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ECBA Attorneys Finalists for 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award

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.

ECBA attorneys working on this case include Matthew Brinckerhoff, Debra Greenberger, Elizabeth Saylor, Jonathan Abady and Jessica Clarke.

More information on Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award can be found here.

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Court Approves Settlement in Metropolitan Museum of Art Case

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.

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NYPD Announces New Policies Designed to Diminish Language Barriers in Domestic Abuse Incidents

Legal Services NYC, with support and additional counsel from ECBA’s Matthew Brinckerhoff, has reached a settlement with the NYPD in Padilla-Torres v. City of New York, a 2013 federal discrimination lawsuit alleging that the civil rights of domestic violence survivors with limited English proficiency had been violated by denying them interpreters.  As part of the settlement, the NYPD has agreed to equip all officers in the field with smartphones that can interpret over 240 languages. Additionally, over the next 18 months, the NYPD will provide its officers with training on how to use this smartphone application and when to recognize that an interpreter is necessary.

The plaintiffs in the case were denied safety and interpreters after being attacked by their partners.  In response to calls of domestic abuse, officers would often let the abusers speak on behalf of their victims. In some of the more egregious instances, this would result in the arrest of the victims themselves, as was the case for Arlet Macareno, one of the plaintiffs.  After being pushed down a flight of stairs by her husband, the police arrived at Ms. Macareno’s home without a Spanish interpreter. Ms. Macareno tried to explain that she was the victim of her husband’s aggression, but instead of arresting him, the officers arrested Ms. Macareno and charged her with obstruction of justice.  This settlement will provide NYPD officers with the resources to ensure that no New Yorker is subjected to the same injustices as Ms. Macareno.

To read the New York Times’ coverage of the settlement, click here.  To read the Legal Services NYC press release, click here.

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Trump University Settlement in Jeopardy

The proposed settlement in the Trump University lawsuit came under attack today. One of the victims in the fraud and racketeering case against Donald J. Trump, pending before Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel in San Diego federal court, objected to the proposed class action settlement. In her filing, class member Sherri B. Simpson pointed out that class members were promised, in writing, that they would receive an opportunity “to be excluded from any settlement” and take their own claims to trial against Mr. Trump. And yet, her objection notes, the settling parties signed a settlement agreement that provides class members may not opt out. Ms. Simpson’s objection asks Judge Curiel to enforce the promise and allow her – and any other victims who choose to pass on the proposed deal – to proceed to a fraud and racketeering trial against Mr. Trump.

Ms. Simpson is clear on what she is seeking: “We are now asking Judge Curiel to hold the parties to their promises and let victims decide if they want to settle with Mr. Trump or take their individual cases to trial. It’s a matter of fairness and of due process. People deserve their day in court. That’s why I filed the objection.”

ECBA attorneys Andrew Celli and Ilann Maazel represent Sherri Simpson along with Gary Friedman of Friedman Law Group and Markun Zusman Freniere & Compton LLP in California.

Read more about the case in press coverage by the New York Times.

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ECBA Obtains Class Certification for Challenge to NYC’s Policy of Detaining Immigrants

The Bronx Supreme Court granted ECBA’s motion for class certification of a case challenging New York City’s practice of imprisoning people at Rikers Island based on requests by federal immigration authorities prior to December 21, 2012. The case, Onadia v. City of New York, 0300340/2010, alleges that the City had no basis to imprison the thousands of class members who were held for days and even weeks past their scheduled release date based on these immigration requests. For more information see the New York Law Journal’s coverage; you can also read the decision here. The class is represented by ECBA attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff and Debbie Greenberger and co-counsel Ameer Benno.

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Bronx Defenders honors ECBA and Morrison & Foerster as Pro Bono Partners of the Year

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, along with Morrison & Foerster, have been named as the Bronx Defenders’ Pro Bono Partners of the Year for their work to end court delays in the Bronx Criminal Court.  You can read more about the class action lawsuit, Trowbridge v. Cuomo, here.

 

 

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Class Action Leads to End of Tampon Tax in New York State

Five months after five women filed a groundbreaking class action suit to end the Tampon Tax in New York, Governor Cuomo has signed legislation ending the illegal tax.

“We are thrilled New York State is finally repealing this discriminatory tax on all ‘menstruators’ and hope the nation will swiftly follow suit. It’s about time we all recognize the necessity of menstruation products and the obsolescence of their taxation,” said Plaintiff Margo Seibert, an actress in New York.

“Albany has finally seen the light! There’s more work to be done to ease access to these vital products, particularly for low income women, but repealing the tax was a great first step,” said Plaintiff Jennifer Moore, a children’s program coordinator.

“One state down, thirty-nine to go,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “This is a tremendous victory for women and for all New Yorkers. It will save women tens of millions of dollars. This lawsuit jumpstarted Albany into action. It’s the beginning of the end of the Tampon Tax in this country.”

“New York has finally stopped taxing women for being women. Now the governor should make sure that New York women who paid this sexist tax for years—especially those women who could least afford it—are compensated and reimbursed,” said Zoe Salzman, another lawyer for the women.

“From the time I entered law school 25 years ago, I’ve known that the tampon tax violated state and federal law. It’s a remnant of a time when all-male legislatures made decisions that devalued women’s interests. That New York State has finally ended this injustice is great cause for celebration,” said Laura Strausfeld, a lawyer who developed a critical theory of the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The five women who brought the case are an actor/co-founder of Racket., a mathematician/data scientist, a programs coordinator for children’s programs, a photographer, and a professor.

The plaintiffs congratulate Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal for her leadership on this issue.

Follow the latest developments HERE. Read an interview with Zoe Salzman on the case and legislation here.

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Judge Approves $60 Million Settlement in Debt Collection Suit

A federal court approved the settlement on behalf of  New Yorkers who alleged fraudulent debt collection practices.  The $60 million settlement in the case, captioned Sykes v. Mel S. Harris and Associates LLC, No. 09 Civ. 8486 (S.D.N.Y), is  the largest ever of its kind.  The settlement should also lead to the unprecedented vacating of approximately 195,000 court judgments and result in the forgiveness of over $1 billion in alleged debt. Plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleged that that Defendants used fraudulent practices to file debt collection lawsuits, obtain default judgments, and then collect on those judgments.

Judge Denny Chin found that the settlement is a “remarkable resolution” to “hard fought litigation” that will bring “extraordinarily meaningful benefits to tens of thousands of individuals.”  He concludes that the settlement will have an “immediate and enormously positive impact on the lives of many.”

The class is represented by ECBA attorneys, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Debbie GreenbergerElizabeth Saylor, and Jonathan Abady,  along with co-counsel MFY Legal Services and the New Economy Project.   Read more about the settlement in coverage by the New York Times, the Nation, the NY Law Journal, the NY Post, the Democrat & Chronicle, the Daily News and NY 1.

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Groundbreaking Court Delay Case in the Press

On May 10, 2016, along with the Bronx Defenders and Morrison & Foerster LLP, ECBA filed a federal class action to end the massive delays in misdemeanor cases in the Bronx Criminal Court. The groundbreaking suit alleges that the systematic delays violate the constitutional speedy trial and due process rights of thousands of people facing misdemeanor charges in the Bronx.

The case has garnered local, national and international press coverage. Read about the case in the New York Times, CNN.com, New York Daily News and Reuters. The New York Times Editorial Board published an op-ed calling for the transformation of “the dysfunctional culture that has long plagued the justice system, and the citizens, of the Bronx.”

Listen to an interview with Ilann Maazel on NPR’s The Brian Lehrer Show.  ECBA attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff and Doug Lieb are also working on the case.

 

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New Class Action Challenges Unconstitutional Delay in Bronx Criminal Court

This morning, four people filed a federal class action to end massive delays in misdemeanor cases in Bronx Criminal Court.  The suit, Trowbridge v. Cuomo, alleges that systemic delay violates the constitutional speedy trial and due process rights of thousands of people facing misdemeanor charges in the Bronx.

It now takes an average of 827 days to get a misdemeanor jury trial in Bronx Criminal Court.  In 2015, there were more than 45,000 misdemeanor arraignments in the Bronx, but fewer than 100 trials.

The Bronx has fewer misdemeanor case filings than Brooklyn or Manhattan, but more year-old misdemeanor cases than every other borough combined.

ECBA attorneys Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Ilann M. Maazel, and Doug Lieb represent the plaintiffs, along with lead counsel The Bronx Defenders and the firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP.  For more information, see the press release here.

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