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Texas Governor’s Polling-Place Mask Exemption Struck Down by Federal Court

On Tuesday night a federal court granted ECBAWM’s emergency motion to invalidate Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “polling place” exemption to the statewide mask mandate. The carve-out from the mask requirement would have exposed voters and poll workers to increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and disproportionately impacted people of color. The defendants immediately appealed and obtained an administrative stay from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs have opposed the stay and expect a prompt ruling from the appellate court.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Debra L. Greenberger, along with Free Speech for People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Lyons & Lyons, P.C., represented plaintiffs Mi Familia Vota and the Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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Federal Court Halts Planned Voter Intimidation in Minnesota

A federal court today granted ECBAWM’s request for a preliminary injunction against Atlas Aegis, Inc. and its chairman Anthony Caudle from moving forward with illegal plans to intimidate Minnesota voters. The Court’s order prohibits the defendants, a private security company with no ties to Minnesota, from deploying armed agents within 2,500 feet of any Minnesota polling place during early voting and on Election Day, as well as threatening to deploy armed agents to Minnesota or intimidating Minnesota voters in any way. Defendants must also disclose the names and contact information of the individuals alleged to have been involved in recruiting armed agents to intimidate voters.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs, along with Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the National Fair Housing Alliance and nine of its member organizations against Redfin Corporation, based in Seattle, Washington. The complaint alleges that Redfin, a national online real estate firm, offers no service to buyers and sellers of homes in communities of color at a disproportionately higher rate than in white areas. The Complaint also alleges that Redfin offers full service, including discounted commissions and buyer refunds, where permitted by state law, to buyers and sellers of homes in white areas at a disproportionately higher rate than in non-white areas.

ECBAWM attorneys Diane L. Houk and Samuel Shapiro represent the plaintiffs, together with Jeffrey Taren of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless.

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Mi Familia Vota, Texas NAACP and Individual Plaintiff Seek Emergency Order to Prevent Public Health Risk to Texas Voters

ECBAWM, along with Free Speech for People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Lyons & Lyons, P.C., represents Mi Familia Vota, the Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and an individual plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.

Plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to immediately excise the mask mandate exemption in Governor Abbott’s July 2, 2020, Executive Order relating to the use of face masks (Executive Order GA-29). While the Order specifically states that “requiring the use of face coverings is a targeted response that can combat the threat to public health using the least restrictive means,” and that “wearing a face covering is important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming fellow Texans,” it also includes an exemption for all people at polling places:

“Every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; provided, however, that this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following:

8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”

This exemption to Executive Order GA-29 creates an unacceptable and unnecessary health risk to all poll workers and voters, but especially to Black and Latino voters, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are likely to experience serious COVID-19 illnesses more frequently and with a higher rate of death as compared to white COVID-19 patients. Black and Latino voters are also more likely to wait in longer lines than white voters, increasing the chances for exposure to COVID-19.

Despite evidence of this increased risk and the Governor’s own acknowledgment, supported by scientific findings, that masks help combat the spread of COVID-19 by the “least restrictive means,” Governor Abbot has refused to withdraw the exemption for mask wearing at polling sites. Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that the exemption is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because it disproportionately burdens the rights of Black and Latino voters.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Debra L. Greenberger represent the plaintiffs.

Additional coverage of this case:
“5th. Cir. Revives Challenge to Texas’ Voter Mask Exemption” (Law360.com)
“Federal appeals court revives challenges to Texas election policy allowing poll workers to forgo wearing masks” (Jurist)

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ECBAWM Clients Sue Trump Administration for Voter Intimidation

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and individual plaintiffs sued President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf for voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ threats to send “sheriffs” and other “law enforcement” to the polls, their encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes” to monitor the polls, their undermining of mail-in voting, their violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, and their rejection of the peaceful transfer of power, collectively constitute illegal voter intimidation. A motion for preliminary injunctive relief and expedited declaratory relief was filed simultaneously with the complaint. The plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants from continuing to intimidate voters and seek a declaration that defendants’ voter intimidation tactics are unlawful.

Media coverage of the lawsuit can be found at The Hill, Forbes, Newsweek, and Courthouse News.

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Sam Shapiro, and Marissa Benavides represent the clients together with Free Speech for People and Mehri & Skallet, PLLC.

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ECBAWM Clients Challenge Campaign to Send Armed Guards to Minnesota Polls

Free Speech for People, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, and Lathrop GPM LLP, filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of plaintiffs The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota against a private mercenary contractor, Atlas Aegis, for voter intimidation in Minnesota. The complaint alleges that Atlas Aegis’s plan to hire and deploy armed ex-soldiers to polling sites in the state constitutes illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Press Release
More coverage of the lawsuit can be found on The Minnesota Reformer, Talking Points Memo, and Minneapolis Star Tribune.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs, together with Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Time Magazine Publishes Profile of Jamel Floyd Family

Time magazine has published an in-depth profile of the family of Jamel Floyd in the aftermath of his death. Mr. Floyd died on June 3, 2020 at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, after Federal Bureau of Prisons corrections officers pepper-sprayed him and subjected him to excessive force. ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld and associate Nick Bourland represent Jamel’s family in an investigation into his death.

The complete article by Time reporter Sanya Mansoor is accompanied by a photo essay by Yuki Iwamura of Jamel’s wake, funeral, and internment.

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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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