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Family of Police Shooting Victim Tamir Rice Requests DOJ Re-Open Investigation

The family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed by Cleveland police officers, today requested that United States Attorney General Merrick Garland re-open the Department of Justice investigation into Tamir’s death.

On Saturday, November 22, 2014, Tamir was playing with a toy pellet gun by himself in a park near his house. When Cleveland police officers drove into the park at high speed, there was no one else around and Tamir wasn’t brandishing the toy. Despite there being no imminent danger, Officer Timothy Loehmann jumped out of his still-rolling squad car and fatally shot Tamir.

Security video footage of the shooting contradicts the statements given by the Cleveland police to justify the shooting. The video shows there was no time for Loehmann to give Tamir commands; Loehmann shot him immediately. After watching the video, the Cleveland Municipal Court found probable cause to charge the officers involved, and a grand jury was convened. But then the local prosecutor grossly mishandled the grand jury proceeding in order to exonerate the officers, including actually telling the grand jury they should not indict. In the face of this injustice, at the end of 2015, we requested a Department of Justice investigation into the shooting.

Articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post in October 2020 revealed that Trump political appointees at DOJ had stymied that investigation for years. They twice refused requests by apolitical career prosecutors to present this case to a grand jury. They allowed the clock to run on the statute of limitations for obstruction of justice charges. Finally, in the waning weeks of the Trump presidency, between Christmas and New Year’s, DOJ quietly announced it was closing the investigation entirely.

Attorney General Garland should re-open the investigation and convene a grand jury. There is no statute of limitations on prosecuting Officer Loehmann for killing Tamir in violation of his civil rights.

The essential facts of this case are not in dispute. Tragically, it is also indisputable that race played a defining role in Tamir’s death. As we note in the request to Attorney General Garland, “If these police officers had driven into a park in a wealthy, predominantly White suburb, if the boy they saw sitting there under the gazebo was White—is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that that boy would still be alive today?”

On behalf of Tamir’s family, we are requesting that this case be re-opened and presented to a grand jury without the agenda of exonerating the officers.

We invite you to read our request to Attorney General Garland in its entirety.

ECBAWM partners Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, and Zoe Salzman represent the family of Tamir Rice.

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ECABWM Partner Zoe Salzman Co-Authors Washington Post Op-Ed Calling for Justice for Tamir Rice Under Biden Administration

Today the Washington Post published an opinion piece co-authored by ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman and Billy Joe Mills, founding partner of FirmEquity LLC. Both firms represent the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was brutally shot and killed by Cleveland police officers in 2014. In “Tamir Rice deserves justice. The Biden administration could finally deliver it,” Salzman and Mills explain why one of the top priorities for the Justice Department under the Biden administration should be the reopening of the case against the police officers who are responsible for Tamir’s death.

Noting that career DOJ attorneys had twice sought to convene a federal grand jury to bring charges against Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, the authors write, “[B]oth times those requests were stymied by Trump administration political appointees at the Justice Department. They sat on the requests for years, though the department typically rubber-stamps such requests in weeks. … [T]hey opted to run out the clock on the relevant statutes of limitations, which allowed them to silently kill the investigation without formally ending it.” After a whistleblower complaint that included these and other stalling tactics by the Justice Department, the investigation was formally closed without further explanation.

“The Justice Department is supposed to uphold the rule of law without yielding to the bruising tide of politics,” write Salzman and Mills. “We call on the Biden administration’s incoming attorney general, Merrick Garland, who has professed his commitment to the rule of law, to reopen the investigation into the killing of Tamir Rice.”

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Federal Judge Extends Voter Registration Deadline In Arizona

Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate Victory Which Will Allow Thousands More to Register In Advance of the November 2020 Election

In response to a voting rights lawsuit, a federal judge in Arizona issued an order on October 5 extending the voter registration deadline in the state to October 23, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on voter registration.

“[A] core tenet of democracy is to be ruled by a government that represents the population,” U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan wrote in his decision. “Due to COVID-19, a portion of the population is prevented from registering to vote, and thus the integrity of the election is undermined in a different way; that portion is going unrepresented. Extending the deadline would give more time for those voters to register and let their voices be heard through the democratic process.”

ECBAWM LLP, together with Free Speech for People and Osborn Maledon P.A., represent Mi Familia Vota, the Arizona Coalition for Change, and an individual voter registration organizer who filed the lawsuit on September 30, seeking a court order extending the October 5 voter registration cutoff.

“This is a huge victory for democracy,” says Flavio Bravo of Mi Familia Vota. “With this court-ordered relief, thousands more voters will be able to register to vote in the midst of this pandemic and will be able to participate in the November 2020 election.”

This year, organizations that register citizens to vote were effectively prevented from registering voters from March 30, 2020, when Arizona imposed a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on day-to-day interactions in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, to the middle of August when those restrictions were lifted. As a result, new voter registration has been far lower than in previous years.

With the lifting of the state’s restrictions, plaintiffs have recently pivoted their operations to adapt to the pandemic, registering thousands of Arizona voters. Yet Arizona’s voter registration deadline—earlier than most states, threatened to prematurely halt those efforts.

“This ruling is a vindication of the fundamental right to vote,” says Reginald Bolding of the Arizona Coalition for Change. “Court intervention here was necessary to address the impact of the pandemic on voter registration. Thanks to this ruling, many more voters will have their voices heard in this election.”

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Zoe Salzman, and Nick Bourland represent the plaintiffs, together with Free Speech For People and Osborn Maledon P.A.

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ECBAWM Sues Real Estate Developer Over Holocaust Denial Comments

ECBAWM filed suit today on behalf of Alison Greene. The complaint alleges that Ms. Greene was the victim of anti-Semitic and gender discrimination at the hands of her prior employer, the real estate developer El Ad Group. According to the complaint, El Ad Executive Vice President William “Bill” Harvey, made Holocaust denial comments, saying the concentration camps were not “that big a deal” and “the Holocaust wasn’t as bad as people said it was.” The complaint explains that Ms. Greene, who is Jewish and was very upset by these remarks, complained to El Ad’s legal and human resources departments, but El Ad did nothing and an El Ad human resources employee actually laughed at Ms. Greene when she reported her distress at these remarks. The complaint further alleges that El Ad also tolerated rampant sexism and gender discrimination against Ms. Greene and other female employees. “No company should tolerate anti-Semitism and Holocaust denials in New York City in 2020, especially not one with El Ad’s Israeli origins,” said ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman.

ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman represents Alison Greene.

“Exec at Israeli-owned company said holocaust ‘wasn’t as bad as people said’: lawsuit,” New York Post

 

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Paul Haggis Loses Appeal on Gender Motivated Violence Protection Law

The New York Appellate Division, First Department ruled on December 26, 2019, that rape and sexual assault are necessarily motivated at least in part by animus towards the victim’s gender, and therefore prohibited by the New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law.

The case is Breest v. Haggis, one of the few cases of the MeToo era that is being litigated in civil court. Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP represents Haleigh Breest, who alleges that Hollywood director Paul Haggis raped and assaulted her after a film premiere in 2013. The First Department affirmed the lower court’s decision denying Haggis’s motion to dismiss the case. In so doing, the Court rejected Haggis’s argument that, in order to plead a claim, the plaintiff had to allege that he had expressed hatred towards all women. In the first appellate ruling to ever address this important law, the Court made it clear that it did not agree with other lower court decisions that created “insuperable barriers” for sexual assault victims to plead their claims and seek justice.

The Court held that: “Rape and sexual assault are, by definition, actions taken against the victim without the victim’s consent. Without consent, sexual acts such as those alleged in the complaint are a violation of the victim’s bodily autonomy and an expression of the perpetrator’s contempt for that autonomy. Coerced sexual activity is dehumanizing and fear-inducing. Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself. Animus inheres where consent is absent.”

“This is a historic ruling that breathes new life into the New York City law against gender-motivated violence,” said ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman. “This decision paves the way for a jury to hold Paul Haggis accountable at trial.”

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, and Emma Freeman represent Haleigh Breest.

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Ten ECBAWM Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Four Named as Rising Stars

ECBAWM is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew BrinckerhoffJonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal LiebermanDan KornsteinAndrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2019. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro and associates David Lebowitz and Alanna Kaufman were named as Rising Stars.

The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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ECBAWM Files Case for Innocent Man Who Spent 20 Years in Jail

ECBAWM filed a case in the Eastern District of Michigan today against Detroit Police Department officers whose misconduct resulted in the wrongful conviction of Kendrick Scott, an innocent man. Detroit Police Department officers framed Mr. Scott for murder by beating up an illiterate, intoxicated sixteen-year-old boy until he falsely inculpated Mr. Scott and threatening another teenager with a history of mental illness to do the same. They concealed evidence that pointed to the victim’s husband as the likely true culprit. They threw Mr. Scott in jail, then they threw away the key.

After nearly 20 years of proclaiming his innocence and fighting to be exonerated, Mr. Scott was finally released in November 2018. Through this case, Mr. Scott hopes to vindicate his civil rights, shine the light on police abuse, and bring an end to a decades-long injustice.

“No amount of money can properly compensate Mr. Scott for the loss of twenty years of his life,” said ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman.

“Mr. Scott’s story is tragic for its familiarity: a young black man, framed by police through a pattern of egregious misconduct, lost nearly two decades of his life for no reason,” said ECBAWM attorney Ashok Chandran.

ECBAWM attorneys Zoe Salzman and Ashok Chandran represent Mr. Scott.

“Man wrongly imprisoned for 1999 murder sues Detroit Police Department, 4 officers,” Detroit News

 

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ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman Quoted in Law360

ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman was quoted in a Law360 article discussing the impact of a new case holding that New York’s CPLR 7515 does not prohibit arbitration of sexual harassment claims. “It’s just a fact when there’s an arbitration clause in an employment discrimination dispute, the company gets to keep that dispute out of the public eye,” Salzman said. “This may be the only decision analyzing 7515, but it’s not the only decision that reads arbitration clauses very broadly in a very pro-employer way, and in a way that greatly undermines the ability of employees to vindicate their rights and to protect other employees from future discrimination.” But Salzman noted that legal arguments can still be made in support of the statute and that public sentiment is moving away from the use of arbitration pacts. “I think there is a shift going on right now and the state legislatures are saying very strongly what I think the people of the state are saying very strongly — which is that they think those agreements are unconscionable and against public policy and they don’t want to see them,” Salzman said.

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ECBAWM Wins DNA Motion in Sexual Assault Case

ECBAWM won a landmark ruling in Breest v. Haggis. ECBAWM represents a young woman named Haleigh Breest in a case alleging that she was raped and sexually assaulted by the director Paul Haggis. In a legal filing, Haggis swore under oath that he had not had intercourse with Breest. But he refused to give a sample of his DNA to compare to the sample left in Breest’s tights. Justice Robert R. Reed of the New York Supreme Court ruled that Haggis had to provide his DNA because, if it matched the DNA on the tights, it could help prove Breest’s claim of rape and rebut Haggis’s denial of intercourse. “This is an important decision by the court. We believe it is the first case of the #MeToo era to order disclosure of DNA evidence,” said Breest’s lawyer, Zoe Salzman.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, and Emma Freeman represent the plaintiff Haleigh Breest.

“Paul Haggis ordered to give DNA sample in alleged rape case,” PageSix

 

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ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman Gives Tips for Victims of Employment Discrimination

Zoe Salzman, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP who specializes in sexual harassment and employment discrimination, was recently interviewed by Super Lawyers magazine.

The article gives tips for what to do if you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against at work. Ms. Salzman said: “Calling a lawyer as soon as it happened is going to give you the best understanding of whether you were wronged and, if you were, what your options are.”

Ms. Salzman was named as a Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2018.

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