New York State Board of Elections Agrees to Changes in Vote Counting Practices

Settling a case brought by the New York Conservative Party, the Taxpayers’ Party, and the Working Families Party, the New York State Board of Elections agreed to alter the way in which double votes are counted. The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of New York’s practice of automatically attributing double votes, which occur when a person votes for a single candidate on more than one party line, only to the major party. For minor parties, the consequences of this method are potentially fatal; parties need at least 50,000 votes to maintain a line on the ballot without resorting to petition. Under the agreement, voters who cast double votes will be alerted that they have done so, informed of how that vote would be counted, and given an opportunity to change their ballots. Reprogramming of the State’s voting machines will be implemented in time for the 2012 general election. Plaintiffs Conservative Party and Taxpayers’ Party were represented by ECBAWM’s Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Zoe Salzman, along with co-counsel Cuti Hecker Wang LLP, and the Brennan Center for Justice, which represented the Working Families Party and the Conservative Party.

“State heeds minor parties on voting machine complaint,” The New York Times.


Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Argument on Warrantless Wiretapping Cases

On August 31, 2011, in Seattle, Washington, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument in Shubert v. Obama, a case brought by ECBAWM on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose telephone and e-mail communications were subject to warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency as part of a massive secret dragnet program. The case was dismissed by District Judge Vaughn Walker in 2010, and the federal government now claims that to further litigate the case would violate the so-called “state secrets privilege.” ECBAWM attorney Ilann Maazel argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, and ECBAWM attorney Adam Pulver joined Mr. Maazel in writing the briefs. The case was argued in conjunction with Jewel v. National Security Agency, a similar case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“EFF’s Warrantless Wiretapping Cases Back in Court on August 31,”
“This Week: Appeals Court to Weigh NSA Dragnet Surveillance,” 

An audio recording of the argument is available here.


ECBAWM Files Lawsuit Against Realty Firms and Landlord for Discrimination Against New Yorkers Living with AIDS

ECBAWM filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that four New York City real estate companies and the owner of a Manhattan apartment building discriminate against people with AIDS who do not work and have a monthly housing rental subsidy from the City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA). The Complaint alleges that the defendants refused to show apartments, segregated rental listings according to source of income, and told prospective renters that landlords would not rent to them. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by ECBAWM’s Diane L. Houk and Housing Works.


ECBAWM and Co-Counsel Barnum & Reyes File Amended Complaint in New York City Foster Care Abuse Case

After joining as counsel for S.P. in June 2011, ECBAWM, along with co-counsel Barnum & Reyes, filed an amended complaint detailing extreme and irreparable harm suffered by S.P., a five-year-old child, while she was in the custody of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). ACS took S.P. into its custody in 2001 when she was only nine days old for her own protection. ACS assigned the private foster care agency Graham Windham Services (GWS) to provide S.P.’s day-to-day foster care services. Five years later, after abandoning her in an abusive and filthy foster home, S.P. was tortured in that home by a relative of her foster parent, who chose to punish her for accidentally wetting herself by pouring boiling water over her head, neck, and back. Even after S.P. sustained extensive, disfiguring keloid scars from this extreme abuse, ACS and GWS failed to discover, treat, or remove S.P. from this foster home until over five months later, and only when a doctor not employed by ACS or GWS called 911.


Supreme Court Rejects Roger Clemens’ Attempt to Restore Claims Against Trainer Brian McNamee

On June 28, 2011, the United States Supreme Court denied baseball player Roger Clemens’ petition for a writ of certiorari, leaving in place the decision of a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming the dismissal of his defamation claims against his former trainer, ECBAWM client Brian McNamee. ECBAWM attorneys Richard Emery, Earl Ward, Debbie Greenberger, and Adam Pulver successfully argued that the Texas courts where Clemens commenced his action lacked personal jurisdiction over McNamee. McNamee’s own claims against Clemens remain pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.


Jonathan Carey Case Profiled in New York Times

A front-page New York Times article on the failings of New York State’s institutions for the developmentally disabled focused on the case of Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old with autism who died while under institutional care in February 2007. A state employee, who had worked for fifteen days straight and for nearly 200 hours just before the incident, was convicted of asphyxiating Carey in the back of a van as he was being transported. The employee had a previous criminal record when he was hired at the facility.

The article was deeply critical of the State’s institutions, calling them “a system in disarray.” In addition to the Carey case, the article documented other stories of abuse, emotional and physical, as well as the institutions’ poor safety and living conditions. Since 2005, seven of the nine institutions dedicated to caring for the developmentally disabled have failed New York State Health Department inspections. The Times article further critiqued the institutions’ deficient qualification standards for employees and consistent failures to conduct meaningful investigations into abuse allegations. The Carey family is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman.


City Agrees to Pay $2 Million in Inmate Death Lawsuit

New York City will pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Oswald Livermore, who died in May 2007 while being held at the Manhattan Detention Complex. Mr. Livermore suffered from severe alcohol withdrawal, exhibiting agitation and disorientation within hours of arriving at the jail. In spite of proper procedure for such symptoms, which includes hospitalization, Mr. Livermore was kept in the general population and given no treatment. He died roughly 28 hours after his arrival at the jail.

The case raises serious questions about effective communication among the Department of Corrections staff, as well as the effectiveness of medical services provided to the City’s prisoners, many of whom suffer from drug and alcohol problems. Mr. Livermore’s family is represented by ECBAWM’s Jonathan Abady, Katherine Rosenfeld, and Debbie Greenberger, alongside the Legal Aid Society.

“City Will Pay $2 Million After an Inmate’s Death,” The New York Times


Brooklyn Judge Rejects Mayor’s Budget Cuts to HIV/AIDS Services Administration

Federal Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak ruled that the Bloomberg administration cannot implement its proposed budget cuts to the City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA). Planned reductions would have cut 254 case managers from the agency’s staff and dealt a serious blow to HASA, which provides crucial benefits and social services to tens of thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Ruling that the cuts violate both a City law governing manager-to-client ratios and a federal court order, Judge Pollak has given the City thirty days to comply with her decision. If the City does not reverse its position, Judge Pollak will issue an enforcement order preventing the cuts. The motion for a temporary restraining order against the City was filed by Matthew Brinckerhoff of ECBAWM, Virginia Shubert, the HIV Law Project, and Housing Works.


Divorce Dispute Over Madoff Account Goes to New York Court of Appeals

On April 21, 2011, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, granted leave for ECBAWM client Laura Blank to appeal its January 2011 decision to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. That decision had allowed claims brought by Ms. Blank’s ex-husband, Steven Simkin, to redo their 2004 divorce settlement, on the basis that the parties were “mistaken” as to the existence and/or value of his investments with Bernard Madoff, to proceed.

ECBAWM Attorneys Richard D. Emery and Adam R. Pulver argued to the Appellate Division that its earlier decision was erroneous as a matter of law, and had the potential to upset wide-ranging effects for divorcing spouses across New York State. The Appellate Division’s decision had reversed that of Supreme Court Justice Saralee Evans, who, in December 2009, had dismissed Mr. Simkin’s claims against Ms. Blank as a matter of law. As reported in the New York Law Journal, the Court of Appeals will now set a briefing schedule for the case.

“Paul Weiss Partner May Sue Ex-Wife Over Madoff Funds,” Bloomberg News


Earl S. Ward Joins ECBAWM

Earl S. Ward, one of New York’s most successful trial lawyers, joined ECBAWM as partner in April 2011. Previously, Mr. Ward had his own firm, where he handled serious felony matters including numerous homicide, death penalty, and federal civil rights cases. His clients have spanned a broad spectrum, from indigent criminal defendants to high profile figures and corporate executives.

With twenty-six years of experience as a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, Mr. Ward is preeminent in the field. He has lectured extensively on trial practice, including as guest lecturer at New York University School of Law, Cardozo Law School, and the United States District Court for the Southern District, Pro Se Trial Advocacy Program. Mr. Ward is also a former Commissioner on the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and a former member of the Board of Directors for the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL). Currently, he is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Bronx Defenders, Vice Chair of the Board of Housing Works, and Chair of the Board of Esperanza.

Mr. Ward began his career with the criminal defense division of the Legal Aid Society. Thereafter, he worked as a staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), where he handled police abuse and First Amendment litigation. Prior to entering private practice in 1996, he was a supervising attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem.