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Nine ECBAWM Partners Named to Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” List

ECBAWM is pleased to announce that nine firm partners have been named to the “2021 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.

Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Earl S. Ward, Ilann Margalit Maazel, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Katherine Rosenfeld, Debra L. Greenberger, Zoe Salzman, and Sam Shapiro were each recognized as attorneys “who’ve devoted their careers to helping workers protect their rights.”

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Second Circuit Court Affirms Ruling that Trump Family, Corporation Cannot Compel Arbitration in ACN Fraud Case

On July 28, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that Donald Trump, his immediate family, and The Trump Corporation cannot compel arbitration of the fraud case pending against them in the Southern District of New York. The case, filed in the fall of 2018, alleges the Trumps defrauded investors into purchasing memberships in a multi-level marketing scheme called ACN. The Trumps had appealed to the Second Circuit arguing that the fraud case could only proceed in private arbitration because of agreements that the investors had signed with ACN. The Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s denial of the Trumps’ motion to compel arbitration and ruled that the Trumps and ACN were never sufficiently connected such that the investors would have understood that any of their contractual obligations with ACN would correspond to obligations with the Trumps.

“We are glad that the Second Circuit has affirmed Judge Schofield’s well-reasoned opinion. We can now press forward in our fight to obtain justice for our clients and hard-working consumers across the county who fell victim to Donald Trump and his family’s fraud. We look forward to receiving discovery from the Trumps, ACN, and the producers of ‘The Apprentice’ as we move into the next stage of our litigation,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr., an ECBAWM attorney for the Plaintiff investors.

The investors are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr.Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. BrinckerhoffO. Andrew F. WilsonKatherine RosenfeldSam ShapiroDavid Berman, and Nick Bourland.

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ECBAWM Represents Family in their Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Federal Correctional Officers Who Took Jamel Floyd’s Life

On June 3, 2020, Jamel Floyd died at the hands of federal correctional officers at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (“BOP”) troubled Brooklyn jail facility, the Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC Brooklyn”). On behalf of Mr. Floyd’s mother, Donna Mays, and Mr. Floyd’s extended family, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the United States and the BOP correctional officers who caused Mr. Floyd’s tragic, untimely death.

Mr. Floyd was housed in solitary confinement at the MDC Brooklyn last June when he began to experience a medical or mental health crisis. Instead of using non-violent measures to assist Mr. Floyd, dozens of BOP correctional officers descended on Mr. Floyd’s cell armed with riot shields and pepper spray. After Mr. Floyd followed the correctional officers’ orders, the officers repeatedly doused Mr. Floyd with pepper spray while he was locked alone in his cell, causing him to immediately collapse and go into cardiac arrest.

When BOP correctional officers opened the cell door, they found Mr. Floyd on the ground, unresponsive and with his heart failing. Not a single BOP correctional officer or staff member attempted to help Mr. Floyd, even though a health technician was present in the unit and every correctional officer on the scene was trained in CPR. Rather, the officers tackled Mr. Floyd and kept him pinned to the ground for several minutes. Even after an officer announced that he could not find Mr. Floyd’s pulse, the officers kept him pinned and then dragged him out of his cell. Finally, the officers strapped Mr. Floyd’s incapacitated body to a restraint chair—a device designed to restrain violent, out-of-control individuals. Mr. Floyd never recovered. He was pronounced dead upon his arrival at a nearby hospital.

Over the past year, Mr. Floyd’s family has joined Brooklyn community organizers and activists in holding demonstrations and vigils outside of the Brooklyn MDC, where they have demanded transparency, accountability, and justice for Mr. Floyd’s death. In response, the BOP has ignored Mr. Floyd’s family and refused to provide them access to his prison medical and administrative records—files the agency later turned over to Mr. Floyd’s family only after ECBAWM filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in federal court in November 2020.

“Jamel Floyd’s death was not an accident, it was the direct result of a group of correctional officers’ decision to respond to Jamel’s distress with brutal force, and then stand idly by while Jamel lay dying,” said Nick Bourland, an ECBAWM attorney representing the plaintiff. “Law enforcement officers—whether they patrol our neighborhoods or the halls of a federal jail facility—must be held accountable for their actions.”

Mr. Floyd’s family, including the plaintiff in this suit, his mother, Donna Mays, are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Katherine Rosenfeld and Nick Bourland.

Press
“Family of inmate who died after being pepper sprayed in Brooklyn federal prison sues,” CNN
“Family of MDC inmate claims jail guards did nothing as he ‘slowly died,’” New York Post
“Family of man who died at Brooklyn jail in June 2020 sues federal lockup,” New York Daily News
“Metropolitan Detention Center corrections officers ignored Hempstead man’s pleas for help, suit alleges,” Newsday (Long Island)
“After His 2020 Death in a New York Jail Cell, Jamel Floyd’s Family File Lawsuit Against Bureau of Prisons,” Time

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ECBAWM Obtains Class Certification for MDC Blackout Plaintiffs

In a ruling on May 25, 2021, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of the Eastern District of New York granted class certification to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of people incarcerated in the west building of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn (“MDC”) during the eight-day blackout in winter of 2019. To date almost 1,700 people have been identified as class members.

“Taken together, this evidence paints a harrowing picture of prison conditions in the wake of the fire and power outage,” Judge Korman wrote in the Memorandum and Order. “In particular, the evidence describes a series of inhumane and potentially dangerous conditions that affected residents throughout the West Building during the week without power.”

ECBAWM partner Katherine Rosenfeld praised the decision. “Although the BOP treated the people confined in the MDC during the blackout as though they were less than human – leaving almost 2,000 locked in dark, freezing conditions for a week without adequate food, medicine, clothing, blankets, or any way to communicate with their families – the Court’s decision affirms that everyone who experienced this crisis can bring their claim to the federal court with the benefit of counsel,” said Rosenfeld.

The class will be represented by Rosenfeld, ECBAWM partner O. Andrew F. Wilson, ECBAWM associate Scout Katovich, and ECBAWM Justice Catalyst Fellow Sonya Levitova, along with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Professors Alexander Reinert and Betsy Ginsberg.

For information about the class action, including case updates, please visit MDCBlackout.com.

Press
“Inmates Jailed at Brooklyn Federal Lockup During 2019 Freeze, Blackout Certified as Class,” New York Law Journal
“Judge says nearly 1,700 inmates can sue Brooklyn’s MDC jail as a group over freezing conditions in 2019,” New York Daily News
“Class certified over 2019 winter power outage at Brooklyn jail,” Reuters

Article

Firm Represents Yeshiva University Students in Lawsuit Over Discriminatory Refusal to Recognize LGBTQ Student Group

ECBAWM filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the YU Pride Alliance, Yeshiva University’s unofficial organization for LGBTQ students and their allies, and current and former YU students, to vindicate their right to form an undergraduate LGBTQ student club on YU’s campus. Yeshiva University has, for years, illegally refused to recognize the club, in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

The YU Pride Alliance and John Doe, a current YU student, are seeking a preliminary injunction requiring YU to permit the club to form in time for the Fall 2021 semester. YU currently recognizes more than 100 student clubs.

The students negotiated for years to convince YU administrators to approve an LGBTQ club and to follow the law. They informed university administrators repeatedly of the sometimes hostile and frightening experience of being YU LGBTQ students, the need for an LGBTQ student club to support them, and the risks of not having the club. The administration’s refusal to recognize the club communicated to all students that there was something wrong with being LGBTQ and that their existence within a Jewish community as publicly-identifying members of the LGBTQ community was unwelcome.

“There was an urgent need for a student organization dedicated to creating a safe space for LGBTQ students and their allies at YU,” stated Plaintiff Tai Miller, a Yeshiva University class of 2020 graduate and current Harvard Medical School student. “The administration’s persistent rejection of the LGBTQ club made me feel ostracized and unwanted by both my undergraduate community and, more broadly, from my faith community.”

Yeshiva University has known for decades of their legal responsibility to recognize an LGBTQ student club. In 1995, YU received advice from a preeminent New York law firm that there was “no credible legal argument” to ban such a student group. As YU acknowledged, as a nonsectarian institution, it “is subject to the human rights ordinance of the City of New York . . .  Under this law, YU cannot ban gay student clubs.”

Without a university-recognized club, the LGBTQ students lack a place on campus where they have a sense of belonging and discuss their experiences as LGBTQ Jewish students.

LGBTQ students also cannot use campus facilities for meetings, receive funding for its activities, advertising for events in student email blasts and bulletin boards, and participate in club fairs for incoming students.

The students are being represented by Katherine Rosenfeld, Marissa Benavides, and Max Selver.

Press
“Yeshiva University students file lawsuit to get LGBTQ student club recognized,” The Washington Post

Article

ECBAWM, Legal Aid Obtain $750,000 Settlement from NYPD on Behalf of Client Who Was Illegally Shackled During Labor and After the Delivery of Her Son

Today ECBAWM and The Legal Aid Society announced a $750,000 settlement of a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a 22-year-old New York City woman, “Jane Doe,” who was arrested in 2018 when she was more than 40 weeks pregnant. Ms. Doe was handcuffed and shackled for hours during labor and after she gave birth to her newborn son at Kings County Hospital.

In addition to the monetary portion of the settlement, Ms. Doe requested, and the New York City Police Department agreed, that the NYPD will conduct “roll call” training to all NYPD officers regarding its policies on the use of restraints on pregnant persons.

“The NYPD’s policies for shackling pregnant people are decades behind mainstream law enforcement standards and an embarrassment to the City. At the state level, New York Correction Law § 611 outlaws the use of restraints ‘of any kind’ on women admitted to the hospital for delivery or recovering after giving birth – but the NYPD still refuses to ban these practices,” said ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld, who, along with ECBAWM attorney Andrew Jondahl and The Legal Aid Society, represents Ms. Doe. “Jane Doe is a fierce champion for justice, and we urge the City Council to take up her efforts, change the local laws on shackling pregnant people, and force the NYPD to finally ban handcuffing women who are about to give birth or who have just brought a child into the world.”

During a press conference on Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the NYPD patrol guide provisions that led to the lawsuit. “I think that was inhumane and we don’t want to see that ever happen again. […] I think it’s a really important example of something that needs to change and if it has not been changed already, we will change it for sure.”

The settlement has been covered by CNN, ABC News, the New York Post, the Daily Beast, and Gothamist.

Article

Firm Client Advocates for New Law to Reform Solitary Confinement in New York State Prisons

Firm client Darlene McDay hailed the passage on March 18, 2021 of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act after the New York State Senate voted to pass the new law.  The statute limits the time a person in state prison can spend in segregated confinement and ends the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable people.  Ms. McDay is the mother of Dante Taylor, a 22-year old man who died at Wende Correctional Facility on October 7, 2017, after prolonged solitary confinement and assault by staff.  Since her son’s death, Ms. McDay has become a member of the HALT solitary confinement campaign and joined their efforts to advocate for the passage of the legislation.

 This Bill can be read in its entirety here, and coverage on the passage of HALT Solitary Confinement Act discussing Ms. McDay’s advocacy can be found here.

 Firm lawyers Katie Rosenfeld and Marissa Benavides represent Ms. McDay in this case.

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ECBAWM, as Independent Investigator, Releases Report on the City of Rochester’s Response to the Death of Daniel Prude

On September 16, 2020, the Rochester City Council, by Ordinance No. 2020-283, appointed our law firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, LLP (“ECBAWM”), to serve as Special Council Investigator to investigate the City’s response to the arrest and death of Daniel Prude. On March 12, 2021, we released our final Report of the Investigation.

The Report reflects six months’ worth of work by ECBAWM lawyers and staff; it is over 50 pages in length, and it contains dozens of factual findings, as well as an analysis of the facts as found. No brief public statement can summarize those findings, that analysis, or the Report as a whole. We urge any interested person to take the time to read the Report in full. That said, when our firm was appointed, we committed that our work would answer the fundamental question that many people in the Rochester community were urgently asking, and that many continue to demand an answer to today:

Did officials of City government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude between March 23, 2020, when the arrest occurred, and September 2, 2020, when the Prude family publicly released body-worn camera footage of the incident?
The straightforward answer is yes. The Investigation revealed no explanation that fully accounts for the more than four-month delay between the death of an unarmed man at the hands of Rochester police, and public disclosure of the facts and circumstances under which the death occurred — other than a decision or series of decisions not to make such disclosure.
The Investigation uncovered a great deal of evidence and reached specific, sometimes nuanced, conclusions. Understanding that evidence and those conclusions require consideration of the full Report, with time and attention to detail.

The Investigation was conducted by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr.Katherine Rosenfeld, and Scout Katovich; and was supported by paralegals Kathryn Ravey and Jocelyn Rodriguez.

Supporting documentation for the Report can be found at RochesterInvestigation.com.

Media coverage of this Report has been reported by the Associated Press, the Democrat & Chronicle, and NBC New York.

Article

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)

Article

Time Magazine Publishes Profile of Jamel Floyd Family

Time magazine has published an in-depth profile of the family of Jamel Floyd in the aftermath of his death. Mr. Floyd died on June 3, 2020 at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, after Federal Bureau of Prisons corrections officers pepper-sprayed him and subjected him to excessive force. ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld and associate Nick Bourland represent Jamel’s family in an investigation into his death.

The complete article by Time reporter Sanya Mansoor is accompanied by a photo essay by Yuki Iwamura of Jamel’s wake, funeral, and internment.

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