Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Reinstates Warrantless Wiretapping Cases

A unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court, and held that the statutory and constitutional claims of millions of Americans whose telephone and e-mail communications have been subjected to warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency as part of a massive secret dragnet program may proceed. In Shubert v. Obama, ECBAWM represents four individuals and a putative class of individuals who claim their communications were unlawfully intercepted by the federal government, without a warrant or other statutory authorization. ECBAWM attorney Ilann Maazel argued on behalf of the plaintiffs in Seattle in August 2011, and ECBAWM attorney Adam Pulver joined Mr. Maazel in writing the briefs.

The Court’s decision is available here.

“Court Revives NSA Dragnet Surveillance Case,”
“Telecom customers may sue government over wiretapping, court says,” Los Angeles Times</em


Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Blocking Discriminatory Housing Development

State Supreme Court Justice Emily Goodman granted a preliminary injunction preventing New York City from proceeding with its Broadway Triangle housing development plan. Plaintiffs in the case contend that the City’s plan to build affordable housing would favor the area’s Hasidic population, to the detriment of Blacks and Latinos, and further racial segregation. The plan, which would include a housing priority for residents of the predominantly white area of South Williamsburg over the adjacent predominantly black area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, would, according to the court, exacerbate the existing racial disparity between the neighborhoods and do little to further community integration.

The court further concluded that, as a recipient of federal housing funds, the City must evaluate the impact its housing development projects have on segregation and is obligated to pursue projects that are inclusive and integrative. The plaintiffs, a coalition of local community groups and residents, are represented by ECBAWM, NYCLU, Brooklyn Legal Services, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP.


Judge Approves Stipulation in Weed Man Case

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin approved a stipulation between the City and Joshua Long, better known as the “Weed Man.” Mr. Long, who has become a fixture in Times Square, known for the sign he carries: “Help! I Need Money for Weed!” filed a lawsuit in July claiming violations of his constitutional rights by NYPD officers. The complaint contends that both Mr. Long’s sign and the act of asking for money are constitutionally protected free speech. Nevertheless, he has been continually harassed by police officers and subjected to a slew of unlawful arrests. Though the recent stipulation does not resolve the case and does not include an admission of the defendants’ liability, the City agrees that it will make its best efforts to ensure that midtown police officers will not disturb Mr. Long, so long as he is standing lawfully and peacefully on a public sidewalk. The City also commits to ensuring that all NYPD officers who work in Times Square are aware of the substance of the Court-ordered stipulation. Mr. Long is represented by Matthew D. Brinckerhoff and Sam Shapiro of ECBAWM.

“Judge to Police: Relax About the ‘Weed Man’,” The New York Times


New York State Court of Appeals Annuls Rule on Taxi Lease Caps

Reversing the decisions of lower courts, the New York State Court of Appeals annulled a rule of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) that effectively reduces the rates taxicab owners are allowed to charge the drivers who lease their vehicles. The rule, which was adopted in 2009, prohibited owners from collecting sales tax in addition to the standard lease cap. In a unanimous decision, the Court found that the TLC’s rulemaking was “arbitrary and capricious” and that “the Commission has not shown any rational basis” for it. The plaintiffs in the case, owners and operators of the City’s taxicab fleets, are represented by Richard D. Emery, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and Julia Einbond of ECBAWM.


ECBAWM and NSB Win $2.4 Million Verdict in NJ Wrongful Death/Police Shooting Case

ECBAWM and Neufeld Scheck & Brustin won a jury verdict for $2,422,274 in Bergen County, New Jersey, for the shooting and wrongful death of Emil Mann by a member of the New Jersey State Park Police. Emil Mann was unarmed when he was shot twice by the officer. A member of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, Emil is survived by his three sons, Emil, Jr., Ronnie, and Jacob. At the conclusion of a four-week trial, the jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages, finding that the shooting was both unreasonable and malicious or wanton. Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Ilann Maazel at ECBAWM and Nick Brustin and Emma Freudenberger at NSB represented the Mann family.


New York State Court of Appeals Hears Argument on Taxi Lease Cap Case

The Court of Appeals for the State of New York heard argument in Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade v. The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, a case brought by ECBAWM on behalf of owners and operators of New York City’s taxicab fleets. The case challenges rules adopted in 2009 by the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) that prohibit taxicab owners from charging drivers sales tax on top of the lease cap, the maximum amount owners may charge per shift. Arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, Richard D. Emery contended that the new rules violated basic New York State and federal administrative law requirements by changing lease rates without any consideration to the costs that would be imposed on the taxi industry. Further, Mr. Emery argued, because the rules were altered to require that sales taxes be charged within the lease cap, the TLC effectively shifted the burden of the tax from the purchaser (taxi drivers) to the seller (taxi owners), directly contradicting state tax law. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Mr. Emery, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and Julia Einbond of ECBAWM.

To watch the argument, click here.


Race Discrimination Housing Case Settles for $341,000 and Injunctive Relief

ECBAWM attorneys settled a housing discrimination case alleging a New York management company, landlord, building superintendent, and his wife racially discriminated against prospective African American renters. The case was based on fair housing testing conducted by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) in 2009 at Broadway Crescent Apartments in Astoria, Queens. The Complaint alleged that white testers sent to the building by the FHJC were given information about available apartments and often taken to view them, while African American testers were told that there were no availabilities.

The FHJC and four African American testers who were told apartments were not available to rent when they visited Broadway Crescent Apartments will receive $341,000 in damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs. The defendants are required to provide fair housing training for their employees, adopt non-discrimination policies, and advertise available rentals in all apartment buildings managed by M & N Management. These and other measures, which aim to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local fair housing laws, will span four years. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by ECBAWM’s Diane L. Houk and Eisha Jain.


ECBAWM and Co-Counsel Sue Midtown Landlord for Illegal Rent Hikes

ECBAWM and co-counsel Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue, & Joseph have filed a putative class action lawsuit on behalf of tenants at 350 E. 52nd St against their landlords, arguing that the landlords improperly deregulated their rent-controlled apartments while receiving J-51 tax benefits. As the New York State Court of Appeals has held in Roberts v. Tishman Speyer Properties, L.P., such a practice is prohibited by the statutes which govern the J-51 program. The case is Casey v. Whitehouse Estates, Inc., Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. No. 111723/2011. ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff and Adam Pulver represent the Plaintiffs in this action, as well as tenants of three other properties in related cases.


ECBAWM and City Settle Case on Behalf of Transgender Plaintiff Sexually Assaulted by Prison Employees

The City of New York will pay $750,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by a young transgender woman who was sexually assaulted twice by City employees while in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction.

She was first assaulted by an aide at Bellevue Hospital, who has already been convicted of that crime. Two months later, she was sexually assaulted by a corrections officer at Rikers Island, even though she had reported his sexual harassment to City officials prior to the attack. The officer has been indicted on felony charges. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York in 2010, included claims for assault and battery, cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference, negligence, and for gender-motivated violence under the New York City Human Rights Law. The Plaintiff’s experience is reflective of the abuse that transgender prisoners in New York, and across the country, face on a daily basis.

The Plaintiff was represented by ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. Maazel, Elizabeth Saylor and Adam Pulver, along with Anthony Cecutti of the Law Office of Anthony Cecutti. For more on the case, see “Guard Held in Sexual Attack on Transgender Inmate.”



Jonathan Carey Case Settles for $5 Million

New York State will pay $5 million to settle two wrongful death lawsuits brought by Michael and Lisa Carey, whose son Jonathan died in 2007 while living in a State facility for the disabled. Jonathan, an autistic 13-year-old, was asphyxiated and killed by a State employee while on a community outing. Two State employees have been criminally convicted as a result of Jonathan’s death.

The case helped bring attention to the severe institutional dysfunction of New York State’s care for the disabled. For years, the institutions dedicated to caring for some of New York’s most vulnerable residents have exhibited systemic deficiencies in health and safety standards, abuse investigation and reporting, and employee qualification. The Careys, who have become some of New York’s most outspoken advocates for disability rights, hope that the case will prompt serious reform to fix a broken system. The Carey family is represented by ECBAWM’s Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman.

“$5 Million Payment to End Suits Over Death of 13-Year-Old Boy in State Care,” The New York Times.