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ECBAWM Joins Anthony Sims Legal Team

ECBAWM is proud to join the legal team of Anthony Sims, a man who has served 23 years after being wrongfully convicted of the 1998 murder of Li Run Chen.

Mr. Chen was killed by a single shotgun blast while working at a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. Undisputed evidence pointed to a different perpetrator altogether. In addition, for decades, law enforcement withheld substantial Brady material and evidence of Anthony’s innocence. As a result, Anthony filed a motion to vacate his conviction and to dismiss all charges against him. The District Attorney’s Office has not joined the motion and a hearing is scheduled to begin on October 14.

ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. MaazelSam Shapiro, and Nairuby Beckles, along with attorneys Thomas Hoffman and Jonathan Hiles, represent Anthony Sims. More information about the case is available on the Free Anthony Sims website.

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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

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Federal Court Denies Motion to Dismiss ECBAWM’s False Positives Class-Action Against Microgenics Corp. and Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.

On March 22, 2021, Federal Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon of the Eastern District of New York denied a motion brought by Microgenics Corporation and Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. to dismiss a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by ECBAWM and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York on behalf of state prisoners who were severely punished based solely on the unreliable drug testing services supplied by Defendants. The Court’s decision means that ECBAWM and PLS-NY will continue to press forward with their efforts to hold Defendants accountable for the severe harms hundreds of people suffered, including being wrongfully placed in solitary confinement, being removed from family reunification programs, and even being held in prison beyond their sentences.

ECBAWM’s Matthew D. Brinckerhoff and Ananda Burra represent the plaintiffs.

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ECBAWM Files Putative Class Action on Behalf of Inmates Denied Rehab, Early Release

ECBAWM has filed a putative class action on behalf of Michael Matzell, who was formerly incarcerated in a New York State Department of Corrections (“DOCCS”) facility, and other similarly situated individuals who were denied participation in DOCCS’ Shock Incarceration Program (“Shock”) even though their participation was court-ordered.

Shock is a six-month boot-camp style program that provides incarcerated people with substance abuse treatment, therapy, education, and other reintegration services. As part of New York State’s Drug Reform Act of 2009, sentencing judges have the authority to order participation in the Shock program. Once participation is ordered by a court, the DOCCS does not have discretion to deny participation.

Yet, that is exactly what the DOCCS did to Mr. Matzell and over 300 other incarcerated people who were entitled to participate in Shock. Rather than follow the law, DOCCS created its own program criteria that denied Mr. Matzell – and hundreds of others – entry into the program. Inexplicably, one of the criteria DOCCS cited in improperly denying Mr. Matzell participation in the program that would have provided him with substance abuse treatment is that he had received an infraction for substance abuse.

By acting outside the bounds of their legal authority, DOCCS staff denied class members of the early release they would have been entitled to upon completion of the Shock program. For Mr. Matzell, this means he was forced to serve an additional 506 days that he would not have had to serve had he been allowed to participate in Shock as ordered by the court.

ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Debra Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs.

Related Press
“N.Y. prisons ignore court orders that inmates go to rehab: suit” (New York Daily News)

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Time Magazine Publishes Profile of Jamel Floyd Family

Time magazine has published an in-depth profile of the family of Jamel Floyd in the aftermath of his death. Mr. Floyd died on June 3, 2020 at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, after Federal Bureau of Prisons corrections officers pepper-sprayed him and subjected him to excessive force. ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld and associate Nick Bourland represent Jamel’s family in an investigation into his death.

The complete article by Time reporter Sanya Mansoor is accompanied by a photo essay by Yuki Iwamura of Jamel’s wake, funeral, and internment.

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ECBAWM Client’s Essay on Prison Abuse Published in The Appeal

In his article for The Appeal, “In This Moment of Reckoning Around Police Violence, Don’t Forget the Unseen Abuses of People Who Are Incarcerated,” our client Vernon Horn writes of his firsthand experiences being brutalized while in prison. Mr. Horn served 17 years for a crime he did not commit before being exonerated. We currently represent Mr. Horn in his civil lawsuit against the City of New Haven, three individual police officers, and a Connecticut firearms examiner based on conduct that we allege included fabrication and concealing of evidence leading to his wrongful conviction.

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Family of Jamel Floyd Holds Funeral Today and Calls for Justice, One Month After His Untimely Death in Brooklyn Federal Prison

On June 3, 2020, Jamel Floyd’s life was tragically cut short while he was a prisoner in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He was only 35 years old.

Mr. Floyd had been looking forward to release from prison in just a few months, and to the start of a whole new chapter in his life.

Mr. Floyd died after Federal Bureau of Prisons correction officers pepper-sprayed him while he was locked in his prison cell, and then subjected him to excessive force while removing him from his cell. Witnesses report that officers blasted so much pepper spray into Mr. Floyd’s cell that the entire unit was impacted, with other people having to place wet towels under their own cell doors so they could breathe. After Mr. Floyd lost consciousness, officers strapped his unresponsive body to a restraint chair and removed him from MDC’s special housing unit.

Mr. Floyd was never seen alive again.

Today, Mr. Floyd’s family and friends—his mother, father, brother, fiancé, and extended family—are gathering for his funeral in Hempstead, New York, where they will commemorate his life. Before June 3rd, they were eagerly planning for Mr. Floyd’s parole appearance and possible release from prison in the fall.

Mr. Floyd’s brother, Ramel Floyd, was hoping to start a new moving truck business with his brother later this year. Just days before Jamel Floyd’s death, Ramel spoke with his brother about their plans. “Jamel was super intelligent, he was a jailhouse lawyer and was also studying while he was in prison to get the licenses he needed for our new business,” Ramel says. “Everything was lining up for the next part of my brother’s life—he was so close to getting out and then they took him away from us.”

Mr. Floyd’s mother, Donna Mays, was counting down the weeks until Mr. Floyd’s parole date. Ms. Mays could not wait to see Mr. Floyd reunited with his entire family in Hempstead later this year. “I am getting married soon and Jamel was supposed to walk me down the aisle,” Ms. Mays says. “Now, because of what they did to my son, I am planning his funeral instead.”

The MDC and Federal Bureau of Prisons must respond to calls for justice in the wake of Jamel Floyd’s untimely death, from his family, elected officials, and the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. The BOP must act swiftly to release Mr. Floyd’s medical and institutional records to his family without further delay, including the video taken of the use of force against him, and allow a prompt and impartial investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death.

“The violent and senseless death of Jamel Floyd, yet another young Black man who died in the custody of law enforcement—this time in a federal jail facility—is disturbing,” said Katherine Rosenfeld, one of the Floyd and Mays family’s attorneys. “This heartbroken family deserves truthful answers about what happened to Jamel Floyd.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez stated: “Time and again, MDC has exhibited lack of accountability and allowed conditions that endanger the lives of those detained there. The recent death of Jamel Floyd fits this pattern and initial review suggests it could have been prevented. I will continue pressing the Department of Justice for answers and work to hold MDC accountable. We need a complete and swift investigation.”

Congressman Jerry Nadler described initial reports of Mr. Floyd’s death as “horrifying” and immediately called for a Congressional investigation of Mr. Floyd’s death.

Jabari Brisport, candidate for New York State Senate District 25, which includes MDC, stated: “Jamel should still be with us today, but the people responsible for his caretaking gave him an unlawful death sentence at MDC. As a person suffering from asthma, he managed to avoid COVID-19, only to be tragically murdered by correction officers using pepper spray. I stand in solidarity with the Floyd family, and would like to amplify their calls for the release of medical records, and for a prompt investigation into his death.”

Mr. Floyd’s family wishes to express their gratitude to the thousands of people who have supported their campaign for #JusticeforJamel, attended the vigils outside the MDC, and contributed to Jamel’s funeral expenses. They also thank the many people confined in the MDC who have come forward to tell the truth about what happened to Jamel.

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ECBAWM Represents Jamel Floyd’s Family in Investigation Into Mr. Floyd’s Senseless Death at the MDC

ECBAWM is representing Donna Mays, the mother of Jamel Floyd, and their family, in an investigation into the tragic, untimely death of Mr. Floyd, who died on June 3, 2020 while incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”) in Brooklyn, a prison operated by the United States Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). Mr. Floyd, a 35-year old Black man, was eligible for parole in only three months and had planned to rejoin his family in Hempstead, Long Island. According to initial reports, on June 3, Mr. Floyd—who was asthmatic—was pepper-sprayed by correction officers while he was locked in his cell, subjected to force, placed in restraints, and removed from his cell, at which point he was found to be unresponsive. He was then taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The DOJ and FBI are both investigating Mr. Floyd’s death.

Mr. Floyd’s family has led the call for justice and accountability at protests outside the MDC, demanding answers about the violence and force that caused Jamel’s death. Mr. Floyd’s death has sparked outrage throughout New York City and beyond as millions of individuals continue to protest the deaths of African American people resulting from excessive force at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Read coverage of Mr. Floyd’s death in the New York Daily News and Newsweek.

Information regarding ECBAWM’s current class action litigation challenging conditions of confinement at MDC can be found here.

ECBAWM Attorneys Katherine Rosenfeld, Earl S. Ward, and Nick Bourland represent Ms. Mays and the family of Jamel Floyd.

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Federal Judge Sanctions MDC for Spoliation of Evidence in COVID-19 Class Action Lawsuit

On Tuesday, June 10, U.S. District Judge Rachel Kovner issued her ruling on the motion filed by ECBAWM and co-counsel the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, Alexander A. Reinert, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, for preliminary injunction in Chunn v. Edge, 20 Civ. 1590 (E.D.N.Y.), a class-action lawsuit challenging the response of the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) to the COVID-19 pandemic. While denying the request for immediate relief, which would have released medically vulnerable inmates from the MDC, Judge Kovner also found that responses to requests for medical care had been slow at times and the facility had not isolated all inmates who exhibited COVID-like symptoms. Significantly, Judge Kovner drew an adverse inference against the MDC based on its spoliation of paper records of requests for medical care after the lawsuit was filed and imposed sanctions against MDC. “The court’s sanction of the MDC for spoliating evidence during the litigation is a reminder that prison officials are not above the rules,” said ECBAWM attorney Katherine Rosenfeld, who, along with fellow ECBAWM attorneys Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovich, represents petitioners and the putative class. You can read the full Law.com article here.

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