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ECBA Files Employment Discrimination Complaint on Behalf of Former World Trade Center Security Guard

On November 16, 2017, ECBA filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Nicole Johnson, a former security professional for Allied Universal Security Services at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. Allied, one of the nation’s largest security firms, contracts with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide security services at sensitive locations including the World Trade Center and area airports.

The complaint alleges that, during her time at Allied, Ms. Johnson was subjected to a campaign of sexual harassment by a supervisor that was facilitated by Allied human resources workers who failed to act on her repeated complaints and instead disseminated rumors about her to her co-workers. As the harassment escalated, Ms. Johnson was the victim of groping, unwanted sexual touching, and a barrage of obscene and degrading comments. Ultimately, she was fired for pretextual reasons in retaliation for complaining about the culture of harassment at Allied.
ECBA also represents LaDonna Powell, a former security supervisor at JFK airport who has sued Allied for sexual harassment and violations of wage and hour laws.

WNBC’s I-Team, which previously covered Ms. Powell’s case, broadcast a followup story on Ms. Johnson’s complaint on November 21, 2017.

 

ECBA’s Elizabeth Saylor, David Lebowitz, and Alanna Kaufman represent Ms. Powell and Ms. Johnson.

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ECBA Files Class Action Challenging Over-detentions of People Entitled to Release on Bail from New York City Jails

On October 4, 2017, ECBA and co-counsel Romano & Kuan PLLC filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of presumptively innocent criminal defendants held for hours or days in New York City jails despite being entitled to release on bail. The complaint alleges that the City has been deliberately indifferent to the problem of unreasonable systemic delays in accepting bail payments and in processing detainees for release once bail is posted. The suit details a Kafka-esque system where antiquated technology, inadequate staffing, and indifference conspire to keep thousands of New Yorkers each year in jail for hours or days without any legal basis.

To read the complaint, click here.

To read coverage of the lawsuit in the New York Daily News, click here.

ECBA’s Matt Brinckerhoff , Debbie Greenberger, and David Lebowitz, along with Julia Kuan of Romano and Kuan, represent the plaintiffs.

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Federal Court Rejects Motion to Dismiss the “Bronx Zoo” Group Home Lawsuit

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.

ECBA’s Ilann Maazel and David Lebowitz represent the plaintiffs. To read the opinion, click here. To read past coverage of this case, click 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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ECBA Leads Historic Recount Litigation on Behalf of Jill Stein in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania

In the first ever legal effort to challenge election results in multiple jurisdictions for a Presidential contest in the United States, ECBA is representing Jill Stein and her campaign in election integrity efforts and attempts to obtain recounts in three states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Stein filed petitions for recount in Michigan and Wisconsin, and mobilized voters to seek recounts in Pennsylvania.  ECBA has litigated various state and federal actions to pursue those recount requests. The most recent information and filings concerning the rapidly-changing developments in the three states are available here for Pennsylvania, here for Michigan, and here for Wisconsin.

ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matt D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Ilann Maazel, Elizabeth Saylor, Debra L. Greenberger, Ali Frick, David Lebowitz, Hayley HorowitzDoug Lieb, Alanna Small, and Jessica Clark are the lawyers litigating these efforts.

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Families Request Bronx DA Criminal Investigation in “Bronx Zoo” Disability Abuse Case

Three families have formally requested that Darcel Clark, the District Attorney for Bronx County, open a formal criminal investigation into the abuse of disabled residents at Union Avenue IRA, a group home run by New York State.

The State has not revealed how many of these alleged abusers still work for the State or with the disabled.

Last week, the families filed a civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court.  According to New York State’s own Justice Center, staff gave disabled residents black eyes, punched them, pulled their hair, spit on them, shoved and punched them, kicked them, smashed their heads into walls, denied them food, and botched their medical care.

A copy of the demand for a criminal investigation to the District Attorney is here.

 

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ECBA Files Federal Lawsuit Alleging Shocking Abuse in Bronx Group Home

This morning, three families filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court alleging severe and pervasive abuse of disabled residents in a New York State group home called the Union Avenue IRA.  According to New York State’s own Justice Center, staff gave disabled residents black eyes, punched them, pulled their hair, spit on them, shoved and punched them, kicked them, smashed their heads into walls, denied them food, and botched their medical care.  The lawsuit also alleges that high-level State officials knew about the alleged abuse, but did nothing to stop it for months.

Staff refer to the group home as the “Bronx Zoo.”  It is not known how many of these New York State employees still work for the State or with the disabled.

“It’s revolting, appalling, inhuman,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel, and a lawyer at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.  “This case represents a complete breakdown in hiring, training, investigation, discipline, and oversight.  We call on Governor Cuomo and the Bronx District Attorney to get justice for these families, and to make sure no disabled person is abused in a New York State group home ever again.”

“Even by the standards of New York’s notorious system of care for disabled people, this case stands out as one of the most repugnant,” said David Lebowitz, another attorney for the residents’ families.  “This is not a case of one or two bad apples, but an entrenched culture of cruelty tolerated by supervisors and State officials who turned their backs on vulnerable people in their care.”

Follow updates on the case here.

 

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ECBA Obtains Over $30 Million for Three Wrongfully Convicted Men in Infamous “Bronx Six” Case

New York City and State have agreed to pay $23.78 million to Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 18 years for two 1995 murders in which neither man had any involvement. Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez will each receive $8 million from New York City, in addition to $3.89 million previously paid by New York State, for a total of $11.89 million each in settlements.

Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez were jointly indicted with five other individuals for the 1995 murders of a livery taxi driver and a FedEx employee, despite the absence of any physical evidence connecting them to the crimes. A 2012 investigation by federal authorities revealed that the taxi driver’s murder had actually been committed by two gang members whose names came up repeatedly during the NYPD’s 1995 investigation but who were never pursued as suspects. The revelation that the two gang members had previously confessed to committing the taxi driver murder—without any involvement by any of the six people convicted—led to the recantation of a central witness in the FedEx case, who claimed that her trial testimony had been coerced and manufactured by NYPD detectives. After using this new information to help free Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez from prison in 2013, ECBA attorneys Earl S. Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and David A. Lebowitz represented the men in civil litigation against the City and State along with co-counsel Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC.

ECBA and Romano & Kuan previously obtained $6.7 million in settlements from the City and State on behalf of the estate of Israel Vasquez, one of the other individuals wrongly accused of the same two 1995 murders, who spent over 12 years in prison before his conviction was overturned due to the insufficiency of the evidence against him. The team has thus recovered over $30 million for these three families in connection with this tragic case. The New York Times and the New York Daily News, among other publications, covered the settlements.

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ECBA Settles Metropolitan Museum of Art Case

A settlement has been reached in a 2013 case brought by ECBA 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 disclose the Museum’s “pay what you wish” policy. The class action suit alleged that the Museum’s signage and online advertising mislead 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, which is subject to court approval, the Museum will 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 sellers of admission tickets to disclose the Museum’s “pay what you wish” policy, and it will direct 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, David Lebowitz, and Ted Oxholm handled the case. The lawsuit and the settlement received extensive press coverage.

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ECBA Wins Summary Judgment in Breach of Contract Suit

ECBA lawyers Dan Kornstein and David Lebowitz recently won summary judgment for $195,000 plus interest for ECBA’s client Schlesinger & Company, LLC as plaintiff in a suit against WWP Office, LLC.  The case, in Supreme Court, New York County, was for breach of a commercial real estate brokerage agreement by which our client was to receive additional commissions if the tenant exercised options to renew its lease.  Defendant, which was not the original party to the brokerage agreement, argued it had not assumed the obligations to pay the commission.  We submitted proof it had.  The parties made cross-motions for summary judgment.  Judge Cynthia Kern granted our motion in full.

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