#MeToo Verdict Against Paul Haggis One of the Top 20 Verdicts of 2022 in New York State

TopVerdict has named the $10 million jury verdict against film director Paul Haggis one of the “Top 20 Verdicts in New York in 2022.” After a lengthy trial, Haggis was found civilly liable in November 2022 for raping film industry publicist Haleigh Breest in 2013. Haggis was ordered to pay $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages. Haggis subsequently sought to have the verdict overturned; his motion was denied.

Ms. Breest is represented by ECBAWM partners Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman and Jonathan Abady and associate Sara Luz Estela.’s methodology is available on its website.


NYLJ Publishes “How to Win a #MeToo Case” by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

Informed by decades of experience seeking justice for sexual assault survivors and most recently by a $10 million jury verdict in a high-profile case that was the first ever tried under the New York City Victims of Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel’s latest New York Law Journal column aims to help other legal practitioners who take on similar cases.

In “How to Win a #MeToo Case,” Maazel advises colleagues on practical considerations as well as how to prepare their clients for the psychological and emotional factors that will inevitably come into play. “Coming forward to report sexual assault is exceedingly difficult,” Maazel writes in explaining the importance of steeling one’s client for the experience of litigation. “Litigation often involves expansive discovery into every aspect of the client’s life, physical and mental health, and sexual history. It may involve one or more examinations by forensic experts for both sides, a deposition, an appearance in front of a jury, and an unpleasant cross-examination. The client needs to understand the process and be ready for it. On the other hand, coming forward, standing up for oneself, and potentially holding a perpetrator accountable can be empowering and even life-affirming.”

Maazel also recommends plaintiffs’ counsel “expect the unexpected” so they are not intimidated or deterred by outrageous defense tactics and offers tactical advice to avoid ethical issues. Further, notes Maazel, attorneys should ensure they research all potential legal claims and statutes of limitations and retain a rape myths expert to refute harmful misinformation about the causes of rape and the ways in which survivors report and process having been raped. If possible, counsel should also seek to locate other survivors to offer both support and evidence of intent. “If you have multiple, credible survivors testifying against the defendant at trial, this will only help your case,” Maazel writes.

Additionally, Maazel offers guidance on the thorny role the press can play in a #MeToo case. On the one hand, “[n]ot many survivors want to be known for being a sexual assault survivor. Yet public attention to a case can lead other survivors to learn about the case and come forward, which can be extremely important evidence.”


19 ECBAWM Attorneys Named to 2023 Super Lawyers Lists

The firm is pleased to announce that 18 of its attorneys have been named to the 2023 Super Lawyers lists.

Firm partners Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. BrinckerhoffAndrew G. Celli, Jr.Richard D. EmeryDebra L. GreenbergerDaniel J. Kornstein, Julia P. Kuan, Hal R. LiebermanIlann M. MaazelZoe SalzmanSam ShapiroEarl S. Ward, and O. Andrew F. Wilson were named 2023 Super Lawyers.

Associates David BermanNick BourlandAndrew JondahlVivake Prasad, Max Selver, and Emily Wanger were named 2023 Super Lawyers Rising Stars.

The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found on the Super Lawyers website.


Six ECBAWM Partners Named to City & State’s 2023 Law Power 100

ECBAWM partners Richard Emery, Andrew G. Celli Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Earl S. Ward and Ilann Maazel have been named to City & State‘s 2023 Law Power 100 list, recognizing “their defense of individuals and groups against institutions, companies and government in civil rights and ethics cases.” A description of the selection methodology can be found on the City & State website.


New York Supreme Court Denies Motion to Set Aside Rape Judgment Against Paul Haggis

In a victory for plaintiff Haleigh Breest and the principle that perpetrators of sexual assault must be held accountable, the New York State Supreme Court has denied Paul Haggis’ motion to set aside the jury verdict finding him civilly liable for raping Ms. Breest and to overturn the jury’s award of $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Haggis argued that the jury’s verdict should be set aside under CPLR §4404(a) because errors by the Court deprived him of a fair trial and, alternatively, that the jury’s $10 million damages award was excessive.

In denying Haggis’ motion in its entirety, the Court explained that judicial rulings are not prejudicial simply because they involve evidence of plaintiff’s guilt and noted that most of the Haggis’ motion “essentially seeks re-argument of prior issues which were briefed by counsel and determined by the Court.”

“The primary evidence in the case was the testimony of the Plaintiff and Defendant,” wrote the Court. “At the end of the day, the jury credited Plaintiff’s testimony, which described a forced and unwanted sexual assault and rape, and found Defendant’s version of a kittenish and flirtatious Betty Boop character, who bragged about her skills in fellatio, lacking in credibility.”

In upholding both the compensatory and punitive damages awarded by the jury after a 17-day trial, the Court regarded Ms. Breest’s “serious and long-lasting injuries” as well as comparable cases in which similar punitive damages were awarded.

“The #MeToo movement has significantly altered the public conscience on these issues in the years since it began in 2017,” the Court wrote in its opinion. “When most of the cases cited by Defendant were decided, the public, juries, and courts were much more likely to minimize the crime and the impact of rape. Insofar as the jury’s award in Ms. Breest’s case reflects the more enlightened collective views of today, it should not be disregarded or minimized.”

Ms. Breest is represented by ECBAWM partners Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman, who issued a joint statement. “We are pleased that Judge Kraus upheld the jury’s $10 million verdict in this case. The Judge correctly recognized that the jury’s verdict reflected how the #MeToo movement has significantly altered the public conscience about rape, and has even further validated the testimony of our brave client. This opinion is an important precedent for all survivors of sexual assault.” Jonathan Abady and Sara Luz Estela also represent Ms. Breest.


Gary Lawrence Murder Conviction Tossed Based on Brady Violations

Gary Lawrence, one of three young Black men wrongfully convicted in 1993 of the murder of Hofstra football coach Joseph Healy who then served over twenty-four years in prison, has just had his conviction overturned. With the help of ECBAWM, one of Mr. Lawrence’s co-defendants, Christopher Ellis, had his conviction overturned in 2021.

Relying on questionable and uncertain witness testimony and a coerced confession, a jury convicted Mr. Lawrence of murder and attempted robbery. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms totaling 32 ½ years to life imprisonment. The police developed at least 11 different leads in the case. Shockingly, they kept both the leads and the investigations into each of these leads secret from Mr. Lawrence and his co-defendants. These investigations included detailed notes and in some instances polygraph examination results.

After his arrest, Mr. Lawrence was questioned for approximately 19 hours without food, drink, or sleep. Ultimately the police were able to coerce a confession from Mr. Lawrence – but the facts as laid out in the statement did not match the facts of the murder.

“This Court finds that given the information contained in the memo book notes and the unnamed homicide file, the sheer volume thereof, the new suspects, potential witnesses, and leads contained therein, the undisclosed evidence is clearly material,” the Court explained in its ruling. “The Brady violations were substantial, and because of them the People failed to provide access to meaningful witnesses and information.”

“We are pleased that the Court vacated Gary’s unjust conviction,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, counsel for Mr. Lawrence. “Gary served his complete sentence in prison and on parole and has been a solid citizen ever since he was released in 2015. He has always maintained his innocence for this horrible crime. He sends his condolences to the family of Mr. Healy for the unimaginable loss they have suffered.”

“Second Hofstra conviction in 1990 killing of assistant football coach overturned, court papers show,” Newsday


NYLJ Publishes “The Middle Finger and the Constitution” by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

In “The Middle Finger and the Constitution,” his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel unpacks the Second Circuit’s recent decision in Radwan v. Manuel.

Noriana Radwan was a soccer player at the University of Connecticut (UConn) when, during a post-game celebration, she raised her middle finger to a television camera. Although she apologized, UConn canceled her athletic scholarship. Radwan sued, alleging First Amendment, Due Process, and Title IX claims. The district court dismissed all of Radwan’s claims on summary judgment.

On appeal, the Second Circuit reviewed issues of free speech, qualified immunity, procedural due process, and sex discrimination. In his column, Maazel explains the Court’s reasoning and how it arrived at its conclusion that Radwan’s case may proceed to trial to resolve the factual question of whether there are “sufficiently similar” incidents with male athletes that would support a claim of sex discrimination under Title IX.

Maazel also questions the repercussions of the Court’s ruling. “Whatever happens to Radwan’s case, however, Radwan leaves us in First Amendment stasis and a familiar qualified immunity quagmire,” he writes. “We can only hope that Congress or the Supreme Court will one day let plaintiffs hold public officials accountable when they break the law, clearly established or not.”


Anthony Sims Freed After 25 Years

Anthony Sims has been granted parole and freed from prison after serving over 25 years for a murder he did not commit. Anthony was wrongfully convicted of murdering Li Run Chen at a Brooklyn restaurant; evidence that was withheld from the jury exonerated Anthony and points to Julius Graves – the prosecution’s only eyewitness to the shooting – as the killer.

In an interview with NBC New York’s Sarah Wallace, ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, one of Anthony’s attorneys, explained what led to his unlawful conviction. “The NYPD basically ignored any evidence that exonerated Anthony, and the most glaring example is when an independent witness saw Julius Graves exit the restaurant with a gun right after the shooting, told that to the police, and the police kept that information, apparently, to themselves.”

Prosecutors have labeled two witnesses who testified that the police fabricated interview reports as “incredible” and continue to back Graves’ version of the events. “They seem to want to stand behind this man who has lied repeatedly under oath in different statements over the years and it’s frustrating,” said another of Anthony’s attorneys, ECBAM partner Sam Shapiro.

Anthony’s motion to vacate his conviction is currently pending before the Hon. Danny Chun in Kings County. A decision is expected in January.

Keisha Sims, Anthony’s wife, told NBC New York she will never stop fighting. “Not just only for my husband, but there’s a lot of Anthonys out there.”

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


ECBAWM Attorneys Earn Recognition from ALM for Jury Verdict in Sexual Assault Case

ECBAWM’s representation of Haleigh Breest in her sexual assault case against director Paul Haggis earned attorneys Zoe Salzman, Ilann M. Maazel, Jonathan Abady, Sara Luz Estela, and Noel León and paralegal Sophia Attie “Shout Out” honors in American Lawyer Media’s Litigator of the Week column. A jury found Haggis civilly liable for raping Ms. Breest and awarded a total judgment of $10 million.


ECBAWM Wins $10M Jury Verdict in Sexual Assault Case

A jury has found film director Paul Haggis civilly liable for raping Haleigh Breest, a film industry publicist, in 2013. The jury heard testimony from Ms. Breest as well as from four other women who also accused Haggis of sexual misconduct.

Haggis was ordered to pay $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $10 million.

Despite Haggis’ attempt to have the case dismissed in 2018, ECBAWM obtained a landmark ruling enforcing New York City’s Victims of Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act and allowing the case to proceed. The New York State Supreme Court’s decision was upheld on appeal.

ECBAWM also won Ms. Breest’s motion to compel Haggis to provide a sample of his DNA for comparison against a sample left in Ms. Breest’s tights.

“We’re pleased to see justice served for Ms. Breest,” said Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman who represented Ms. Breest, together with ECBAWM partner Jonathan S. Abady, associates Sara Luz Estela and Noel León, paralegal Sophia Attie, and former-associate Emma Freeman. Dan Cooper served as a trial consultant in the case.

“After the jury heard a mountain of undeniable evidence against Mr. Haggis, they did the right thing and held him accountable for his deplorable behavior. We commend Ms. Breest for the bravery it took to come forward. She stood up for herself and for all women,” said Maazel and Salzman.

“Jury tells filmmaker Haggis to pay $10M total in rape suit,” Associated Press, also published by NBC News, CTV News, CBC News and The Hollywood Reporter
“Paul Haggis Fined Additional $2.5 Million in Punitive Damages in Civil Rape Trial,” Variety
“Oscar-winner Paul Haggis must pay total of $10 million in civil rape case,” Reuters
“‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis must pay $10M to rape accuser Haleigh Breest,” New York Post
“Paul Haggis Rape Trial Jury Tacks on $2.5 Million in Punitive Damages, Bringing Victim’s Award to $10 Million,” The Wrap
“Paul Haggis Ordered to Pay $2.5 Million More in Rape Trial Verdict,” Just Jared
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis ordered to pay total of $10M in rape lawsuit,” Fox News
“Paul Haggis Civil Trial: Jury Awards $2.5M In Punitive Damages; Oscar Winner Says He Will Appeal & “Die Clearing My Name” – Update,” Deadline
“Jury orders Oscar-winner Paul Haggis to pay additional $2.5m in rape lawsuit,” The Guardian
“Church of Scientology is on opposite ends of two celebrity rape cases in L.A., New York,” Los Angeles Times
“‘Broke’ Paul Haggis Must Pay Another $2.5M to Rape Accuser,” Daily Beast
“Jury Says Paul Haggis Raped Woman After Film Premiere,” New York Times
“Paul Haggis, director of ‘Crash,’ ordered to pay $7.5 million in rape case,” Washington Post
“Jury orders Filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay $7.5M in rape suit,” Associated Press, also published in the Wall Street Journal
“Paul Haggis Found Liable On All Counts In New York Rape Civil Trial; Jury Awards Millions In Damages; Oscar Winner Vows To “Fight To Clear My Name,” Deadline
“Paul Haggis Loses New York Civil Rape Case, Liable for $7.5 Million in Damages,” The Wrap
“Paul Haggis Found Liable on All Counts in Civil Rape Trial,” Variety
“Jury finds filmmaker Paul Haggis liable for rape of publicist, awarding her $7.5 million in compensatory damages,” Insider
“Oscar-Winning Writer Hit With $7.5M Rape Verdict In NY,” Law360
“‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis loses rape suit, owes $7.5M in damages to victim Haleigh Breest,” New York Post
“Film-maker Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5m to woman accusing him of rape,” The Guardian
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis is ordered to pay at least $7.5 million after being found liable in a sexual assault case involving a former publicist,” CNN
“Paul Haggis: Filmmaker ordered to pay $7.5m in rape suit,” BBC
“Paul Haggis accuser speaks out after director is found liable in $7.5 million rape lawsuit,” Fox News
“Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis found liable for raping woman in 2013, ordered to pay $7.5 million,” The Week
“Director Paul Haggis Found Liable in N.Y. Rape Case, Jury Awards $7.5 Million in Damages,” People
“Judge Orders Paul Haggis To Shell Out $7.5 Million After Director Was Found Liable In Rape Case,” OK! Magazine
“Paul Haggis Loses Civil Rape Case, Ordered to Pay Accuser $7.5 Million,” Rolling Stone
“Oscar-winner Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5 mln in civil rape case,” Reuters