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ECBA Negotiates Largest Fair Housing Justice Center Settlement For Discrimination Case

On behalf of their clients the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers, ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Alanna Kaufman negotiated the largest settlement that FHJC has ever obtained in the private rental market for a race, color, and source of income discrimination case. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged that Defendants Kosova Properties, Inc., Mulliner & Properties, Inc., Burr Properties LLC, Dardania Properties LLC, Nezaj Realty LLC, and Hamdi Nezaj were discriminating on the basis of race, color, and source of income. Kosova Properties manages nineteen buildings with more than 350 rental units in the Bronx and Manhattan.

The case settled for $620,000 plus extensive injunctive relief for FHJC, three African American testers, and one home-seeker represented by Mobilization for Justice.

See more here.

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Black Intelligence Detectives Bring Federal Suit Over Bias in NYPD Promotions

September 25, 2017 ­­– The law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of black detectives who were denied promotions for years within the elite Intelligence Division of the NYPD. For well over a decade the division has maintained a subjective promotions policy, administered by white supervisors, who refuse to promote deserving black detectives.

“Minority communities have for decades distrusted the NYPD, and for good reason,” said Elizabeth Saylor, a partner at ECBA and lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “Pervasive discrimination against black detectives only deepens that distrust. The NYPD’s discriminatory culture needs to change.”

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens, as well as Sara Coleman, widow of Theodore Coleman. The three detectives each joined the Intelligence Division in 2001 and assisted with the cleanup and investigation of the September 11 attacks. They tracked hundreds of leads and suspects. In spite of their achievements and strong recommendations from their direct supervisors, they were repeatedly passed up for promotion because of their race.

Read the EEOC charge here,  and the EEOC finding here. Also, read the DOJ Right to Sue letter here, the federal complaint here, and a press release here.

To read recent coverage of these detectives’ experiences in NYPD Intel, click here for a news article by New York Times, here for an editorial by the Times, here for ABC, here for Spectrum NY1, here for the NY Daily News, and here for the NY Post.

ECBA’s Elizabeth SaylorEarl Ward, and Jessica Clarke, along with Chris Dunn with the NYCLU, represent Sara Coleman, the widow of Detective Theodore Coleman, and Detectives Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens.

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Andrew Wilson Selected to Serve as Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Civil Rights Litigation Committee

Andrew Wilson has been selected to serve as Co-Chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee for the American Bar Association.  With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. The latest ABA news can be found at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

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Jewish Woman Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit With Lucille Roberts

School teacher Yosefa Wood-Isenberg (formerly Yosefa Jalal) has settled her discrimination lawsuit against the health club chain, Lucille Roberts, in Manhattan federal court. Lucille Roberts employees had targeted, harassed, screamed at, and banned Ms. Wood-Isenberg, all because she wore a modest, fitted, knee-length skirt.

The settlement reinstates Ms. Wood-Isenberg’s membership in the gym, permits her to wear a fitted skirt at the gym, and formalizes a new policy permitting gymgoers to wear fitted skirts for religious reasons. The settlement also includes a confidential monetary payment.

“I am so thankful that I and other Jewish women can work out in a facility without compromising our religious beliefs,” said Ms. Wood-Isenberg. “This is a joyous win for women who dress modestly. I thank G-d, our legal team, and all who supported us along the way.”

“This is an important victory for religious freedom,” said Ilann M. Maazel, counsel for Ms. Wood-Isenberg.  “Observant Jewish women should be able to work out at a gym like anyone else, and now, at Lucille Roberts they can. We applaud Lucille Roberts for doing the right thing.”

“Whether you wear a long skirt, a hijab, or a t-shirt promoting atheism, places of public accommodation are for you. We encourage others to join Lucille Roberts in embracing this core American principle.” said Doug Lieb, another lawyer for Ms. Wood-Isenberg.

Read the settlement and the federal complaint. Read coverage of the settlement in the New York Post,  New York Daily News, Courthouse News Service, and Connecticut Jewish Ledger.

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ECBA Urges State Department To Seek Justice for Bakari Henderson

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.”

ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, and Doug Lieb represent the Henderson family.  To read the letter, click here.

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ECBA Represents Amica Curiae Professor Sarah Chayes In Landmark Emoluments Clause Suit Against Donald Trump

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.

ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Emma Freeman represent Sarah Chayes.

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ECBA Reaches Over $12 Million Settlement on Behalf of Family of Children Killed in Fire

The City of Stamford and two of its employees, Ernest Orgera and Robert DeMarco, have agreed to pay $6.65 million to settle wrongful death claims by the Estates of Lily Badger, Sarah Badger, and Grace Badger. The settlement includes a $250,000 annuity to the Stamford Chapter of the Girl Scouts of America to fund scholarships for young girls. Previous settlements with other defendants in the case totaled over $6 million, for a total settlement of over $12.7 million.

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.

ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, Ilann M. Maazel, Sam Shapiro, Jessica Clarke, Vasudha Talla, and Jennifer Keighley represented the Badger estates at various stages of the litigation.

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NYCLU and ECBA Call for End to Investigation of Brooklyn Principal’s Political Speech

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.

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ECBA Attorneys Featured in Video About Debt Collection Class Action

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 attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff and Debra Greenberger are featured in the video. Learn more about the case here and read the New York Times’ coverage of the settlement here.

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$125K Settlement in ECBA Housing Discrimination Case

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.

ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Alanna Kaufman represented Mr. Forster and his special needs trust.

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