Article

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 Sues Landlords and Brokers for Lying to and Ghosting Renters with Section 8 Vouchers

ECBAWM attorneys filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center against the management company, owners, and real estate agents for three rental apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Queens who denied renters with Section 8 housing vouchers the opportunity to rent available apartments. The complaint alleges that Defendants lied to renters with vouchers about available apartments and repeatedly ghosted them – ignoring their calls and texts after learning they intended to pay rent with a voucher. Defendants’ “discrimination by disappearance” violates the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, which prohibit discrimination based on renters’ source of income.

The named Defendants are E L J Management Company, Jacbay Inc., Astoria 35 Inc., Harari Realty Corp., Contact Realty Corp., and Christian Quiceno. Defendant E L J is the management company for all three buildings. It manages approximately a dozen apartment buildings with over 1,500 combined units in New York City.

ECBAWM attorneys Diane L. Houk and Max Selver represent the Fair Housing Justice Center. A link to the filed Complaint can be found here.

Article

ECBAWM and Romano & Kuan Win Federal Jury Trial for Client Rendered Quadriplegic by NYPD Officer’s Assault

On April 13, 2022, after a four-day trial, an eight-person jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Defendant NYPD Officer Luis Linares assaulted and committed battery against our client Eliezer Lopez when he pushed Mr. Lopez over a railing in the Crotona Park neighborhood of the Bronx in December of 2015. After Officer Linares’s push, Mr. Lopez fell 15 feet and landed on the back of his head, rendering him permanently paralyzed from the neck down. Mr. Lopez died in May 2019 after spending the last three-and-a-half years of his life confined to a hospital bed as a result of Officer Linares’s assault.

At the trial, the jury rejected Officer Linares’s claims that Mr. Lopez jumped over the railing and that he never touched Mr. Lopez. ECBAWM and co-counsel Romano & Kuan marshaled testimony from an expert witness who testified that the nature of Mr. Lopez’s injuries was inconsistent with Officer Linares’s testimony, along with testimony from Mr. Lopez himself and an eyewitness who contradicted Officer Linares’s account. The attorneys also uncovered key discrepancies between Officer Linares’s testimony and that of his fellow officers when questioning them on the stand.

ECBAWM attorneys Earl Ward and Max Selver, together with Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, represent the Plaintiff Suhail Laureano, Eliezer Lopez’s wife, who is proceeding as a representative of his Estate. Following the jury’s verdict that Officer Linares committed assault and battery, the parties are preparing for a second jury trial to determine the amount of damages.

Article

$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

Post-Release Supervision Class Action to Proceed to Damages Trial

In Betances v. Fischer, ECBAWM represents a class of over 3000 individuals who were administratively, unilaterally, and unlawfully sentenced to terms of post-release supervision (“PRS”) by New York State corrections and parole officials. The Plaintiff class was certified by the Court in 2015 and the Court subsequently granted summary judgment on liability to Plaintiffs, holding the Defendant State corrections and parole officials personally liable for violating Plaintiffs’ due process rights.

In advance of trial, the Defendant State officials moved to decertify the Plaintiff class on the basis that Plaintiffs’ general damages—which stem from the liberty Plaintiffs lost while on PRS or incarcerated for violating PRS—cannot be determined on a class-wide basis. In a March 14, 2022 decision, United States Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger denied Defendants’ motion to decertify the class and ruled that “the class should be maintained for the purposes of trial to determine damages for loss of liberty.”

In denying the Defendants’ decertification motion, the Court held that Plaintiffs’ lost liberty “is inherent in any unlawful detention and is compensable as general damages” and “can be determined on a class-wide basis.” The Court further determined that these common injuries “predominate over other, individualized issues” and can therefore be determined on a class basis at trial.

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Nick Bourland, and Max Selver, and law clerk Julian Oppenheimer represent the Betances Plaintiff class.

Article

ECBAWM Achieves $1.5M Settlement for Developmentally Disabled Individual Abused in New York State-Run Group Home

ECBAWM has obtained a $1.5 million settlement from the State of New York on behalf of M.F., a developmentally disabled resident of a New York State-run group home who experienced serial abuse by caretakers.

As set forth in the lawsuit, for years, M.F. was subjected to constant abuse by staff members while in residence at the Union Avenue IRA in the Bronx, run by New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Union Avenue staff testified that M.F. was constantly covered in bruises throughout their stay, and staff also witnessed colleagues subjecting M.F. to physical abuse, inhumane confinement, and forced feedings. In spite of the heinous abuse they witnessed, not one staff member or supervisor reported the abuse to law enforcement, the state’s abuse hotline, or M.F.’s family.

The lawsuit also revealed that the State failed M.F. by turning a blind eye to reports showing systemic abuse at Union Avenue and failing to train staff and supervisors on incident reporting.

The New York Times previously reported on this case and the conditions at Union Avenue in Episode 27 (“The Promise”) of The Weekly.

M.F. is represented by Ilann Maazel and Max Selver.

Press
“NY To Pay $1.5M To End Group Home Resident Abuse Suit,” Law.com

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

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.

Article

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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