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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

Article

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.

Article

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

CNN, Sports Illustrated, and Other Major Media Cover Latest OSU Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Major media outlets have covered the latest lawsuit filed by ECBAWM against The Ohio State University for the role it played in facilitating and concealing the sexual abuse of student-athletes by its former employee Dr. Richard Strauss.

Press Coverage 
“Nearly 30 new alleged abuse victims sue The Ohio State University,” CNN
“More Men Were Abused by Former Ohio State Doctor, New Lawsuit Says,” Sports Illustrated
“More men were abused by former Ohio State doctor, new lawsuit says,” ESPN
“New Lawsuit: More Men Were Abused by Ohio State Doctor,” US News & World Report
“New lawsuit: More men were abused by Ohio State doctor,” Associated Press

Article

ECBAWM Files Third Lawsuit Against The Ohio State University for Its Role in Facilitating and Concealing Sexual Assaults

ECBAWM has filed a lawsuit against The Ohio State University (“OSU”) on behalf of 29 survivors of sexual assault by former team doctor Richard Strauss.

The plaintiffs in Moxley v. OSU include Timothy Moxley, who was abused by Strauss first multiple times as a high school student at a wrestling camp held on OSU’s campus and then again as a student athlete at OSU, and 28 other men who were sexually assaulted, abused, molested, and harassed by Strauss while he was employed by OSU.

A 2019 investigation commissioned by OSU and conducted by the law firm Perkins Coie uncovered at least 177 abuse survivors and concluded that OSU had repeatedly failed to investigate or address complaints about Strauss.

Several months later, a report commissioned by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also concluded that OSU failed to protect or inform students – even after the school was notified in 1996 by the State Medical Board about Strauss’ conduct. Instead of working to identify other students who had been abused by Strauss, as OSU told the State Medical Board it would, the school instead destroyed the health care records of students who had been examined by Strauss.

The firm has previously filed two separate lawsuits against OSU for its facilitation and concealment of sexual assaults by Strauss: Snyder-Hill v. OSU in 2018 and Khalil v. OSU in 2019.

OSU previously admitted that Strauss committed 47 rapes and 1,429 sexual assaults of student-patients while employed by OSU.

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

If you have been affected by the sexual abuse at Ohio State, please call us at 212-763-5042, email ohiosurvivors@ecbawm.com, or use this form.

Press Coverage
“Twenty-nine new plaintiffs sue Ohio State over university’s knowledge of Strauss abuse,” The Columbus Dispatch

Article

ECBAWM Files Excessive Force Lawsuit on Behalf of Man Paralyzed by NYPD Officers

On June 2, 2021, ECBAWM filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Peyman Bahadoran, a former Wall Street trader who is now paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by NYPD officers during a non-violent confrontation. As detailed in the complaint, Mr. Bahadoran—who suffers from bipolar disorder—experienced a manic episode on June 4, 2020 outside a Manhattan deli after days of seeing violence between police and Black Lives Matter protesters outside his home near Union Square. NYPD officers on the scene did not even attempt to use non-lethal techniques to subdue Mr. Bahadoran. Instead, two NYPD officers shot Mr. Bahadoran in the spine and left arm. He was unarmed and non-violent at the time the officers shot him. He is now paralyzed and unable to control any body function below his waist.

Security and body camera footage of the shooting have been widely circulated in the news media and confirm that the officers’ force was excessive. “The body camera footage shows clearly that Mr. Bahadoran was unarmed when shot,” said Mr. Bahadoran’s lawyer Earl Ward. “It further disproves the claim by the department that he was ‘reaching’ and ‘lunging.’ He posed no deadly risk and now there’s a bullet lodged in his spine and he may never walk again.”

ECBAWM’s Earl Ward, Jonathan Abady, and Marissa Benavides represent Mr. Bahadoran in the suit.

Read the filed complaint

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

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.

Article

ECBAWM Clients Sue Trump Administration for Voter Intimidation

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and individual plaintiffs sued President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf for voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ threats to send “sheriffs” and other “law enforcement” to the polls, their encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes” to monitor the polls, their undermining of mail-in voting, their violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, and their rejection of the peaceful transfer of power, collectively constitute illegal voter intimidation. A motion for preliminary injunctive relief and expedited declaratory relief was filed simultaneously with the complaint. The plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants from continuing to intimidate voters and seek a declaration that defendants’ voter intimidation tactics are unlawful.

Media coverage of the lawsuit can be found at The Hill, Forbes, Newsweek, and Courthouse News.

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Sam Shapiro, and Marissa Benavides represent the clients together with Free Speech for People and Mehri & Skallet, PLLC.

Article

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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