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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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Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP Announces New Team Members

The firm is pleased to announce new members of our team: Ananda Burra, Noel León, Sonya Levitova, Julian S. Oppenheimer, Vivake Prasad, and Max Selver.

Ananda Burra graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif from the University of Michigan Law School in 2014, where he served as an editor on the Michigan Law Review and was awarded the William Bishop Prize for excellence in International Law. He clerked on the International Court of Justice, was a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge and the University of Virginia, and received a PhD from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the firm, Dr. Burra was an associate at Jones Day in the global disputes practice and held summer positions at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Human Rights First in Washington D.C., and at the Center for Policy Alternative in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He received his BA cum laude from Williams College.

Noel León graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2014, where she was a Toll Public Interest Fellow and Executive Articles Editor for the Penn Journal of Law and Social Change. She joins the firm after a clerkship with the Honorable Victor A. Bolden of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Previously, Ms. León was Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. She was also a Case Manager for the DC Abortion Fund. Ms. León received a BA in Psychology from Yale University in 2009.

Sonya Levitova earned her JD from the City University of New York School of Law in 2020, where she was a Graduate Fellow and served as Managing Articles Editor for the CUNY Law Review. During law school, she participated in the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility Project, and interned with ArchCity Defenders. She also worked at the firm as a summer associate. Ms. Levitova received her BA from Yale University. She is a law clerk and the firm’s 2020 Justice Catalyst Fellow working to hold federal officials accountable for their violations of incarcerated people’s constitutional rights.

Julian S. Oppenheimer graduated in 2020 from the City University of New York School of Law, where he was a member of the Moot Court Team and a teaching assistant for the Trial Practice Seminar. He previously served as a judicial intern for the Hon. Saliann Scarpulla of the New York State Supreme Court, Commercial Division and interned with the New York Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Oppenheimer received his BA from the City College of New York, where he studied Political Science and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is currently working as a law clerk and will become an associate at the firm upon his admission to the bar.

Vivake Prasad graduated in 2015 from New York University School of Law, where he was the Senior Articles Editor for the N.Y.U. Journal of Legislation & Public Policy. During law school, he served as a student advocate in the NYU Racial Justice and NYU Global Justice Clinics, worked at the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Prasad was a litigation associate at White & Case LLP. Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Prasad advised Indian Members of Parliament on legislation and policy matters with PRS Legislative Research, at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He received his BS in Policy & Management and Political Science, with University Honors, from Carnegie Mellon University.

Max Selver graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif from the New York University School of Law in 2016, where he was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Fellow. Before joining the firm, Mr. Selver was Litigation Fellow at Youth Represent and a Law Clerk to the Honorable Analisa Torres and James C. Francis IV in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He received his BA cum laude from Harvard College in 2011.

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ECBAWM Represents City of Hoboken Against Big Oil Companies for Climate Change Deceptions

ECBAWM and co-counsel Krovatin Nau LLC represent Hoboken, New Jersey in litigation filed yesterday against ExxonMobil, several other big oil companies, and the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s largest lobby, to hold them accountable for more than a half-century of deception about climate change, which has led to devastating impacts on Hoboken.

The defendants have waged massive, decades-long disinformation campaigns to deceive the public about the central role of fossil fuels in causing climate change, all while spending billions of dollars to protect their own infrastructure from climate change and raking in billions of dollars in profits from their ever-expanding production, marketing, and sale of fossil fuels. Hoboken is on the front lines of the climate crisis masked by Defendants’ deceptions. As Superstorm Sandy’s overwhelming destruction made clear in 2012, accelerating sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms caused by climate change pose grave threats to the city, particularly its residents of color, who disproportionately live in flood-prone areas.

Hoboken has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on flood adaptation and mitigation measures made necessary by climate change, and it will incur significant additional costs in the future. Through this case, Hoboken seeks to hold some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs they have imposed on the city.

Press Release
Read coverage of the lawsuit from NJ.com, ABC7, and InsideClimateNews.

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Ananda V. Burra, and Max Selver, along with Gerald Krovatin of Krovatin Nau LLC, represent the City of Hoboken.

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