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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 the 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.

To read more about the lawsuit, click here.

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.

A full copy of the decision can be found here. Reporting on the decision appears in the New York Daily News here and in Politico here and here.

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

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New York Times Features Victories by ECBAWM Clients over Big Development

Two ECBAWM clients were featured by the New York Times in its recent article The People vs. Big Development. The article highlights a court order blocking a massive development project, heavily opposed by the local community, in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  The New York City Council, represented by ECBAWM, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for approving the project without undergoing the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires extensive community input and final approval by the City Council. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a permanent injunction enjoining any construction on the project until a ULURP review is performed.

The article also highlights the legal challenge to the 200 Amsterdam tower, in which ECBAWM represents the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development in a suit challenging the developer’s creation of a “gerrymandered” 39-sided zoning lot.  As The Times reports, the resulting out-of-scale tower would be over twice the height of nearby towers, and the “tallest north of 61st Street.”

To read the article, click here.

ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr.Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

ECBAWM Attorneys Richard D. Emery and Katherine Rosenfeld represent the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development.

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ECBAWM Files Suit Against Boy Scouts On Behalf of an Eagle Scout Who Was Sexually Abused and Coerced Into Underage Sex Work By His Scoutmaster

On January 2020, ECBAWM filed suit on behalf of Ronald Hernandez Hunter, an eagle scout who was sexually abused by an Assistant Scoutmaster while participating in the Boy Scouts as an adolescent in Bushwick, Brooklyn in the 1970s. As detailed in the complaint, the Boy Scouts amassed a trove of records about rampant sexual abuse in Scouting over the course of decades, but failed to institute policies to protect scouts from abuse. The suit alleges that the Boy Scouts’ negligent approach to selecting and supervising adult volunteers and its deceptive marketing of its programs as a wholesome and safe activity for children allowed Mr. Hunter to be sexually exploited by Assistant Scoutmaster Charlie Acevedo.  Acevedo was later convicted of multiple crimes involving child molestation and is now serving a life sentence in prison in Florida.

As ECBAWM attorney David Lebowitz told the New York Daily News, “Ron’s case is unusually horrific because he was abused so many times over so many years and trafficked into sex work by his Scoutmaster. Sadly, the underlying story is all too common: Ron lost his childhood because the Boy Scouts failed to protect him and other young men from the sexual abuse they knew was rampant in the organization. If they had instituted common-sense rules and procedures, Ron never would’ve suffered this horrible abuse.”

“Many sexual abuse survivors understandably choose to file suit anonymously because of the continuing shame and trauma,” said ECBAWM partner Debbie Greenberger. “Ron’s bravery stands out—he is bringing this case under his own name because he hopes that by reclaiming his story he will inspire other survivors to come forward. We have brought this case because the Boy Scouts never should have allowed a pedophile like Charlie Acevedo free reign to molest vulnerable boys.”

To read the complaint, click here. To read coverage of the case in the New York Daily News, click here.

ECBAWM’s Debbie Greenberger and David Lebowitz represent Mr. Hunter in the suit.

 

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NBC News features OSU survivor Stephen Snyder-Hill

OSU survivor Stephen Snyder-Hill was profiled by NBC News. Snyder-Hill, a prominent LGBTQ activist and a military veteran, is now advocating for sexual assault survivors in a case against The Ohio State University. The federal lawsuit alleges rape, assault and molestation by former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss over the course of decades. The complaint to Snyder-Hill., et al. v. The Ohio State University, 18-CV-00736, is available here.

“It’s about all the sexual assault survivors that are out there that might not have a voice,” Synder-Hill said to NBC News. “This is our fight, not just my fight.”

Snyder-Hill and over 80 other survivors are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, Scott E. Smith of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel and Alexandra Brodsky of Public Justice. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

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43 Survivors File New Complaint Against Ohio State

43 additional survivors of the ongoing sexual assault scandal at The Ohio State University (OSU) filed a new lawsuit alleging years of rape, assault and molestation by former team doctor Richard Strauss. The lawsuit alleges that OSU’s “culture of institutional indifference to the rights and safety of its students has permitted serial sexual predators and harassers to thrive at the university for the last four decades.”

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, Scott E. Smith and Brian Noethlich of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel and Alexandra Brodsky of Public Justice. This is the second case brought by these law firms against OSU and they collectively represent over 80 survivors. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

The press release is available here. To read the Washington Post’s coverage of the case, click here.

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Ohio State Admits Dr. Strauss Committed As Many Rapes As the Golden State Killer

In an astonishing development, The Ohio State University has now admitted that its employee, Dr. Richard Strauss, committed 47 rapes and 1,429 sexual assaults of student-patients, over a period of two decades. The admissions, from OSU’s Annual Security Report and website, are here (p. 61, admitting to 992 sexual assaults and 30 rapes reported in 2018) and here (admitting to 437 sexual assaults and 17 rapes by Strauss reported so far this year). (The Golden State Killer is reported to have committed approximately 45-50 rapes.)

These numbers dwarf the previously reported 177 sexual assaults of OSU student-patients in a report from Perkins Coie, the law firm hired by The Ohio State University’s Special Counsel. That report found that “Despite the persistence, seriousness, and regularity of … complaints” of sexual abuse from students since 1979, “no meaningful action was taken by the University to investigate the concerns until January 1996.”

“This is one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in U.S. history, said Ilann M. Maazel, co-counsel for survivor Steve Snyder-Hill and 76 other plaintiffs. “No words can describe the scope, the scale, or the appalling nature of OSU’s failure to protect its own students.”

“Ohio State claims it is being transparent by reporting nearly 1500 incidents of rape and sexual assault by Dr. Strauss, but it still refuses to disclose how many students were abused,” said Adele P. Kimmel, also co-counsel. “Ohio State knows how many students have reported abuse by Strauss and should disclose that to the public. It is clearly far more than the 177 students referenced in the Perkins Coie report.”

“This new information further shows OSU has known but continues to conceal evidence of Dr. Strauss’s serial sexual abuse. They were guilty of covering it up then and they are guilty of covering it up today,” said Scott E. Smith, also co-counsel.

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, Scott E. Smith and Brian Noethlich of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel of Public Justice. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

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Court Grants Preliminary Injunction and Article 78 Petition Blocking Construction in Two Bridges Neighborhood

On August 1, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a preliminary injunction and Article 78 Petition blocking the construction of four massive towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan. The New York City Council, represented by ECBAWM, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council.  ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr.Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

The decision was covered by the New York Times,  New York Post, Gothamist, and Curbed.

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Representing the New York City Council, ECBAWM Obtains Temporary Halt to Two Bridges Development

On June 5, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron extended a temporary restraining order blocking the construction of a development project in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan. The City Council, represented by ECBAWM, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council. ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr., Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

The decision was covered by the New York Post, Gothamist, The Real Deal, and City Limits.

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