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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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ECBAWM and Co-Counsel File Medical Expert’s Report Finding Serious Failures in Jail’s Coronavirus Response

On April 30, 2020, ECBAWM along with co-counsel the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, Alexander A. Reinert, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, filed a motion 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.  The motion seeks relief for medically vulnerable people incarcerated in the MDC and improved conditions. The report submitted in support of the motion by Dr. Homer Venters, a leading expert in health services for incarcerated people, describes the failures of the MDC to appropriately respond to protect the health and safety of people confined in the MDC and staff. After Respondent moved to strike the report, U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann denied the Respondent’s motion less than 24 hours later.

To read about the denial of the Respondent’s motion to strike, click here.

To read more about Chunn et al. v. Edge, click here.

To read coverage of the lawsuit and expert report by the Intercept, click here.

To read coverage of the lawsuit and expert report by the NY Daily News, click here.

To read coverage of the lawsuit in the New York Law Journal, click here.

To hear WNYC’s coverage of the case, click here.

ECBAWM Attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovichrepresent petitioners and the putative class.

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Class Action Seeks Release of 540 People and Changes to Protect Others Confined at Brooklyn MDC from the Novel COVID-19 Virus

March 27, 2020 — Petitioners Hassan Chunn, Nehemiah McBride, Ayman Rabadi, and Justin Rodriguez filed a class action lawsuit today against Warden Derek Edge in federal court. The case seeks the immediate release of approximately 540 people most vulnerable to succumbing to COVID-19 and a special master to oversee improvements in the conditions of confinement at Brooklyn’s federal jail, Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”), to combat the spread of the virus.

New York City is the epicenter of the Country’s struggle with COVID-19. The risks posed by COVID-19 to people confined in jails and prisons—in terms of transmission, exposure, and harm—are stark and alarming. For reasons beyond their control, people in jails and prisons cannot practice social distancing, control their exposure to large groups, practice increased hygiene, wear protective clothing, obtain specific products for cleaning or laundry, avoid high-touch surfaces, or sanitize their own environment. People in jails and prisons are more vulnerable and susceptible to the risks of coronavirus because they are more likely to have chronic underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung and liver diseases, asthma, and lower immune systems from HIV. People have limited opportunities to access medical care under normal circumstances in jails; medical facilities are limited, and as staff become sick, fewer people are present to care for those who remain confined.

The outbreak of a highly infectious, deadly virus in a closed detention setting is a disaster, calling for urgent and decisive action to protect the health of those confined in the jail, those who work there, and the medical professionals who will treat those who become infected.

The lawsuit alleges that Respondent Warden Derek Edge has not taken steps to protect Petitioners from the substantial risk of harm posed by COVID-19, nor could he under the MDC’s current conditions.  It seeks immediate relief on the grounds that every hour that Petitioners are held under these circumstances, they are exposed to the substantial risk of a COVID-19 infection, with a substantial risk of death to follow and that continuing to hold vulnerable people under these circumstances violates their Constitutional rights.

ECBAWM Attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovich, together with the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, and Alexander A. Reinert, represent petitioners and the putative class.  To read a copy of the complaint, click here. To read coverage of the complaint and evolving crisis in the New York Times, click here.

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ECBAWM Attorneys Reach Settlement in Midwood, Brooklyn Housing Discrimination Case

On behalf of their clients Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and five African American testers, ECBAWM attorneys Diane L. Houk and Scout Katovich negotiated a $300,000 settlement of a race and religion housing discrimination case. The federal lawsuit alleged that Defendants ZP Realty Capital, Zev Pollak, and others were discriminating when renting apartments at a building located in the predominantly white Midwood neighborhood.  The plaintiffs alleged that none of them were shown apartments even though Defendants showed white testers vacant apartments. They also alleged that Mr. Pollak referred to the apartments as being in a “Jewish building.”  The settlement requires the defendants to institute fair housing practices, including to publicly advertise when apartments are available to rent.

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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.”

To read the complaint, click here. Read the press release, here and coverage of the story on ABC News and the Daily News.

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

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