In December 2022, ECBAWM partner, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., published an article in the inaugural edition of the Fordham Voting Rights and Democracy Forum entitled “Taking History Seriously: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Reflections on Progressive Lawyering, and Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The article explores the use of history in the Greene disqualification proceeding that ECBAWM and other voting rights lawyers conducted in April 2022. It argues that progressive lawyers should embrace a nuanced and multifaceted vision of history to support cases that press for social justice and change.
The article is available via link to the FVRDF here.
Noriana Radwan was a soccer player at the University of Connecticut (UConn) when, during a post-game celebration, she raised her middle finger to a television camera. Although she apologized, UConn canceled her athletic scholarship. Radwan sued, alleging First Amendment, Due Process, and Title IX claims. The district court dismissed all of Radwan’s claims on summary judgment.
On appeal, the Second Circuit reviewed issues of free speech, qualified immunity, procedural due process, and sex discrimination. In his column, Maazel explains the Court’s reasoning and how it arrived at its conclusion that Radwan’s case may proceed to trial to resolve the factual question of whether there are “sufficiently similar” incidents with male athletes that would support a claim of sex discrimination under Title IX.
Maazel also questions the repercussions of the Court’s ruling. “Whatever happens to Radwan’s case, however, Radwan leaves us in First Amendment stasis and a familiar qualified immunity quagmire,” he writes. “We can only hope that Congress or the Supreme Court will one day let plaintiffs hold public officials accountable when they break the law, clearly established or not.”
ECBAWM has reached a major class action settlement with the City of New York for people detained by the City Department of Corrections who experienced delays in their release after paying bail. The City has agreed to pay $3,500 per instance of delayed bail release; over 72,000 people may be eligible for a settlement payment. The settlement needs to be approved by the Court after a fairness hearing.
Further information about the settlement is available at www.NYCBailSettlement.com. If you were released on bail from DOC custody between October 4, 2014 and October 21, 2022, and reasonably believe that your release may have been delayed for more than three hours after your bail was paid, you may be eligible for a settlement payment. You will need to submit a claim form online or by mail in order to receive a payment from the Settlement. If your claim is valid, you will get $3,500 for each time your release on bail was delayed. Claim forms will be mailed to identified class members in approximately January 2023. The deadline to submit a claim form either by mail or online at www.NYCBailSettlement.com is June 6, 2023. You may register through the website to be told when the claim forms go live.
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Anthony Sims has been granted parole and freed from prison after serving over 25 years for a murder he did not commit. Anthony was wrongfully convicted of murdering Li Run Chen at a Brooklyn restaurant; evidence that was withheld from the jury exonerated Anthony and points to Julius Graves – the prosecution’s only eyewitness to the shooting – as the killer.
In an interview with NBC New York’s Sarah Wallace, ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, one of Anthony’s attorneys, explained what led to his unlawful conviction. “The NYPD basically ignored any evidence that exonerated Anthony, and the most glaring example is when an independent witness saw Julius Graves exit the restaurant with a gun right after the shooting, told that to the police, and the police kept that information, apparently, to themselves.”
Prosecutors have labeled two witnesses who testified that the police fabricated interview reports as “incredible” and continue to back Graves’ version of the events. “They seem to want to stand behind this man who has lied repeatedly under oath in different statements over the years and it’s frustrating,” said another of Anthony’s attorneys, ECBAM partner Sam Shapiro.
Anthony’s motion to vacate his conviction is currently pending before the Hon. Danny Chun in Kings County. A decision is expected in January.
Keisha Sims, Anthony’s wife, told NBC New York she will never stop fighting. “Not just only for my husband, but there’s a lot of Anthonys out there.”
ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. Maazel, Sam Shapiro, and Nairuby L. Beckles, along with co-counsel Thomas Hoffman and Jonathan Hiles, represent Anthony Sims. More information about the case is available on the Free Anthony Sims website.
On November 15, 2022, the City of Detroit agreed to pay $8.25 million to settle a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit brought by ECBAWM on behalf of Kendrick Scott. Mr. Scott spent over 19 years in prison for a murder he did not commit as a result of civil rights violations by Detroit Police Department detectives. The case alleged that the detectives coerced witnesses, including an intoxicated 14-year-old boy, into giving false statements and also hid evidence, including an exculpatory statement the victim made to her sister.
Mr. Scott was wrongfully convicted in 2000 and was exonerated in 2018, after the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic secured a reversal of his conviction from the Michigan Supreme Court and the prosecutor’s office later dismissed all charges. “Nothing will change the fact that Mr. Scott lost nearly two decades of freedom for something he had nothing to do with,” ECBAWM attorney Zoe Salzman said. “But this settlement speaks to the seriousness of the harm Mr. Scott experienced and will help Mr. Scott focus on the future.”
ECBAWM attorneys Zoe Salzman and Nick Bourland represent Mr. Scott, along with Bill Goodman of Goodman Hurwitz & James PC in Detroit.
A jury has found film director Paul Haggis civilly liable for raping Haleigh Breest, a film industry publicist, in 2013. The jury heard testimony from Ms. Breest as well as from four other women who also accused Haggis of sexual misconduct.
Haggis was ordered to pay $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $10 million.
Despite Haggis’ attempt to have the case dismissed in 2018, ECBAWM obtained a landmark ruling enforcing New York City’s Victims of Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act and allowing the case to proceed. The New York State Supreme Court’s decision was upheld on appeal.
“After the jury heard a mountain of undeniable evidence against Mr. Haggis, they did the right thing and held him accountable for his deplorable behavior. We commend Ms. Breest for the bravery it took to come forward. She stood up for herself and for all women,” said Maazel and Salzman.
The family of an autistic and disabled man has agreed to a $2.25 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit against Eihab Human Services, Inc., an operator of homes and other programs for people with disabilities. The lawsuit alleged Eihab abused, neglected, and almost killed the disabled man. The case was litigated for a decade until the settlement was reached in the middle of a nearly week-long jury trial in a New York federal court. The judge who presided over the case approved the settlement on October 13, 2022.
ECBAWM was assisted by noted jury consultant Dan Cooper in preparation for the trial.
The plaintiff, “A.W.”, the mother of “B.W.”, the young man, filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son in 2012. The complaint alleges that while under Eihab’s care, B.W. was rushed to the hospital six different times, nearly choked to death on a corncob, and had to have a feeding tube inserted after his weight sunk below 100 pounds.
“I’m so thankful we have finally been able to achieve some justice for my son,” said A.W.
“After ten long years, we have a measure of justice for B.W. and his family and accountability for Eihab,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel. “We are gratified that B.W. and his family finally have some closure after this terrible period in their lives.”
ECBAWM successfully defended a government official’s First Amendment right to strongly criticize the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups. The victory came when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision and dismissed all claims against former New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo brought by the National Rifle Association of America.
In a 3-0 decision, the Second Circuit held that the NRA failed to plausibly allege that Ms. Vullo violated its First Amendment rights and that Ms. Vullo was entitled to qualified immunity in her role as DFS Superintendent. The court held that Ms. Vullo was “simply executing her duties as DFS Superintendent and engaging in legitimate enforcement action” when she prosecuted insurance companies’ violations of New York’s insurance law related to the NRA’s CarryGuard product. Ms. Vullo also “was doing her job in good faith” when she advised financial institutions to evaluate the reputational risks of affiliating with the NRA in the wake of the tragic Parkland shooting.
“The ruling validates the work done by a superb public servant who did her job with integrity and passion,” said ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr., who argued the appeal on behalf of former Superintendent Vullo. Ms. Vullo also lauded the Second Circuit’s decision. “For four years, the NRA has proceeded with this baseless case while I remained steadfast in my position,” she said. ECBAWM partner Debra L. Greenberger and associate Marissa R. Benavides also represented Ms. Vullo in the appeal and underlying litigation.