ECBA urged the U.S. State Department to “deploy all necessary resources and undertake every effort” to seek justice for Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old African-American U.S. citizen brutally beaten to death in Greece in July.
On the night of July 7, 2017, a group of men chased Bakari from a bar in Zakynthos, Greece, and savagely beat him in the street. Their motives are not yet known. Bakari died of the severe head injuries he sustained. Nine men have been arrested.
Bakari was a recent graduate of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. At the time of his death, he was in Greece working on a new clothing line he was developing. He had interned for the Texas House of Representatives and State Senate, which honored him after his death. Bakari’s family and friends remember him as a leader with a voice of reason who was fun-loving, peaceful, and calm. The Henderson family has created the Travel with Bakari initiative to honor his legacy as a compassionate, friendly, inquisitive, intelligent young man.
ECBA represents Bakari’s parents, Phil and Jill Henderson. On behalf of the Henderson family, ECBA urged the State Department to “take all available measures to help ensure the impartiality and thoroughness” of the Greek authorities’ investigation into Bakari’s death. The letter seeks accountability for “all those who bear responsibility for Bakari’s death” and demands that the investigation “fully explore the attackers’ motives, including any potential bias or hatred.”
On January 23, 2017, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a landmark federal lawsuit in New York against Donald Trump, prompted by his violations of the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution. On August 11, 2017, ECBA filed an amicus curiae brief in support of CREW on behalf of Sarah P. Chayes, an internationally-recognized expert in corruption and kleptocratic regimes and a Senior Fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Chayes argues that Trump’s business interests promote corruption, undermine U.S. foreign policy, and threaten American democracy. CREW’s Second Amended Complaint is available here. Chayes’s amicus brief is available here. The New York Times, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Slate, among other outlets, have covered the lawsuit.
The case arose from a tragic house fire in Stamford, Connecticut on Christmas Day, 2011. Lily, 9, and Sarah and Grace, each 7, all died in the fire, as did their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. The settlement marks the end of more than five years of investigation and litigation. Matthew Badger, the girls’ father and the original administrator of their estates, brought the case in June 2012.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and ECBA today urged the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in a letter to end its investigation into the free speech activities of the Park Slope Collegiate School principal Jill Bloomberg. The DOE is investigating the principal, vice principal, two teachers, and an aid for allegedly being members of the Progressive Labor Party and for recruiting students to the PLP and to PLP events. The principal alleges that the investigation is in retaliation for her repeated complaints to DOE about the discriminatory allocation of sports teams. The letter explains that principals and teachers do not lose their right to free speech just because they work at a school. Investigators have pulled students out of class to interrogate them without informing parents. Students were asked whether their teachers were communists and were questioned about whether they or their parents had gone to political rallies or meetings. “Investigating students’ and teachers’ political beliefs is offensive and unconstitutional, regardless of what those beliefs are,” said ECBA partner Elizabeth S. Saylor, who is representing the parents of a middle school student interrogated without parental consent. “This kind of knock-off McCarthyism is entirely inappropriate. The out-of-control investigation has made students afraid to speak out against segregation and inequality in their schools. This unconstitutional investigation must stop now.”
To read the letter, click here. To read New York Daily News coverage, click here.
Public Justice produced videos for the finalists for the 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. This one summarizes the Sykes v. Harris case, a years-long litigation in which ECBA, MFY Legal Services, and the New Economy Project won $60 million for a class of consumers victimized by illegal debt collection practices.
ECBA filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO) against the Town of Bedford and its affordable housing agency, Blue Mountain Development.
Like other Westchester County towns, Bedford’s population is overwhelmingly white. The complaint alleges that the Town awards its affordable “middle income” housing using “preferences” in its zoning code. These preferences prioritize people who already live or work in Bedford and who are far more likely to be white. These preferences violate the Fair Housing Act because they discriminate against African Americans who would otherwise be eligible for the Town’s affordable housing and make it more likely the housing will be given to white people.
A White Plains housing cooperative and rental management company have paid $125,000 to settle a housing discrimination case initiated by M. Forster, a 34-year old disabled man living in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Forster sought to purchase an apartment in a building owned by the coop and managed by the rental company using his special needs trust, but was told that ownership by trust was not permitted. The suit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, challenged the coop’s and management company’s refusal to grant Mr. Forster a reasonable accommodation. The settlement was covered by Westfair Online here, and a press release issued by the government can be found here.
On July 5, 2017 federal judge Paul A. Engelmayer denied motions brought by several New York State employees to dismiss a lawsuit filed by ECBA on behalf of family members of three developmentally disabled adults alleging rampant abuse and neglect at a State-run group home in the Bronx. In an opinion noting that the facts in the complaint were enough to “shock the conscience,” Judge Engelmayer upheld claims under city, state, and federal law, seeking both monetary damages and an injunction to protect residents’ civil rights. The decision finds that the lawsuit adequately alleged that state-employed facility staff “cruelly abused persons with disabilities for no valid reason, but instead out of malice, spire, impatience, or sport,” concluding that such “physical abuse of helpless persons cannot be said to serve a legitimate governmental interest in a civilized society.” The opinion also finds the allegations sufficient to claim that supervisors and administrators within New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities were reckless in failing to stop the abuse, referring to an OPWDD Regional Director as “taking woefully insufficient action” and responding “minimally if at all” to abuse and neglect reports.
Public Justice has announced that the attorneys for Sykes v. Mel S. Harris & Associates, LLC are finalists for the organization’s 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. ECBA co-counseled with MFY Legal Services and the New Economy Project to bring a federal class action challenging a fraudulent debt collection scheme.
Under the settlement negotiated by the legal team after six years of hard-fought litigation, the defendants paid nearly $60 million to class members. They also agreed to exit the debt collection business and to extinguish all outstanding consumer debt that was part of the scheme, which had a total face value of over $1 billion. In a cutting edge component of the settlement, the defendants also agreed to cooperate with a supplementary state court proceeding to vacate the default judgments en masse and, as a result, nearly 200,000 fraudulently-obtained default judgments have been vacated. More on the case and the settlement is available here.
Praising ECBA’s work as “exemplary” and noting “the exceptional outcome achieved,” on June 16, 2017, Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich of the New York Supreme Court, New York County, granted final approval to ECBA’s settlement of a long-standing putative class action against the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The case, Saska et al v. Metropolitan Museum of Art, challenged the Museum’s practice of charging admission fees to visitors and failing to adequately disclose the Museum’s “pay what you wish” policy. The suit alleged that the Museum’s signage and online advertising misled visitors into paying the full advertised “price” for admission to the Museum, when, in fact, the Museum’s policy is to allow visitors to pay as much or as little as they wish.
Under the settlement, the Museum must revise its signage and online advertising to prominently describe the admission fees as “SUGGESTED” and to include the legend: “THE AMOUNT YOU PAY IS UP TO YOU.” In addition, the Museum will require third-party vendors of admission tickets to disclose the Museum’s “pay what you wish” policy, and will train cashiers and other Museum employees interacting with the public to explain the “pay what you wish” policy to visitors to avoid any confusion. ECBA’s Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, and David Lebowitz handled the case.