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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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New York Times Publishes Letter by ECBAWM Partner Andrew Celli

On March 26, the New York Times published a Letter to the Editor authored by ECBAWM founding partner Andrew G. Celli Jr. Drawing from his extensive experience representing victims of police misconduct, Celli’s Letter, “In Service,” offers a more nuanced perspective on Maurice Chammah’s review of Rosa Brooks’s “Tangled Up in Blue” and Justin Fenton’s “We Own This City,” which implied that the police seek high-risk situations because of boredom in regular patrol work. Celli writes about his perspective on the realities of police work and calls on those in the profession to more adequately communicate their role as a public service, rather than an outlet for adventure.

Recently, Andrew Celli has contributed to cases that involved fatalities resulting from police misconduct, such as the death of Daniel Prude and Osaze Osagie.

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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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Firm Client Advocates for New Law to Reform Solitary Confinement in New York State Prisons

Firm client Darlene McDay hailed the passage on March 18, 2021 of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act after the New York State Senate voted to pass the new law.  The statute limits the time a person in state prison can spend in segregated confinement and ends the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable people.  Ms. McDay is the mother of Dante Taylor, a 22-year old man who died at Wende Correctional Facility on October 7, 2017, after prolonged solitary confinement and assault by staff.  Since her son’s death, Ms. McDay has become a member of the HALT solitary confinement campaign and joined their efforts to advocate for the passage of the legislation.

 This Bill can be read in its entirety here, and coverage on the passage of HALT Solitary Confinement Act discussing Ms. McDay’s advocacy can be found here.

 Firm lawyers Katie Rosenfeld and Marissa Benavides represent Ms. McDay in this case.

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ECBAWM, as Independent Investigator, Releases Report on the City of Rochester’s Response to the Death of Daniel Prude

On September 16, 2020, the Rochester City Council, by Ordinance No. 2020-283, appointed our law firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, LLP (“ECBAWM”), to serve as Special Council Investigator to investigate the City’s response to the arrest and death of Daniel Prude. On March 12, 2021, we released our final Report of the Investigation.

The Report reflects six months’ worth of work by ECBAWM lawyers and staff; it is over 50 pages in length, and it contains dozens of factual findings, as well as an analysis of the facts as found. No brief public statement can summarize those findings, that analysis, or the Report as a whole. We urge any interested person to take the time to read the Report in full. That said, when our firm was appointed, we committed that our work would answer the fundamental question that many people in the Rochester community were urgently asking, and that many continue to demand an answer to today:

Did officials of City government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude between March 23, 2020, when the arrest occurred, and September 2, 2020, when the Prude family publicly released body-worn camera footage of the incident?
The straightforward answer is yes. The Investigation revealed no explanation that fully accounts for the more than four-month delay between the death of an unarmed man at the hands of Rochester police, and public disclosure of the facts and circumstances under which the death occurred — other than a decision or series of decisions not to make such disclosure.
The Investigation uncovered a great deal of evidence and reached specific, sometimes nuanced, conclusions. Understanding that evidence and those conclusions require consideration of the full Report, with time and attention to detail.

The Investigation was conducted by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr.Katherine Rosenfeld, and Scout Katovich; and was supported by paralegals Kathryn Ravey and Jocelyn Rodriguez.

Supporting documentation for the Report can be found at RochesterInvestigation.com.

Media coverage of this Report has been reported by the Associated Press, the Democrat & Chronicle, and NBC New York.

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NYLJ Publishes Wrongful Conviction Article by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

In “False Confessions, Mistaken Identification and Wrongful Convictions,” his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel explains the role false confessions and mistaken witness identification play in leading to wrongful convictions. “Many criminal convictions today are suspect,” writes Maazel, who has represented criminal defendants seeking exoneration and exonerees seeking justice through civil lawsuits. “For these defendants, only an honest assessment of the facts, the science, and the research will lead to justice.”

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ECBAWM and Public Citizen Represent Amici Legal Scholars Supporting Amazon Workers in Second Circuit Case

ECBAWM, along with Public Citizen Litigation Group, represents eleven law professors with expertise in civil procedure and federal courts in an amici curiae brief filed in Derrick Palmer, et. al v. Amazon, Inc, et al in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Palmer v. Amazon, the plaintiffs allege that defendants Amazon.com, Inc. and Amazon.com Services, LLC (collectively, “Amazon”) failed to comply with New York State health and safety requirements during a deadly pandemic. The lower court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss, ruling that “pursuant to the doctrine of primary jurisdiction,” the plaintiffs were required to seek relief through the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and not the courts.

The law professors, who hail from New York University School of Law, City University of New York School of Law, University of Texas School of Law, George Washington University Law School, New York Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wake Forest University, University of Alabama School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center, filed their brief in support of defendants’ appeal of the decision to dismiss.

The district court erred in dismissing “state-law claims arising from the defendants’ allegedly unsafe working conditions,” by relying “on an expansive conception of primary jurisdiction that finds no warrant in the precedent of the Supreme Court or in this Court,” the professors explained in the brief. The professors request that the Second Circuit reverse the lower court’s decision with respect to the application of the primary jurisdiction doctrine.

ECBAWM partner Debbie Greenberger represents the amici curiae law professors.

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ECBAWM Secures Landmark Settlement Between Voting Rights Advocates and Private Security Company Charged with Voter Intimidation

A federal judge has approved a sweeping settlement in a lawsuit brought by voting rights advocates against a private security contractor, Atlas Aegis, for illegal voter intimidation in Minnesota. ECBAWM’s clients, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWV-MN), celebrated the settlement as a major victory for democracy.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy E. Brasel approved a consent decree that resolves all remaining claims in the lawsuit. Under the consent decree, which lasts until January 1, 2025, Atlas Aegis and its Chairman and co-founder Anthony Caudle are:

  • Prohibited from deploying armed agents within 250 feet of (or otherwise monitoring) any early voting location during early voting, a polling place on election day, places where ballots are being counted, recounted, or canvassed; or where county canvassing boards or the State Canvassing Board are meeting to canvass, inspect, or declare the results of that election; or where Minnesota’s presidential electors are meeting to vote in the presidential general election.
  • Prohibited from otherwise taking any action to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters, people aiding voters, or people engaged in tabulating, counting, or reporting votes.
  • Required to notify CAIR-MN and LWV-MN in writing 25 days before any federal election if they are supplying security personnel for any non-election-related protective services (e.g., providing security for an art exhibition or concert) where armed security personnel may be visible to the public within 250 feet of a polling place on election day.

Any violations of the consent decree will be enforceable as contempt of court.

The consent decree approved by the federal court requires the plaintiffs to state as follows:

“This matter has been resolved by agreement. The parties have agreed that Defendants shall be restricted in their actions as set forth in the terms of the attached Consent Decree. Defendants have not admitted any liability and specifically deny they have committed any statutory violation.”

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Matthew Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad, as well as Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Court Certifies Class in ECBAWM, STOP Religious Headcovering Lawsuit

On February 16, 2020, federal judge Analisa Torres of the United States District Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification on behalf of all New Yorkers forced to remove their religious head coverings for photographs while in NYPD custody. ECBAWM filed the case for the Plaintiffs, together with the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (“STOP”). The decision means that Plaintiffs’ case for damages will proceed as a class action and that, if found liable, the City must pay damages to each and every individual whose religious rights were violated under the NYPD policy.

“Every New Yorker whose religious head covering was forcibly removed by the NYPD in violation of their religious rights should be entitled to compensation. This decision gives us a mechanism to make that happen,” said O. Andrew F. Wilson, a partner at ECBAWM.

This ruling followed Judge Torres’s September 30, 2020 rejection of the City of New York’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims under the Federal Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), both of which protect the rights of all New Yorkers to express their beliefs through religious clothing.

Judge Torres wrote: “The Policy compels all individuals to remove religious headwear when sitting for a booking photograph…As a result, every member of the class will have the same claim because each member objects, due to their sincerely-held religious beliefs, to some or all of the activity the policy compels.”

Emma L. Freeman, an attorney at ECBAWM, said: “The Court’s ruling confirms that all New Yorkers—no matter what their religious practices—deserve compensation for being forced to take an uncovered mug shot.”

“This lawsuit already blocked the NYPD from removing New Yorkers’ head coverings in the future, but today’s decision brings us one step closer to justice for New Yorkers who were harmed in the past,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “Far too many New Yorkers have already been targeted, humiliated, and stripped for their religious head coverings. These New Yorkers deserve justice for what they’ve suffered, and it’s long past time for the City to pay.”

Plaintiffs’ class action Complaint is available here. The Court’s Decision and Order certifying the class is available here.

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Emma L. Freeman, as well as S.T.O.P.’s Albert Fox Cahn.

If you or anyone you know has been forced to remove a religious head covering while in NYPD custody, please contact ECBAWM through its website.

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