a developed legal argument” in holding that she “failed[ed] to establish a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”

The challenge to Rep. Greene’s re-election was filed by a group of Georgia voters in late March on 14th Amendment grounds – specifically, that Rep. Greene was disqualified under the Insurrectionist Disqualifications Clause of the 14th Amendment because she engaged in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The instant lawsuit, Greene v. Raffensperger et al, was filed by Rep. Greene in an attempt to end the challenge to her candidacy without allowing it to proceed through Georgia’s established legal process.

The underlying disqualification challenge is scheduled to be heard by a state administrative law judge on April 22.

The group of Georgia voters are represented in Greene v. Raffensperger et al by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Sam Shapiro, and Andrew Jondahl, along with co-counsel at Free Speech for People and Bryan Sells.

Related
“ECBAWM Represents Arizona Voters in Candidacy Challenges Under Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause”

Press
“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene testifies for more than 3 hours in hearing on whether to disqualify her from seeking reelection,” CNN
“Effort to Remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from Ballot Can Proceed, Judge Says,” The New York Times
“Legal effort to remove Greene from Ga. ballot can proceed, judge rules,” The Washington Post

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ECBAWM Represents Arizona Voters in Candidacy Challenges Under Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Nick Bourland, alongside counsel at Free Speech for People and Barton Mendez Soto PLLC, represent a group of Arizona voters in three separate lawsuits challenging the eligibility of Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who are running for reelection to the United States House of Representatives, and Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, who is running for Arizona Secretary of State, to appear on the 2022 primary election ballot.

The lawsuits, which were filed on April 7, 2022 in the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County, allege that Gosar, Biggs, and Finchem are constitutionally disqualified from public office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the Disqualification Clause, on the grounds that they helped facilitate the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol.

For more information on the Disqualification Clause lawsuits against Gosar, Biggs, and Finchem, please see Free Speech For People’s April 7, 2022 press release.

Press
“Legal Effort Expands to Disqualify Republicans as ‘Insurrectionists’,” The New York Times

Article

$20M Administrative Claim Filed Against BOP, Marshals Service for Tragic Covid-19 Death of 30-Year-Old Mother and Federal Prisoner Andrea Circle Bear

The family of Andrea Circle Bear, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has filed an administrative claim against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and the U.S. Marshals Service for her wrongful death. Ms. Circle Bear died in federal custody in Texas of complications from COVID-19 on April 28, 2020, four weeks after giving birth to her daughter. At the time of her death, Ms. Circle Bear she was serving a 26-month federal sentence for a non-violent conviction.

On March 20, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded around the nation and one week after the BOP had suspended all prisoner transfers that were not “required” or “mission-essential,” the federal government needlessly transferred Ms. Circle Bear, then seven months pregnant, over 800 miles from South Dakota to the FMC Carswell women’s prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

During the transfer and while at FMC Carswell, Ms. Circle Bear was confined in overcrowded and unsafe conditions that were ripe for COVID-19 transmission. The Marshals Service transported Ms. Circle Bear on a small plane with at least six other people and no masking, social distancing, pre-flight COVID testing, or any other safety measures. When she arrived at FMC Carswell, BOP housed her on the bottom bunk bed of a small cell with three other women with no masks or other PPE, one shared toilet and sink, and no soap.

Ms. Circle Bear first developed COVID-19 symptoms on March 26, 2020, six days after the transfer. BOP staff failed to provide her with prompt or adequate care for several days as her symptoms intensified. She was almost immediately intubated when BOP finally sent her to the hospital on March 31. Her daughter was born the next day by emergency c-section while Ms. Circle Bear was on a ventilator. Ms. Circle Bear died four weeks later without ever getting off the ventilator to meet her daughter.

The BOP and the U.S. Marshals Service’s indifference and recklessness in exposing Ms. Circle Bear to COVID-19 and failing to provide her adequate medical care caused her death and left her children motherless.

The BOP and U.S. Marshals Service must respond to the administrative claim within six months. If the claim is denied, Ms. Circle Bear’s family may proceed with filing a lawsuit.

Ms. Circle Bear’s family is represented by firm attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Max Selver.

Press
“Fort Worth prison responsible for new mother’s COVID death, family says in $20M claim,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Blame the Justice Department for Andrea Circle Bear’s Death,” The New York Times

Article

Post-Release Supervision Class Action to Proceed to Damages Trial

In Betances v. Fischer, ECBAWM represents a class of over 3000 individuals who were administratively, unilaterally, and unlawfully sentenced to terms of post-release supervision (“PRS”) by New York State corrections and parole officials. The Plaintiff class was certified by the Court in 2015 and the Court subsequently granted summary judgment on liability to Plaintiffs, holding the Defendant State corrections and parole officials personally liable for violating Plaintiffs’ due process rights.

In advance of trial, the Defendant State officials moved to decertify the Plaintiff class on the basis that Plaintiffs’ general damages—which stem from the liberty Plaintiffs lost while on PRS or incarcerated for violating PRS—cannot be determined on a class-wide basis. In a March 14, 2022 decision, United States Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger denied Defendants’ motion to decertify the class and ruled that “the class should be maintained for the purposes of trial to determine damages for loss of liberty.”

In denying the Defendants’ decertification motion, the Court held that Plaintiffs’ lost liberty “is inherent in any unlawful detention and is compensable as general damages” and “can be determined on a class-wide basis.” The Court further determined that these common injuries “predominate over other, individualized issues” and can therefore be determined on a class basis at trial.

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Nick Bourland, and Max Selver, and law clerk Julian Oppenheimer represent the Betances Plaintiff class.

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CNN Investigates Wrongful Conviction of Anthony Sims

The wrongful conviction of Anthony Sims for the 1998 murder of Li Run Chen is the subject of a recent investigation by CNN reporter Jeff Winter. Anthony has served 23 years in prison despite undisputed evidence that points to a different perpetrator altogether, and despite decades of wrongdoing by law enforcement officials in withholding substantial Brady material and evidence of Anthony’s innocence.

CNN’s detailed report presents the timeline of the crime, the initial investigation, trial, and current legal hearings on Anthony’s motion to vacate his conviction and dismiss all charges against him. It also recounts testimony from a new witness whose testimony directly implicates another individual and exonerates Anthony.

As previously established, Mr. Chen was killed by a single shotgun blast while working at a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. Anthony has maintained throughout his arrest and incarceration that the murder was committed by his former friend Julius Graves – who was, conveniently, the single eyewitness to testify at trial that Anthony fired the fatal shot. In the current hearing on Anthony’s motion, however, Graves’ neighbor Rachel testified that the murder was committed by Graves because he was mad that Mr. Chen had touched Graves’ wife’s hand earlier that day. Rachel also testified that she saw Graves running out of the restaurant after she heard a shot, and that she called the police to tell them that Graves was the killer.

“On the basis of (Rachel’s) testimony alone, it’s plain that Anthony Sims did not receive a fair trial and his conviction should be vacated,” said Ilann M. Maazel, one of Anthony’s attorneys. “The jury never heard any of this evidence.”

ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. Maazel, Sam Shapiro, and Nairuby L. Beckles, along with attorneys Thomas Hoffman and Jonathan Hiles, represent Anthony Sims. More information about the case is available on the Free Anthony Sims website.

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