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6th Cir Court of Appeals Reinstates Sex Abuse Case Against The Ohio State University

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the lawsuits of over a hundred sexual abuse survivors against Ohio State University and rejected OSU’s statute of limitation defense.

This decision paves the way for plaintiffs to hold OSU accountable in federal court for the school’s decades-long role in facilitating and concealing the sexual abuse of hundreds of students and others by university physician Dr. Richard Strauss.

In its opinion, the Court explained three independent reasons plaintiffs’ claims should be allowed to proceed. “First, the plaintiffs plausibly allege that they did not know and lacked reason to know that Ohio State caused their injury. Second, they plausibly allege that even if they had investigated further, they could not have learned of Ohio State’s conduct. Third, most plaintiffs plausibly allege that they did not know that they were abused. Alone, each of these grounds is sufficient to delay accrual.”

“For years, Ohio State University hid behind a phony statute of limitations defense to avoid accountability for one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in the history of American higher education,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, who argued the appeal on behalf of over a hundred sexual abuse survivors. “Now OSU can finally be held accountable for enabling and covering up decades of abuse.”

Press
“Court ruling revives unsettled lawsuits vs. Ohio State over sexual abuse by late team doctor Richard Strauss,” Associated Press (also published in ESPN.com, The Public’s Radio)
“Strauss Victims Win Appeal, Able to Move Forward with Case Against Ohio State,” The Lantern
“Lawsuits against Ohio State alleging sex abuse by team doctor can move forward,” NBC News
“Judge allows Strauss survivors’ suit against Ohio State to move forward,” NBC4i.com
“Appeals court rules in favor of Strauss victims, revives lawsuits against Ohio State,” The Columbus Dispatch
“’Milestone’ for victims in the Dr. Richard Strauss court battle,” ABC 6

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Federal Lawsuit Over Barbaric Shackling of Pregnant Woman Settles with New Jersey County for $750,000

Today, ECBAWM and co-counsel Gibbons P.C. announced the settlement of a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a woman who was illegally shackled by Middlesex County, New Jersey officers. The magistrate judge who presided over the case in a New Jersey federal court approved the settlement on September 7, 2022, and the agreement was publicly filed earlier today.

The plaintiff, “Jane Doe,” filed the lawsuit in July 2020. The lawsuit stated that, when she was pregnant and incarcerated in the Middlesex County Jail on a non-violent charge, Middlesex County officers and supervisors shackled her by the wrists, ankles, and waist during prenatal visits, while she was being transported to the hospital, throughout the labor process, up until the moment of an emergency Cesarian section, and even while she was recovering and attempting to bond with her newborn son. When she arrived at the hospital, the officers refused to let Ms. Doe contact her family, forcing her to endure this traumatizing experience alone.

Under the settlement, Middlesex County will pay $750,000 to Ms. Doe’s estate, believed to be one of the largest settlements ever obtained by a victim of shackling during labor. Ms. Doe tragically passed away during the litigation, but her mother “Mary Doe” continued to prosecute and settle the case on behalf of Jane Doe’s estate, and specifically her young son.

“Through this litigation, our daughter sought to inform pregnant incarcerated women of their legal rights,” Ms. Doe’s parents said. “She wanted to bring attention to the horrific harm and injustices that she endured and that so many like her continue to endure. We hope this case has served as a wakeup call to Middlesex County and to law enforcement agencies around the country. They should immediately reform their policies and respect the humanity of the people in their custody.”

Medical experts, correctional experts, and maternal and fetal health experts unanimously agree that pregnant women should not be shackled absent the most extraordinary circumstances. The American Medical Association, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all prohibit and/or oppose shackling pregnant women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery because it poses a grave risk of harm to a pregnant woman’s health, and to the health and safety of her baby.

“According to a 2021 study, there are an estimated 58,000 admissions of pregnant women into U.S. jails and prisons every year, and thousands give birth or have other outcomes while still incarcerated. Our client Jane Doe filed this case to protect the health and dignity of incarcerated pregnant women and their babies. This settlement is an important step in ending shackling of pregnant women,” said Katie Rosenfeld, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP and one of Jane Doe’s lawyers.

Lawrence S. Lustberg, another of Jane Doe’s lawyers, lauded both her courage in bringing the lawsuit and her parent’s tenacity in continuing it. “Were it not for people like Jane Doe and her parents, these kinds of injustices would never be redressed,” Lustberg said. Lustberg also expressed the Doe family’s appreciation for the Court’s assistance in reaching the settlement.

Article

Mamaroneck Racial Bullying Settlement Requiring Significant Reforms Is Approved

A federal court in White Plains has approved a settlement agreement resolving claims of racial bullying against the Mamaroneck school district. The settlement seeks to redress years of racist bullying the plaintiffs endured in Mamaroneck schools. In addition to compensation for the family, the settlement requires significant reform over a two-year period, including the continuation of the District’s Three-Year Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan and District Equity Team; climate surveys with results to be publicized on the District’s website; supplemented teacher training; augmentation of policies concerning student discipline, restorative practices, and counseling; tracking of race-related incidents; and revisions to reporting and investigations of race-related bullying or harassing incidents. The goal of these reforms is to fundamentally change the climate in Mamaroneck’s schools.

The plaintiffs were represented by firm attorneys O. Andrew F. Wilson and Emma Freeman, and law clerk Julian Oppenheimer.

Press
“Mamaroneck schools settle racial harassment lawsuit, call hurt ‘regrettable’,” Lohud.com

Article

On Behalf of Survivors, ECBAWM Argues for OSU Sexual Assault Lawsuits to Be Revived

Representing over 100 sexual assault survivors of The Ohio State University’s Dr. Richard Strauss whose lawsuits against OSU were dismissed on statutes of limitations grounds, ECBAM partner Ilann Maazel argued before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week that those lawsuits should be revived.

In his September 2021 ruling dismissing the lawsuits, U.S. District Court Judge (S.D. Ohio) Michael Watson wrote, “Ohio State utterly failed these victims … today, the legal system also fails Plaintiffs.” However, he held that the statute of limitations barred survivor lawsuits that were brought in 2018 and 2019.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit and the case was argued this week. Arguing for the plaintiffs, Maazel pointed out that OSU’s indifference and concealment made it impossible for the complete picture of Strauss’ wrongdoing to be known – or for lawsuits to be filed – during Strauss’ tenure. Maazel also noted that in 2018, OSU itself said it didn’t have answers as to what school leaders knew while Strauss was employed at the school. “And if they didn’t know in 20128, how on earth did students and teenagers know that in the 1980s and 1990s?”

Related
Audio Recording of the Oral Argument

Press
“Men Abused by Ohio State doctor ask court to revive lawsuits,” Associated Press
(also appearing in the Washington PostYahoo, the Albany Times Union, the Seattle Times, and the Houston Chronicle)
“On appeal, lawyers for Strauss victims say OSU shouldn’t profit off ‘deception’,” Ohio Capital Journal
“Lawyers representing Strauss Victims Argue to Overturn the Dismissal of Their Cases,” The Lantern

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NYLJ Publishes Adult Survivors Act Article by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

In “The Adult Survivors Act: A Window of Opportunity,” his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel outlines the different options sexual assault survivors have for seeking justice in New York Courts. Maazel explains the differences between the Child Victims Act, the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Prevention Act, and other statutes that can potentially be used to commence legal proceedings. Most pressing, Maazel explains, is the recently passed Adult Survivors Act (ASA), which creates a one-year window for survivors sexually abused in New York State after their 18th birthday the opportunity to file a lawsuit against not only their abuser(s), but against any person or institution whose negligence proximately caused the abuse. Maazel emphasizes that the one-year window begins on November 24, 2022 and will close on November 24, 2023. “Given the many years it took to pass the ASA, it is impossible to know when, if ever, a window of opportunity to bring these claims will occur again.”

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Family of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota Calls For Full Investigation of His Death in June 29, 2022 Police Shooting

The Firm is representing the family of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota in an investigation into his tragic and untimely death on June 29, 2022, when he was shot and killed by police officers in Saranac Lake, New York.

The family’s statement is below:

Our beloved son and brother Joshua was shot and killed by police officers in Saranac Lake, New York on June 29, 2022. He was just 33 years old.

No words can capture the devastation we feel. Joshua was important. He was loved. He deserved more and definitely did not deserve to die.

Our family is united in the pursuit of a true account of the events leading up to Joshua’s death. We are determined to learn the circumstances that led to his killing, and to seek justice for Joshua, in whatever form that can take. We are confident that important facts about the events leading to Joshua’s death will be revealed through a competent and impartial investigation.

By: Gail Melody Leak-Kavota, Mother; Rev. Rondesia Jarett-Schell, Sister; and Ronald Jarrett, Brother

Photo of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota sitting on green couch

Investigation Into the Death of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota

Article

Rochester Beacon Publishes Feature on ECBAWM Founding Partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr.

In “The Celli Principle,” Rochester Beacon reporter Will Astor presents an in-depth profile of ECBAWM founding partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. The article spans Celli’s career to date, including his service as the Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, his role as Special Counsel Investigator for the City of Rochester in the arrest and death of Daniel Prude, and his involvement in recent federal election law cases. Of his more than thirty years with ECBAWM, Celli says, “These friends of mine who are my law partners, these are the kind of people I’d leave my kids with. These are dear, dear friends. All of my partners are people who are deeply ethical and just care about the world. To spend every day working with them is a joy.”

Article

ECBAWM Announces an Adult Survivors Act Practice

ECBAWM announces that it is creating an Adult Survivors Act (ASA) practice to represent survivors to pursue sexual abuse cases under New York’s ASA, which became law on May 24, 2022. The new law allows adult victims (people who were 18 or older at the time of the abuse) a one-time opportunity to file civil lawsuits in New York, even if any statutes of limitations have otherwise run out. The one-year window to file claims will open in November 2022 and ECBAWM is actively representing survivors now.

Article

LGBTQ Students Win Right to Form Official Student Club at Yeshiva University

On Tuesday, June 14, 2022, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, ordered that Yeshiva University immediately recognize an undergraduate LGBTQ student organization, the YU Pride Alliance, and grant the YU Pride Alliance “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of all other student groups at Yeshiva” as required by the New York City Human Rights Law.

The LGBTQ student group and four current and former students filed the civil rights lawsuit against Yeshiva University in April 2021, arguing that the university’s ongoing refusal to recognize the club was discriminatory and harmful to students. The court’s decision affirms that as an institution of higher education in New York, Yeshiva University must follow the City’s anti-discrimination law and cannot treat LGBTQ students worse or differently than other students on campus. As the Court, Justice Lynn L. Kotler, held: “What plaintiffs seek is simply equal access to the tangible benefits that Yeshiva affords other student groups on its campus.”

ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld, who along with ECBAWM attorneys Max Selver and Marissa Benavides represented the Plaintiffs, said: “The court’s decision paves the way for LGBTQ students and allies at Yeshiva University to fully participate in their community as equal members, just as the New York City Human Rights Law guarantees. Now the students can move on with the true work of their organization: peer support, discussions groups, community service projects, social events, speaker series, and other positive and important student efforts. It’s fitting that the court’s important ruling comes this month, as we celebrate June as LGBTQ Pride Month.”

Documents
Decision and Order
Press Release

Press Coverage
“Yeshiva University Must Recognize L.G.B.T.Q. Club, Judge Says,” NewYork Times
“Yeshiva University LGBTQ group wins first round in fight for recognition,” Gay City News
“Push to have LGBTQ club at Yeshiva University recognized,” FOX 5 New York

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Nine ECBAWM Partners Named to Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” 2022 List

ECBAWM is pleased to announce that nine firm partners have been named to the “2022 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” list. The list was created “through nominations and independent journalistic research vetted by peers and adversaries,” legal media company Lawdragon explained on its website.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Debra L. Greenberger, Ilann Margalit Maazel, Katherine Rosenfeld, Zoe Salzman, Sam Shapiro, Earl S. Ward, and O. Andrew F. Wilson were each recognized as attorneys “who have dedicated their careers to standing up for our rights in workplaces and in society.”

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