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Federal Court Permits Prison Death Case to Go Forward

A judge in the Western District of Oklahoma rejected a motion to dismiss filed by state prison officials seeking to end a lawsuit by the family of a 21-year-old young man who died in prison from untreated appendicitis. The court held that Joshua England’s family could continue its claim that prison officials violated Joshua’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by ignoring his repeated, anguished pleas for medical help over the course of days before he died alone on the floor of his prison cell. The court also permitted all of the state law claims to go forward. And the court refused to dismiss the senior official defendants – the former head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the warden of the prison – from the case. Now Joshua’s family can move forward with seeking accountability for Joshua’s untimely, entirely preventable death of a common and treatable illness.

ECBAWM attorneys Katherine Rosenfeld and Ali Frick represent Joshua’s family, along with co-counsel Paul DeMuro and Henry A. “Hank” Meyer, III.

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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.”

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 Federal Civil Rights Suit Against Prison Officials for Abusive Conditions Leading to a 22-Year-Old Man’s Suicide

On February 24, 2020, ECBAWM filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Darlene McDay and Temple McDay, the mother and grandmother of Dante Taylor, a 22-year-old man who committed suicide in Wende Correctional Facility on October 7, 2017. As detailed in the complaint, Mr. Taylor—who had a history of depression and suicide attempts—was confined in isolation for long stretches at Wende, and providers and staff ignored many glaring risk factors for his suicide in the months leading up to his death. Mr. Taylor was brutally beaten by Wende correction officers the night before he died, thrown into isolation, and denied access to a mental health care provider. Mr. Taylor’s is one of many suicides that have occurred in recent years at Wende and other facilities run by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“Dante Taylor’s death at age 22 was foreseeable and preventable,” said Katie Rosenfeld, one of Mr. Taylor’s lawyers. “Dante’s family calls for an open and full investigation into the circumstances of his death, and seeks accountability for the vicious, extra-legal beating by the rogue correction officers that triggered his death.”

“We hope this lawsuit promotes public awareness of DOCCS’ failure to improve medical and mental health care for people in prison, even in the face of an epidemic of suicides by people confined in our state’s prisons, particularly people who are in solitary confinement conditions,” said Marissa Benavides, an ECBAWM associate working on the case.

ECBAWM’s Katie Rosenfeld and Marissa Benavides represent the McDay family in the suit.

“Prison guards brutally beat an inmate, his family says. Hours later, he killed himself,” Washington Post
“Family Sues Over Suicide of Inmate Behind Bars for Murder,” US News

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ECBAWM Files Suit Against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officer on Behalf of Erick Diaz Cruz, an Unarmed 26-Year-Old Man from Mexico Shot in the Face by an ICE Officer

On February 19, 2020, ECBAWM filed suit on behalf of Erick Diaz Cruz, an unarmed 26-year-old Mexican man, who was shot in the left hand and cheek by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in Gravesend, Brooklyn. As detailed in the complaint, the shooting occurred on the morning of Thursday, February 6, 2020, while Mr. Diaz Cruz was on vacation with his girlfriend visiting his mother on a valid tourist visa.

“Along with millions of New Yorkers, we are heartbroken and sickened by ICE’s senseless and unjustified shooting of Erick,” said ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld. “A young, hard-working and law-abiding man was gunned down on the streets of Brooklyn in broad daylight in front of his family, shot in the face at point-blank range, by an agent of the United States government. Erick posed no threat to anyone, at any time. Erick’s face is shattered, and he and his family are traumatized. We are a nation of laws, equality, and justice; Erick’s case demands that we live up to those values.”

“Erick was the victim of a horrific and life-threatening attack,” Scout Katovich, an ECBAWM associate working on the case, added. “We hope this lawsuit will send a message that ICE cannot violate the U.S. Constitution with impunity.”

ECBAWM’s Katherine Rosenfeld and Scout Katovich represent Mr. Diaz Cruz in the suit.

Press Release
“Tourist shot in the face by ICE agent during family friend’s arrest files lawsuit,” ABC News
“NYC man shot in the face during ICE immigration raid sues agency,” New York Daily News

 

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Settlement of Jazmine Headley’s Civil Rights Lawsuit: City of New York Will Pay $625,000

In December 2019, ECBAWM reached a $625,000 settlement in the case of Jazmine Headley, an ECBAWM client whose one-year-old son was forcibly yanked from her arms by the City of New York’s Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) employees, NYPD officers, and security guards working for FJC Security Services simply because Ms. Headley was sitting on the floor waiting for her benefits appointment. The Defendants assaulted Ms. Headley, brandished a taser at her and her young son, charged her with several crimes, and detained her on Rikers Island for days. In light of Ms. Headley’s and her son’s ordeal, the City Council has passed various bills designed to remedy the City’s systemic abuse of HRA clients.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill DeBlasio said: “Ms. Headley came to the city seeking help, and we failed to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserved. While this injustice should never have happened, it forced a reckoning with how we treat our most vulnerable.”

“Through her intelligence, bravery, and grace, Jazmine Headley turned the worst ordeal of her life—and of any parent’s—into an opportunity for change for the entire city,” said ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld. “By testifying at City Council in support of new laws based on her experience and by bringing a civil rights lawsuit, Ms. Headley has carried a heavy burden over the past year. But from day one, Ms. Headley insisted that this incident was not just about her, but about the dignity of every young woman of color raising her family with immense love and hard work, in a difficult world. We hope Ms. Hadley’s moral leadership inspires the City to make good on its promises of reform.”

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.

“$625,000 Settlement for Woman Whose Child Was Torn From Her Arms,” New York Times
“NYC paying $625K to mom whose baby was ripped away by police,” AP

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ECBAWM Clients Achieve $1 Million Settlement and Major Reforms Barring City from Sending Young Rikers Detainees to Solitary Confinement at Albany County Jail

On October 18, 2019, ECBAWM clients Davon Washington, Steven Espinal, Pariis Tillery, and John Doe reached a significant settlement of their civil rights claims against the City of New York, Albany County, individual correctional defendants, and a jail medical provider.

Plaintiffs are four young men who filed suit in 2018 after the City of New York abruptly transferred them from Rikers to an Albany County “black site” jail. Upon arrival upstate, the four young men were systematically subjected to brutal beatings and sexual assaults by jail guards, suffering severe injuries including a perforated eardrum. For the entirety of their time at the Albany County Jail, they were held in solitary confinement, cut off from meaningful human contact, and isolated from family, adequate medical care, and their lawyers. These events came just three years after New York City banned solitary confinement for detainees ages 21 and younger, and restricted the practice for all detainees. By sending plaintiffs to Albany County, DOC conducted an “end run” around solitary confinement restrictions.

As part of Friday’s settlement, the City agreed to no longer transfer any person detained at Rikers to Albany County through December 31, 2021, and agreed to start providing written notice to any detainee that is transferred out of Rikers to any other jail on a Substitute Jail Order. Albany County agreed that if DOC detainees are sent to its jail in the future, they will follow New York City’s rules about solitary confinement, through December 31, 2023.

Plaintiff Davon Washington told The New York Times, “In the future, nobody will have to go through what we went through. They won’t have to experience that feeling.”

“The City’s responsibility for (prisoners’) well-being doesn’t stop at the northern border of the Bronx. It doesn’t end by shipping them somewhere else,” said Doug Lieb, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Doug Lieb of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, and Steven Goldman of Goldman & Associates.

“NYC pauses transfers of Rikers Island inmates to Albany amid allegations of abuse,” New York Daily News

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Jazmine Headley Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the City of New York

Today, ECBAWM client Jazmine Headley filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York and its Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) peace officers and New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officers who attacked and arrested her at the DeKalb Job Center on December 7, 2018. Simply because Ms. Headley was sitting on the floor waiting for her appointment, these officers brandished a taser in Ms. Headley’s face, forcibly yanked her one-year-old son from her arms, charged her with several crimes, and detained her on Rikers Island for days.  Her experience is just one example of HRA security staff’s widespread abuse of New Yorkers who seek assistance with their public benefits.

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.

Press Release
“Woman Whose Child Was Taken in Viral Arrest Video Sues New York City, NYPD,” New York Law Journal
“Jazmine Headley sues city over violent arrest at Brooklyn benefits office,” Politico
“Mom whose baby was ripped from her arms at benefits center sues city,” New York Post
“Mom Whose Baby Was Snatched In Social Services Office Sues City,” Patch

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Settlement of Jane Doe’s Lawsuit for Shackling During Pregnancy and Labor: NYPD Will Pay $610,000 and Reform Patrol Guide Procedures

On July 3, 2019, ECBAWM reached a $610,000 settlement in the case of Jane Doe, a 28-year old Bronx woman who was arrested and shackled by the NYPD when she was 40 weeks pregnant after she was arrested for a misdemeanor on February 7, 2018. NYPD officers and supervisors insisted on keeping Ms. Doe in shackles for approximately 30 hours, even while she was in active labor and during her post-partum recovery with her infant daughter at the hospital. The NYPD kept Ms. Doe shackled during her transport, labor, and post-partum delivery despite being repeatedly warned of the health risks and illegality by hospital doctors and staff.

As part of the settlement, Ms. Doe insisted that the NYPD also agree to amend its Patrol Guide to prevent its officers from ever violating the rights and safety of another woman through the unlawful use of shackles. “Because of Jane Doe’s bravery and determination in pursuing this case, the NYPD will now change its procedures to better protect pregnant women in the future,” said ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld.

Ms. Doe is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran.

“She Was Forced to Give Birth in Handcuffs. Now Her Case Is Changing Police Rules,” New York Times
“Woman who was forced to give birth in handcuffs awarded $610,000 in New York City settlement,” USA Today
“City of New York pays $610,000 to a woman who was forced to give birth in handcuffs,” CNN
“Bronx Woman Who Was Shackled, Handcuffed When She Went Into Labor Was ‘Terrified for Herself and for Her Baby’,” Newsweek

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ECBAWM Represents Bronx High School Senior Kymani Johnson in His Effort to Hold the NYPD Accountable

As reported in the New York Daily News on June 10, 2019, Kymani Johnson is a 19-year-old high school senior in the Bronx who plans to become a lawyer. On Monday, May 27, 2019, Mr. Johnson was wrongfully arrested by the New York City Police Department at approximately 2:00 pm in Haffen Park, after he attempted to record NYPD officers in an interaction with another individual. NYPD officers grabbed Mr. Johnson, threw him again a fence, and repeatedly punched him. He was then handcuffed, arrested, and held for many hours until a judge dismissed the baseless charges against him. On the day after his arrest, the same NYPD officers went to Mr. Johnson’s house, where they harassed and threatened him, in an apparent attempt to intimidate him from reporting their misconduct. Mr. Johnson is represented by ECBAWM attorney Katie Rosenfeld.

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Family Sues Prison Officials Over Senseless Death of 21-Year-Old Man from Untreated Appendicitis

The mother of Joshua England, a 21-year-old man who died last year in an Oklahoma prison from untreated appendicitis, sued Oklahoma prison officials and medical workers today for the wrongful, preventable, and needless death of her son.

Joshua was serving a short prison sentence—his first and only one—when, a year ago, he went to the prison health clinic at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center complaining of classic signs of appendicitis, including acute abdominal pain. For a week, prison staff did nothing. As Joshua begged for care, day after day, in five separate written requests for help, the prison staff took no action. No doctor ever examined him. He was never sent to a nearby medical facility for an examination or testing. As his symptoms grew worse and he grew more obviously sick, prison officials still did nothing. On the morning Joshua died, prison medical staff recorded his heart rate at a staggering 158 beats per minute, and still they did nothing. Hours later, Joshua died alone on the floor of his prison cell, of a common and entirely treatable condition. Joshua was set to be released from prison only months after he died.

Joshua’s family is represented by Katherine Rosenfeld and Ali Frick, along with co-counsel Paul DeMuro at Frederic Dorwart Lawyers.

“Oklahoma: family says inmate died of appendicitis as pleas for help were ignored,” The Guardian

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