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Two Child Sexual Abuse Cases Filed Against Cold Spring Harbor High School

Cold Spring Harbor High School Class of 1982 graduates Lynda Cutbill and Susan Rule Sandler (formerly Susan Shanahan) filed complaints in the Islip federal courthouse today seeking to hold the Cold Spring Harbor School District and Board of Education accountable for enabling and emboldening the horrific and violent sexual abuse perpetrated against them by two teachers, whom the school knew to be dangerous predators of children.

According to the complaints, the District knew that Thomas Kohm, a venerated science teacher known for his Ivy League college connections, and art teacher William Kail, a talented artist in his own right who boasted about his connections in the art community and with art schools, had engaged in unchecked, predatory behavior toward its girl students for many years. Instead of firing these dangerous men or reporting their child sexual abuse crimes to the police, the District covered up the abuse.

Between 1978 and 1980, Thomas Kohm groomed, then horrifically and methodically abused, 14-year-old Susan Shanahan during her freshman and sophomore years. Kohm’s abuse included violently raping her during a school event—a 1980 Cotton Bowl Parade float competition in Dallas. Many of Kohm’s near-daily attacks occurred during the school day in a science classroom storage area.

In March of 1980, Susan reported the abuse to the District’s most powerful officials and warned them that she believed Kohm was also abusing his own children. The District made the cynical tactical decision not to report Kohm’s crimes to the police. It permitted Kohm to quietly resign. The District continued to grant Kohm access to the School after his resignation, enabling Kohm to relentlessly retaliate against Susan until her 1982 graduation. In 2003, Wade County in North Carolina convicted Kohm of the crime of indecent liberties with a child—he had sexually abused his granddaughters. He became a registered sex offender.

“I am coming forward today, not just for me, and not just for Mr. Kohm’s other victims, but also for the countless others who, like me, struggle throughout their lives to survive both the torture of being sexually abused and the paralyzing fear that asking for help, even from the adults that were charged with protecting children, would be futile and would instead be met with hostility and demeaning retaliation,” said Susan Rule Sandler. “For decades, the School District has kept what Mr. Kohm did to me in the back of my science classroom and in Dallas, along with the cruelty of how they treated me after his abuse came to light, a secret. No more. Filing this lawsuit is the next necessary step in the fight for accountability and justice.”

From 1979 through 1982, art teacher William Kail sexually abused Lynda Cutbill from the time she was in middle school until she graduated from high school. Kail used Lynda’s passion for art and ambition to be an artist to gain sexual access to her. Kail sexually abused her hundreds of times during the school day in his office and in an art storage area. The Complaint details that school administrators had been specifically told that Kail was abusing another high school girl. Instead of firing Kail, the District continued to grant him unsupervised access to the secluded areas within the school which he continued to use to abuse Lynda. The District chose silence over reporting Kail’s criminal behavior to the police or protecting Lynda.

“On an almost daily basis beginning in middle school and lasting through high school graduation, my art teacher, Mr. Kail, sexually abused me hundreds of times during my school day,” said Lynda Cutbill. “Mr. Kail weaponized my passion for art and talent as an artist by demanding that I submit to his relentless sexual assaults as a condition of him mentoring me to success as a college art student and career as an artist. Mr. Kail chose to make me his victim because he knew that my home life was tumultuous and that school officials, who had received prior reports that he sexually abused another student, would callously turn a blind eye to obvious sexual abuse danger signs. I am coming forward today because no child should ever have to endure what I did and no institution, no matter how powerful, should be permitted to benefit from their complicit silence by escaping justice.”

“I applaud Lynda and Susan for having the courage to come forward and demand accountability and justice,” said ECBAWM partner Debbie Greenberger, who, along with Pennsylvania attorney Andrew Shubin, represents the plaintiffs. “We know that they are not Kohm or Kail’s only victims. I shudder to think about how many other victims there are who have stayed silent for years, believing they were the only girl these trusted teachers abused. We encourage witnesses to contact us.”

Greenberger and Shubin credit the 2018 New York Child Victims Act, which reformed the statute of limitations to provide child sexual abuse survivors like Lynda and Susan with a window (which expires on August 14, 2021) to file civil claims and demand accountability. “All child sexual abuse victims should have access to justice,” said Greenberger, “no matter their age.”

Press
“2 women who say they were sexually abused as students at Cold Spring Harbor HS file lawsuit,” Long Island News 12 (video)

Article

ECBAWM and Public Citizen Represent Amici Legal Scholars Supporting Amazon Workers in Second Circuit Case

ECBAWM, along with Public Citizen Litigation Group, represents eleven law professors with expertise in civil procedure and federal courts in an amici curiae brief filed in Derrick Palmer, et. al v. Amazon, Inc, et al in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Palmer v. Amazon, the plaintiffs allege that defendants Amazon.com, Inc. and Amazon.com Services, LLC (collectively, “Amazon”) failed to comply with New York State health and safety requirements during a deadly pandemic. The lower court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss, ruling that “pursuant to the doctrine of primary jurisdiction,” the plaintiffs were required to seek relief through the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and not the courts.

The law professors, who hail from New York University School of Law, City University of New York School of Law, University of Texas School of Law, George Washington University Law School, New York Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wake Forest University, University of Alabama School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center, filed their brief in support of defendants’ appeal of the decision to dismiss.

The district court erred in dismissing “state-law claims arising from the defendants’ allegedly unsafe working conditions,” by relying “on an expansive conception of primary jurisdiction that finds no warrant in the precedent of the Supreme Court or in this Court,” the professors explained in the brief. The professors request that the Second Circuit reverse the lower court’s decision with respect to the application of the primary jurisdiction doctrine.

ECBAWM partner Debbie Greenberger represents the amici curiae law professors.

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ECBAWM Secures Landmark Settlement Between Voting Rights Advocates and Private Security Company Charged with Voter Intimidation

A federal judge has approved a sweeping settlement in a lawsuit brought by voting rights advocates against a private security contractor, Atlas Aegis, for illegal voter intimidation in Minnesota. ECBAWM’s clients, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWV-MN), celebrated the settlement as a major victory for democracy.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy E. Brasel approved a consent decree that resolves all remaining claims in the lawsuit. Under the consent decree, which lasts until January 1, 2025, Atlas Aegis and its Chairman and co-founder Anthony Caudle are:

  • Prohibited from deploying armed agents within 250 feet of (or otherwise monitoring) any early voting location during early voting, a polling place on election day, places where ballots are being counted, recounted, or canvassed; or where county canvassing boards or the State Canvassing Board are meeting to canvass, inspect, or declare the results of that election; or where Minnesota’s presidential electors are meeting to vote in the presidential general election.
  • Prohibited from otherwise taking any action to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters, people aiding voters, or people engaged in tabulating, counting, or reporting votes.
  • Required to notify CAIR-MN and LWV-MN in writing 25 days before any federal election if they are supplying security personnel for any non-election-related protective services (e.g., providing security for an art exhibition or concert) where armed security personnel may be visible to the public within 250 feet of a polling place on election day.

Any violations of the consent decree will be enforceable as contempt of court.

The consent decree approved by the federal court requires the plaintiffs to state as follows:

“This matter has been resolved by agreement. The parties have agreed that Defendants shall be restricted in their actions as set forth in the terms of the attached Consent Decree. Defendants have not admitted any liability and specifically deny they have committed any statutory violation.”

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Matthew Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad, as well as Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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ECBAWM Files Putative Class Action on Behalf of Inmates Denied Rehab, Early Release

ECBAWM has filed a putative class action on behalf of Michael Matzell, who was formerly incarcerated in a New York State Department of Corrections (“DOCCS”) facility, and other similarly situated individuals who were denied participation in DOCCS’ Shock Incarceration Program (“Shock”) even though their participation was court-ordered.

Shock is a six-month boot-camp style program that provides incarcerated people with substance abuse treatment, therapy, education, and other reintegration services. As part of New York State’s Drug Reform Act of 2009, sentencing judges have the authority to order participation in the Shock program. Once participation is ordered by a court, the DOCCS does not have discretion to deny participation.

Yet, that is exactly what the DOCCS did to Mr. Matzell and over 300 other incarcerated people who were entitled to participate in Shock. Rather than follow the law, DOCCS created its own program criteria that denied Mr. Matzell – and hundreds of others – entry into the program. Inexplicably, one of the criteria DOCCS cited in improperly denying Mr. Matzell participation in the program that would have provided him with substance abuse treatment is that he had received an infraction for substance abuse.

By acting outside the bounds of their legal authority, DOCCS staff denied class members of the early release they would have been entitled to upon completion of the Shock program. For Mr. Matzell, this means he was forced to serve an additional 506 days that he would not have had to serve had he been allowed to participate in Shock as ordered by the court.

ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Debra Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs.

Related Press
“N.Y. prisons ignore court orders that inmates go to rehab: suit” (New York Daily News)

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ECBAWM Files Set of Election Cases to Protect Voting Rights

Over the past week, ECBAWM has filed three federal lawsuits to protect voting rights for the November 3 election.

In Council on Islamic Relations-Minnesota and League of Women Voters of Minnesota v. Atlas Aegis LLC, et al., we filed a lawsuit against a private security contractor for voter intimidation in Minnesota. On Thursday, October 29, a federal court enjoined the contractor from coming within 2,500 feet of Minnesota polling sites and from intimidating Minnesota voters.

In Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., we filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the defendants, including President Donald J. Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfe from continuing to intimidate voters.

Press
“’Threats Terrifyingly Credible’: Trump Administration Sued for Alleged ‘Violent’ Voter Intimidation” (Newsweek)
“Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation” (The Hill)
“Trump Sued Over Alleged Voter Intimidation By Rights Group” (Forbes)
“Calling Trump a ‘Clear Threat to Our Democracy,’ Civil Rights Group Sues Admin. Over Voter Intimidation” (Common Dreams)
“Civil rights group sues Trump administration over voter intimidation: A ‘clear threat to our democracy’” (AlterNet)
“Mi Familia Vota sues Trump admin, alleging election sabatoge” (The Tucson Sentinel)
“Mi Familia Vota Sues Trump Citing Pattern Of “Violently Suppressing Opposition, Sabotaging A Free And Fair Election” (Latin Life Denver)
“Group Says Trump Must Be Stopped From Sowing Election Day Chaos” (Courthouse News Service)

In Mi Familia Vota, Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, et al. v. Greg Abbott and Ruth Hughs, we filed an emergency motion to excise Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “voting” exemption from the statewide mask mandate. Our motion that would require voters and poll workers in Texas to wear masks during early voting and on Election Day was granted.

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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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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 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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New York Court Strikes Down Unlawful Airbnb Tickets

On May 8, 2020, a New York state court ruled that ECBAWM client Stanley “Skip” Karol may rent out a portion of his Brooklyn home through Airbnb. The court directed the City to return the thousands of dollars in fines it had levied against Mr. Karol and to “[l]eave the poor guy alone.” The City had ticketed Mr. Karol for renting out his basement through Airbnb. ECBAWM attorneys filed a case challenging the legality of those tickets, and the Court ruled in Mr. Karol’s favor.

Reporting on the decision appears in the New York Daily News and in Politico.

Mr. Karol is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Debra L. Greenberger, and Andrew K. Jondahl.

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