Sociologist Shamus Khan, Chair and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, praises the work of ECBAWM in a forthcoming article in Sociological Forum magazine. The article, entitled “The Subpoena of Ethnographic Data,” describes the ethical and legal challenges faced when Prof. Khan, a renowned scholar of gender, sexuality, and cultural elites, received a document subpoena seeking the production of ethnographic data. The data in question was collected by Prof. Khan at St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school which Khan profiled in his ground-breaking book Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. The subpoena arose from a civil suit brought by a young woman who, as a student at St. Paul’s, alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by another student. The case gained national attention and the accused young man was found guilty of statutory rape. The subpoena sought, among other things, copies of Prof. Khan’s contemporaneous field notes of observations he had made of students, faculty, and administrators while living on the campus of St. Paul’s in 2004-2005. Describing ECBAWM as a “powerful law firm” and thanking ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. for “his counsel,” the article details the firm’s successful effort to force the withdrawal of the subpoena. The firm invoked case law that extends the First-Amendment-based “journalist’s privilege” to academic researchers like Prof. Khan. In addition to Mr. Celli, firm associate David Lebowitz handled the matter for Prof. Khan.
On January 11, 2019 the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted ECBAWM client Equan Yunus a preliminary injunction removing his unconstitutional designation as a sex offender. Although Mr. Yunus has never committed sexual misconduct, he had been forced to register as a sex offender under New York’s irrational and overbroad offender registration laws. Because of this designation, Mr. Yunus was subject to numerous overbearing parole conditions designed to deter sex offenses that bore no relation to his crime of conviction, including limitations on his ability to access a cell phone or computer and to interact with minor members of his own family.
While the New York Court of Appeals had upheld this law as rational years earlier in another case, the federal court agreed with Mr. Yunus and ECBAWM that this treatment as a sex offender violated his constitutional right to substantive due process. Mr. Yunus’s designation and its accompanying oppressive restrictions must be removed as a result of the Court’s ruling.
ECBAWM has settled the 2016 Pennsylvania recount case brought by presidential candidate Jill Stein and Pennsylvania voters. The lawsuit challenged Pennsylvania’s use of paperless voting systems, as well as its byzantine, anti-voter recount procedures.
The settlement requires Pennsylvania to provide voter-verifiable paper ballots to all voters by 2020, and automatic, robust, statewide election audits by 2022.
“With this settlement, Pennsylvania will go from an election integrity backwater to a national leader,” said Ilann M. Maazel. “We will be watching closely to ensure Pennsylvania implements every one of these important election reforms.”
The Pennsylvania plaintiffs are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Ali Frick, and Doug Lieb, as well as co-counsel Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. In addition, Jonathan Abady and Andrew G. Celli Jr. represented the overall Stein 2016 recount effort.
ECBAWM, along with the law firm of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, has filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of four individuals and a putative class against Donald J. Trump and the Trump Corporation, as well as Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump, alleging that Plaintiffs were victims of three businesses promoted by Mr. Trump, in his personal capacity, and the other defendants. The Complaint alleges that Mr. Trump and the other defendants conspired to deceptively endorse a series of sham businesses including ACN, the Trump Network, and the Trump Institute. In exchange for undisclosed endorsement fees, the Complaint alleges, defendants promoted these businesses with the power of the Trump brand — all to persuade vulnerable parties such as the Plaintiffs to invest in opportunities defendants knew had little chance of success. The filing was covered by, among other outlets, the New York Times.
ECBAWM is credited for its legal work in Michael Moore’s new film ” Fahrenheit 11/9.” The film – a scathing indictment of the state of American politics, media, and culture in the Trump Era – was the subject of a pre-release legal vetting by ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. Watch the trailer for the film here.
In a victory for the First Amendment, a New York judge granted ECBAWM’s motion on behalf of the Avaaz Foundation, a global civic movement, to quash a sweeping document subpoena issued by the Monsanto Company, the multi-billion-dollar agricultural and biotech giant. The subpoena sought access to three-and-a-half years’ worth of Avaaz’s confidential political communications, internal strategy memos, and campaign plans – its political “playbook,” in the judge’s words – for its ongoing, worldwide effort to persuade governments around the world to ban the chemical agent glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® products. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and a California jury recently found that Roundup® caused a school groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In quashing the subpoena, Justice Shlomo Hagler of the New York County Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto’s request would have a “tremendous chilling effect” on the protected First Amendment activities of Avaaz and other civic organizations. Giving Monsanto access to Avaaz’s internal communications, Justice Hagler explained, would discourage Avaaz and its members from participating in “a movement they feel is just and right.” Justice Hagler also ruled that the documents Monsanto sought were “utterly irrelevant” to a Missouri lawsuit for which it purportedly sought them. If enforced, the subpoena would have required Avaaz to produce its campaign plans, strategy deliberations, and research to Monsanto. ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Doug Lieb represent Avaaz in this matter.
On July 18, 2018, ECBAWM filed a federal lawsuit against the City of New York and others on behalf of Stanley “Skip” Karol, a lifelong Brooklyn resident, who uses the Airbnb platform to rent out part of his family home. The suit alleges that, in violation of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause, the City retaliated against Mr. Karol for his remarks criticizing City officials and policy at a public hearing before the New York City Council on June 26, 2018. Concerned that the legislation pending before the Council would put him in the same category as operators of illegal hotels, Mr. Karol exercised his First Amendment rights by participating in a public hearing on the bill. Days later, City enforcement officials appeared at Mr. Karol’s two-family home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and issued him four summonses carrying fines of tens of thousands of dollars. The complaint alleges that the enforcement effort aimed at Mr. Karol was retaliatory, and the summonses issued to Mr. Karol are baseless. “People shouldn’t have to worry that when they go home, there’s going to be a knock on the door just because they decided to speak up against the government,” ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. told the press. The case was covered in Gothamist, the New York Post, New York Daily News, Patch.com, and Newsday and is the subject of a New York Post editorial.
Mr. Karol is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Debra Greenberger, and Ashok Chandran.
On April 17, 2018, ECBAWM filed an Article 78 and Declaratory Judgment Petition in New York County Supreme Court on behalf of the Council of the City of New York, Council Member Ritchie J. Torres, Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, and Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and against Zachary W. Carter, the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. The Petition challenges the Corporation Counsel’s assertion that only that office can represent members of the City Council who wish to file friend-of-the-court briefs in their official capacities as Council Members. The City Council and the Council Members allege that both the separation of powers and the First Amendment allow them to retain their own lawyers for purposes of filing friend-of-the-court briefs in their official capacities.
On behalf of the Avaaz Foundation (“Avaaz”), a global civic movement, ECBAWM has filed a motion in New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking to quash a sweeping document subpoena from Monsanto Company, the multinational agrochemical and biotech company. The subpoena seeks documents reflecting Avaaz’s multi-year effort to persuade governments worldwide to ban the chemical agent glyphosate, which is believed to be the world’s most widely-used herbicide. Glyphosate is the active agent in Roundup®, a Monsanto product. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a public evaluation concluding that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic in humans.” Avaaz, with over 46 million members and staff in 23 countries, has been described by The Guardian as “the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network,” and the campaign against glyphosate is just one of Avaaz’s many member-driven campaigns.
The Monsanto subpoena – which was issued in January 2018 as part of a personal injury case in which agricultural workers are suing Monsanto over claims that they contracted cancer after exposure to Roundup® – seeks to compel the production of virtually every document in Avaaz’s possession concerning its political activities around glyphosate and Monsanto. If enforced, the subpoena would require the turnover of Avaaz’s confidential internal communications and deliberations, campaign plans, research and source material, and even member and donor information. ECBAWM’s filing argues that the subpoena violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and New York’s Reporter’s Shield law; calls for the production of documents that are irrelevant to the underlying personal injury case; and imposes an undue burden on Avaaz. The Guardian, Eco Watch, and other media outlets have reported on the case.
Avaaz is represented in this matter by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Douglas E. Lieb.