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Federal Lawsuit Over Barbaric Shackling of Pregnant Woman Settles with New Jersey County for $750,000

Today, ECBAWM and co-counsel Gibbons P.C. announced the settlement of a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a woman who was illegally shackled by Middlesex County, New Jersey officers. The magistrate judge who presided over the case in a New Jersey federal court approved the settlement on September 7, 2022, and the agreement was publicly filed earlier today.

The plaintiff, “Jane Doe,” filed the lawsuit in July 2020. The lawsuit stated that, when she was pregnant and incarcerated in the Middlesex County Jail on a non-violent charge, Middlesex County officers and supervisors shackled her by the wrists, ankles, and waist during prenatal visits, while she was being transported to the hospital, throughout the labor process, up until the moment of an emergency Cesarian section, and even while she was recovering and attempting to bond with her newborn son. When she arrived at the hospital, the officers refused to let Ms. Doe contact her family, forcing her to endure this traumatizing experience alone.

Under the settlement, Middlesex County will pay $750,000 to Ms. Doe’s estate, believed to be one of the largest settlements ever obtained by a victim of shackling during labor. Ms. Doe tragically passed away during the litigation, but her mother “Mary Doe” continued to prosecute and settle the case on behalf of Jane Doe’s estate, and specifically her young son.

“Through this litigation, our daughter sought to inform pregnant incarcerated women of their legal rights,” Ms. Doe’s parents said. “She wanted to bring attention to the horrific harm and injustices that she endured and that so many like her continue to endure. We hope this case has served as a wakeup call to Middlesex County and to law enforcement agencies around the country. They should immediately reform their policies and respect the humanity of the people in their custody.”

Medical experts, correctional experts, and maternal and fetal health experts unanimously agree that pregnant women should not be shackled absent the most extraordinary circumstances. The American Medical Association, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all prohibit and/or oppose shackling pregnant women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery because it poses a grave risk of harm to a pregnant woman’s health, and to the health and safety of her baby.

“According to a 2021 study, there are an estimated 58,000 admissions of pregnant women into U.S. jails and prisons every year, and thousands give birth or have other outcomes while still incarcerated. Our client Jane Doe filed this case to protect the health and dignity of incarcerated pregnant women and their babies. This settlement is an important step in ending shackling of pregnant women,” said Katie Rosenfeld, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP and one of Jane Doe’s lawyers.

Lawrence S. Lustberg, another of Jane Doe’s lawyers, lauded both her courage in bringing the lawsuit and her parent’s tenacity in continuing it. “Were it not for people like Jane Doe and her parents, these kinds of injustices would never be redressed,” Lustberg said. Lustberg also expressed the Doe family’s appreciation for the Court’s assistance in reaching the settlement.

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Family of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota Calls For Full Investigation of His Death in June 29, 2022 Police Shooting

The Firm is representing the family of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota in an investigation into his tragic and untimely death on June 29, 2022, when he was shot and killed by police officers in Saranac Lake, New York.

The family’s statement is below:

Our beloved son and brother Joshua was shot and killed by police officers in Saranac Lake, New York on June 29, 2022. He was just 33 years old.

No words can capture the devastation we feel. Joshua was important. He was loved. He deserved more and definitely did not deserve to die.

Our family is united in the pursuit of a true account of the events leading up to Joshua’s death. We are determined to learn the circumstances that led to his killing, and to seek justice for Joshua, in whatever form that can take. We are confident that important facts about the events leading to Joshua’s death will be revealed through a competent and impartial investigation.

By: Gail Melody Leak-Kavota, Mother; Rev. Rondesia Jarett-Schell, Sister; and Ronald Jarrett, Brother

Photo of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota sitting on green couch

Investigation Into the Death of Joshua De’Miguel Kavota

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LGBTQ Students Win Right to Form Official Student Club at Yeshiva University

On Tuesday, June 14, 2022, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, ordered that Yeshiva University immediately recognize an undergraduate LGBTQ student organization, the YU Pride Alliance, and grant the YU Pride Alliance “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of all other student groups at Yeshiva” as required by the New York City Human Rights Law.

The LGBTQ student group and four current and former students filed the civil rights lawsuit against Yeshiva University in April 2021, arguing that the university’s ongoing refusal to recognize the club was discriminatory and harmful to students. The court’s decision affirms that as an institution of higher education in New York, Yeshiva University must follow the City’s anti-discrimination law and cannot treat LGBTQ students worse or differently than other students on campus. As the Court, Justice Lynn L. Kotler, held: “What plaintiffs seek is simply equal access to the tangible benefits that Yeshiva affords other student groups on its campus.”

ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld, who along with ECBAWM attorneys Max Selver and Marissa Benavides represented the Plaintiffs, said: “The court’s decision paves the way for LGBTQ students and allies at Yeshiva University to fully participate in their community as equal members, just as the New York City Human Rights Law guarantees. Now the students can move on with the true work of their organization: peer support, discussions groups, community service projects, social events, speaker series, and other positive and important student efforts. It’s fitting that the court’s important ruling comes this month, as we celebrate June as LGBTQ Pride Month.”

Documents
Decision and Order
Press Release

Press Coverage
“Yeshiva University Must Recognize L.G.B.T.Q. Club, Judge Says,” NewYork Times
“Yeshiva University LGBTQ group wins first round in fight for recognition,” Gay City News
“Push to have LGBTQ club at Yeshiva University recognized,” FOX 5 New York

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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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$20M Administrative Claim Filed Against BOP, Marshals Service for Tragic Covid-19 Death of 30-Year-Old Mother and Federal Prisoner Andrea Circle Bear

The family of Andrea Circle Bear, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has filed an administrative claim against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and the U.S. Marshals Service for her wrongful death. Ms. Circle Bear died in federal custody in Texas of complications from COVID-19 on April 28, 2020, four weeks after giving birth to her daughter. At the time of her death, Ms. Circle Bear she was serving a 26-month federal sentence for a non-violent conviction.

On March 20, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded around the nation and one week after the BOP had suspended all prisoner transfers that were not “required” or “mission-essential,” the federal government needlessly transferred Ms. Circle Bear, then seven months pregnant, over 800 miles from South Dakota to the FMC Carswell women’s prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

During the transfer and while at FMC Carswell, Ms. Circle Bear was confined in overcrowded and unsafe conditions that were ripe for COVID-19 transmission. The Marshals Service transported Ms. Circle Bear on a small plane with at least six other people and no masking, social distancing, pre-flight COVID testing, or any other safety measures. When she arrived at FMC Carswell, BOP housed her on the bottom bunk bed of a small cell with three other women with no masks or other PPE, one shared toilet and sink, and no soap.

Ms. Circle Bear first developed COVID-19 symptoms on March 26, 2020, six days after the transfer. BOP staff failed to provide her with prompt or adequate care for several days as her symptoms intensified. She was almost immediately intubated when BOP finally sent her to the hospital on March 31. Her daughter was born the next day by emergency c-section while Ms. Circle Bear was on a ventilator. Ms. Circle Bear died four weeks later without ever getting off the ventilator to meet her daughter.

The BOP and the U.S. Marshals Service’s indifference and recklessness in exposing Ms. Circle Bear to COVID-19 and failing to provide her adequate medical care caused her death and left her children motherless.

The BOP and U.S. Marshals Service must respond to the administrative claim within six months. If the claim is denied, Ms. Circle Bear’s family may proceed with filing a lawsuit.

Ms. Circle Bear’s family is represented by firm attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Max Selver.

Press
“Fort Worth prison responsible for new mother’s COVID death, family says in $20M claim,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Blame the Justice Department for Andrea Circle Bear’s Death,” The New York Times

Article

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

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