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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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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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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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Fourth Circuit Cites Amicus Brief Filed by ECBAWM

In an opinion issued today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit quoted and relied on an amicus brief filed by ECBAWM on behalf of law professors Aziz Huq and Erwin Chemerinsky. The case involves claims brought by a former federal public defender in North Carolina who alleges she was sexually assaulted by members of the public defender’s office. The amicus brief ECBAWM filed argued that the District Court misapplied the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

ECBAWM partners Ilann Maazel and Sam Shapiro authored the brief, which can be found here.

The Fourth Circuit opinion can be read in its entirety here.

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CNN Investigates Wrongful Conviction of Anthony Sims

The wrongful conviction of Anthony Sims for the 1998 murder of Li Run Chen is the subject of a recent investigation by CNN reporter Jeff Winter. Anthony has served 23 years in prison despite undisputed evidence that points to a different perpetrator altogether, and despite decades of wrongdoing by law enforcement officials in withholding substantial Brady material and evidence of Anthony’s innocence.

CNN’s detailed report presents the timeline of the crime, the initial investigation, trial, and current legal hearings on Anthony’s motion to vacate his conviction and dismiss all charges against him. It also recounts testimony from a new witness whose testimony directly implicates another individual and exonerates Anthony.

As previously established, Mr. Chen was killed by a single shotgun blast while working at a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. Anthony has maintained throughout his arrest and incarceration that the murder was committed by his former friend Julius Graves – who was, conveniently, the single eyewitness to testify at trial that Anthony fired the fatal shot. In the current hearing on Anthony’s motion, however, Graves’ neighbor Rachel testified that the murder was committed by Graves because he was mad that Mr. Chen had touched Graves’ wife’s hand earlier that day. Rachel also testified that she saw Graves running out of the restaurant after she heard a shot, and that she called the police to tell them that Graves was the killer.

“On the basis of (Rachel’s) testimony alone, it’s plain that Anthony Sims did not receive a fair trial and his conviction should be vacated,” said Ilann M. Maazel, one of Anthony’s attorneys. “The jury never heard any of this evidence.”

ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. Maazel, Sam Shapiro, and Nairuby L. Beckles, along with attorneys Thomas Hoffman and Jonathan Hiles, represent Anthony Sims. More information about the case is available on the Free Anthony Sims website.

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ECBAWM Achieves $1.5M Settlement for Developmentally Disabled Individual Abused in New York State-Run Group Home

ECBAWM has obtained a $1.5 million settlement from the State of New York on behalf of M.F., a developmentally disabled resident of a New York State-run group home who experienced serial abuse by caretakers.

As set forth in the lawsuit, for years, M.F. was subjected to constant abuse by staff members while in residence at the Union Avenue IRA in the Bronx, run by New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Union Avenue staff testified that M.F. was constantly covered in bruises throughout their stay, and staff also witnessed colleagues subjecting M.F. to physical abuse, inhumane confinement, and forced feedings. In spite of the heinous abuse they witnessed, not one staff member or supervisor reported the abuse to law enforcement, the state’s abuse hotline, or M.F.’s family.

The lawsuit also revealed that the State failed M.F. by turning a blind eye to reports showing systemic abuse at Union Avenue and failing to train staff and supervisors on incident reporting.

The New York Times previously reported on this case and the conditions at Union Avenue in Episode 27 (“The Promise”) of The Weekly.

M.F. is represented by Ilann Maazel and Max Selver.

Press
“NY To Pay $1.5M To End Group Home Resident Abuse Suit,” Law.com

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ECBAWM Obtains $8 Million Settlement for Wrongful Conviction Under Queens DA Richard Brown

ECBAWM, together with co-counsel Thomas Hoffman and Joel Rudin, has reached a settlement of $8 million with the City of New York on behalf of Kareem Bellamy, a man who was wrongfully convicted in 1995 and served more than 14 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Kareem Bellamy was an innocent man charged by the Queens District Attorney’s Office for a 1994 murder in Far Rockaway, NY. During the criminal investigation, the prosecution and/or police came into possession of exonerating evidence that they did not disclose to Mr. Bellamy and fabricated evidence to implicate Mr. Bellamy. The prosecution also engaged in misconduct during Mr. Bellamy’s trial by making inflammatory comments while speaking to the jury. These civil rights violations were part of a pattern of the Queens District Attorney’s Office under District Attorney Richard Brown that has recently come to light and has formed the basis for multiple wrongful conviction claims against the City of New York.

After the New York state court released Mr. Bellamy based on new evidence showing his innocence, Mr. Bellamy sued the City of New York for the constitutional violations that led to his wrongful imprisonment. During this lawsuit, ECBAWM and co-counsel uncovered a document from Richard Brown to top aide Jack Ryan stating, “Jack, I think we’ve been getting away with this sort of thing for a long time.”

Mr. Bellamy was represented by Earl Ward, Ilann M. Maazel, and Marissa Benavides, as well as co-counsel Thomas Hoffman and Joel Rudin.

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ECBAWM Challenges Dismissal of 118 Plaintiffs’ Sex Abuse Claims Against The Ohio State University in the Sixth Circuit, Five Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Plaintiffs

On February 2, ECBAWM filed opening briefs in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the District Court’s decision to dismiss cases Snyder-Hill v. OSU and Moxley v. OSU as untimely. The two cases, in which ECBAWM represents 118 plaintiff-survivors, bring Title IX claims on behalf of men who survived sexual abuse by OSU physician Richard Strauss from the 1970s to the 1990s and did not know of OSU’s role in facilitating that abuse until a whistleblower came forward in 2018. The briefs argue that the trial court erred in dismissing the claims of these survivors on the basis that they should have brought their claims when the abuse happened, because no plaintiff knew OSU enabled Dr. Strauss’ predation and most did not know that Dr. Strauss’s medical exams were actually sexual abuse.

On February 9, five organizations and scholars filed amicus briefs, or “friend of the court” briefs, in support of the appeals. The organizations and scholars include the National Crime Victim Law Institute, Child USA, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Women’s Sports Foundation, civil procedure law professors, psychology and psychiatry professors, and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC). A link to and a short summary of each brief is below:

RAINN, et al:  This brief explains how schools often place their own interests ahead of student-survivors, how they may protect their interests by misleading student-survivors and not providing evidence, and how the District Court erred by not recognizing these obstacles to a sexual abuse survivor’s ability to obtain evidence of a school’s role in enabling abuse.

Psychology Professors: This brief explains some of the reasons why people do not recognize sexual abuse as such at the time it happens, and that people can still suffer serious short-term and long-term harm even when they don’t recognize what they suffered was sexual abuse.

NCVC:  This brief explains the challenges that medical patients face in recognizing sexual abuse in the physician-patient context and described numerous examples of doctors misusing the trust patients place in them to abuse patients.

NWLC, Women’s Sports Foundation, et al:  This brief explains the challenges that student-athletes face in recognizing acts of sexual abuse in the context of college athletics.

Civil Procedure Professors:  This brief explains the history of Title IX and the proper use of the federal discovery rule to analyze when plaintiffs should have discovered their claim.

The Snyder-Hill and Moxley plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM’s Ilann M. MaazelDebra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides, along with Scott Elliot Smith LPA and Public Justice.

 

Article

NYLJ Publishes Criminal Justice System Article by ECBAWM Partner Ilann M. Maazel

In “Criminal Injustice in New York State,” his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel provides insights into the New York state criminal justice system based on his work over the past seven years with clients seeking post-conviction relief. “From the perspective of this civil rights lawyer, the picture is not pretty,” writes Maazel. He explains that factors like minimal accountability for prosecutors, the erosion of the reasonable doubt standard, and sweeping grand jury immunity, among others, contribute to “serious, systemic problems that require systemic reform.”

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