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ECBA Clients File $380 million Suit Against Sotheby’s

ECBA clients, two trusts named Accent Delight International Ltd. and Xitrans Finance Ltd., filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest and most famous auction houses. The Complaint alleges that Sotheby’s helped Yves Bouvier facilitate the largest art fraud in history. As detailed in the New Yorker, Bouvier is alleged to have defrauded the two plaintiff trusts of approximately $1 billion. The new suit alleges that Sotheby’s played a key role in aiding Mr. Bouvier’s scheme by providing valuations and other support for fraudulent transactions. ECBA attorneys Daniel J. Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Zoe Salzman, and Doug Lieb represent the plaintiffs. Articles describing the filing can be found here and here.

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Exoneree Sues New Haven Police for 17 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

CONTACT:

Ilann M. Maazel, ECBA, 212.763.5000, imaazel@ecbalaw.com

Sean McElligott, Koskoff, 203.336.4421 smcelligott@koskoff.com

 

 

September 7, 2018 ­­– Vernon Horn, who was exonerated in April 2018 after spending 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New Haven, three New Haven detectives, and a state firearms examiner.  The New Haven Police Department (NHPD) hid 137 pages of exculpatory phone records in a detective’s home basement, failed to investigate evidence that would have proven Mr. Horn’s innocence, and coerced witnesses against him.  Mr. Horn is represented by the law firms of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C.

 

Mr. Horn was convicted of murder for a shooting at the Dixwell Deli in New Haven on January 24, 1999. A cell phone stolen from the murder scene was a key piece of evidence at trial.  The state claimed that Mr. Horn had taken the phone to Bridgeport, given it to his accomplice, brought it back to New Haven the next day, and lent it to a friend to make a call.

 

In fact, the stolen cell phone never left Bridgeport, and Mr. Horn never touched it.  Evidence proving as much was readily available to the NHPD all along, but detectives never bothered to ask for it.  Phone records showed that every call from the stolen cell phone was linked to the same crew of Bridgeport drug dealers.  But instead of turning those records over to Mr. Horn, as the Constitution requires, the NHPD buried them in a basement.

 

This and other new evidence was discovered only because the Federal Public Defender for the District of Connecticut doggedly reinvestigated the case.  In April 2018, in response to the new evidence uncovered by the investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office moved to vacate Mr. Horn’s conviction and dismiss the charges.  Mr. Horn’s co-defendant, Marquis Jackson, was also exonerated and released.

 

Today’s lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, seeks damages for the 17 dehumanizing years that Mr. Horn spent in prison as an innocent man.  While in prison, Mr. Horn was assaulted by inmates, strip-searched by guards, held in solitary confinement, and denied essential medical care for serious injuries suffered in a car accident.  His young daughter began to grow up without him.

Mr. Horn said:

First and foremost, I would like to thank the Most High for allowing me to make it through this injustice.  I would like to thank my attorneys David Keenan and Terence Ward of the Connecticut Federal Public Defender Office for securing my freedom.

What happened to me was not only a crime against me, but it was a crime against humanity.  I was falsely prosecuted and lied about by people who are supposed to be public servants.  I suffered emotionally, and I was physically and mentally abused in prison.  I was not able to go to college and learn the things a man should know.  I was taken away from my first child when she was only 10 months old.

After being released, I was put back into the world without any help and without an apology.  The thing that hurts the most is that my daughter does not know me.  After what happened, I cannot trust anyone or hold on to relationships because I think everyone is trying to hurt me.

I hope that people who are a part of the criminal justice system learn from what was done to me.  They need to know that there are more innocent men and women who have been framed and falsely accused.  It is real, and it needs to end.

 

Ilann M. Maazel, partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:

The New Haven Police Department stole the prime of Vernon Horn’s life.  This was a complete breakdown in the criminal justice system.  We intend to hold the police and everyone responsible for this travesty of justice accountable.

 

Sean McElligott, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:

After seventeen years of lies and betrayal, Vernon Horn will finally have the opportunity to speak the truth through this lawsuit.  We look forward to helping him gain some measure of peace after decades of wrongful incarceration and suffering.   

Matt Blumenthal, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:

We all depend on law enforcement to act with competence and integrity. Vernon Horn suffered a spectacular betrayal of this trust. We are proud to stand with him in his fight for justice and accountability.

 

The complaint is available here.

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ECBA, Avaaz Defeat “Chilling,” “Overbroad,” “Utterly Irrelevant” Monsanto Subpoena

 

In a victory for the First Amendment, a New York judge granted ECBA’s motion on behalf of the Avaaz Foundation, a global civic movement, to quash a sweeping document subpoena issued by the Monsanto Company, the multi-billion-dollar agricultural and biotech giant.  The subpoena sought access to three-and-a-half years’ worth of Avaaz’s confidential political communications, internal strategy memos, and campaign plans – its political “playbook,” in the judge’s words — for its ongoing, worldwide effort to persuade governments around the world to ban the chemical agent glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® products.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and a California jury recently found that Roundup® caused a school groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In quashing the subpoena, Justice Shlomo Hagler of the New York County Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto’s request would have a “tremendous chilling effect” on the protected First Amendment activities of Avaaz and other civic organizations.  Giving Monsanto access to Avaaz’s internal communications, Justice Hagler explained, would discourage Avaaz and its members from participating in “a movement they feel is just and right.”  Justice Hagler also ruled that the documents Monsanto sought were “utterly irrelevant” to a Missouri lawsuit for which it purportedly sought them.  If enforced, the subpoena would have required Avaaz to produce its campaign plans, strategy deliberations, and research to Monsanto.

Law360 and other media outlets have reported on yesterday’s ruling, and many publications have been following the case. Click here for Law360, The Guardian, DownToEarth magazine, and EcoWatch.

ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Doug Lieb represent Avaaz in this matter.

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ECBA Files Brief For Public Defenders and Civil Rights Groups Urging Appeals Court to Reconsider Approach to False Evidence Claims

ECBA has filed a “friend of the court” brief in the federal appeals court in Manhattan urging the full court to reconsider a recent decision that affects how much time victims of police misconduct have to file civil rights claims in court.  The amici curiae brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of organizations that defend indigent people accused of crimes, work to correct wrongful convictions, and protect civil rights.  It argues that when someone alleges that police fabricated evidence used to charge him with a crime, the statute of limitations on his civil claim should not start running until the criminal case against him is resolved in his favor.  As the brief explains, the recent decision, if not corrected by the full court, could hurt criminal defendants’ ability to defend themselves against charges and lead to the dismissal of valid civil rights claims for technical reasons, even if the plaintiff is the victim of egregious misconduct or has served years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The groups represented by ECBA in the case are the American Civil Liberties Union, Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Center for Appellate Litigation, Connecticut Innocence Project, The Innocence Project, The Legal Aid Society, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, New York County Defender Services, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Office of the Appellate Defender, and Vermont Office of the Defender General.  ECBA attorneys Sam Shapiro, David Lebowitz, Doug Lieb and Ashok Chandran worked on the brief.

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Harlem Black Business Owner Arrested for Being a Business Owner While Black

The law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) yesterday evening filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three black men who are among the many black New Yorkers and black Americans arrested for simply doing the normal things that normal people do—driving a car down the street, having a barbecue, or, in this case, doing one’s job.

Plaintiff Dr. Clyde Pemberton is the CEO of the corporation that owns MIST Harlem (https://mistharlem.com/), a restaurant and entertainment venue. The complaint alleges that Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested on June 1, 2017 simply because they are black. Dr. Pemberton went to aid a white woman who was unconscious and being dragged through MIST by her two white friends. The ill woman’s friends screamed racial epithets at him and attacked him. MIST employees called 911 for an ambulance. When the paramedics and the police arrived, Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested for allegedly falsely imprisoning the ill woman. The police never interviewed them before arresting them.

Plaintiff’s attorney, Elizabeth S. Saylor said, “It is time for the NYPD to be held accountable. The NYPD must stop reflexively defending its officers without even conducting an investigation. The NYPD must take real action to stamp out discrimination by holding accountable those officers who violate citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Despite having done nothing but express concern for a patron in danger, suffer an unprovoked racist attack, and try to deescalate a volatile situation, Dr. Pemberton and two other MIST employees were arrested, held at a police station overnight, and forced to go to court to fight charges for several months, before the district attorney finally dismissed the charges.

“This is exactly the kind of interaction that destroys trust in law enforcement in minority communities,” said Ms. Saylor. This incident has left Plaintiffs deeply shaken. They had not previously known the fear, the disrespect, or the pain of being the victims of arbitrary and heavy-handed conduct by the police. Dr. Pemberton had even previously worked with the police. He ran a Harlem-based community mental health center, performed psychological evaluations for the NYPD, and served as a psychiatric consultant to the Newark Police Department.

“This lawsuit seeks to remedy the injustice perpetrated by the NYPD,” said Ms. Saylor. The complaint is available here. The three plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth Saylor and Doug Lieb. Read coverage of the case in the New York TimesNY Daily News, NY Post, New York Law Journal, Hip Hop Wired, and The Grio.

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Settlement Reached in Challenge to Bronx Court Delays

ECBA, The Bronx Defenders, and Morrison & Foerster, LLP announced a settlement of a lawsuit challenging widespread delays in misdemeanor cases in Bronx Criminal Court.

The settlement agreement allows the plaintiffs to monitor the court system for the next four years and to re-open the case if not enough progress is made. It also creates a new mechanism for people charged with misdemeanors to request a speedy trial, at which point the court system will be required to track the progress of their case.

Since the May 2016 filing of the lawsuit, Trowbridge v. DiFiore, the number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than a year in the Bronx dropped from 2,378 to 513.  The number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than two years dropped from 538 to 64.  But more work remains to be done: the proportion of misdemeanor cases that are more than a year old in the Bronx is still twice as high as in any other borough.

“This settlement is only the beginning,” ECBA partner Ilann M. Maazel told the press. “We will be watching the Bronx court system very carefully to make sure that they live up to their promises, achieve parity with the other boroughs, and make speedy trials a reality for everyone in the Bronx.”

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Ilann M. Maazel, and Doug Lieb represented the plaintiffs.

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ECBA Represents Avaaz in Motion to Quash Monsanto Subpoena

On behalf of the Avaaz Foundation (“Avaaz”), a global civic movement, ECBA has filed a motion in New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking to quash a sweeping document subpoena from Monsanto Company, the multinational agrochemical and biotech company.  The subpoena seeks documents reflecting Avaaz’s multi-year effort to persuade governments worldwide to ban the chemical agent glyphosate, which is believed to be the world’s most widely-used herbicide.  Glyphosate is the active agent in Roundup®, a Monsanto product.  In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a public evaluation concluding that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic in humans.”  Avaaz, with over 46 million members and staff in 23 countries, has been described by The Guardian as “the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network,” and the campaign against glyphosate is just one of Avaaz’s many member-driven campaigns.

The Monsanto subpoena – which was issued in January 2018 as part of a personal-injury case in which agricultural workers are suing Monsanto over claims that they contracted cancer after exposure to Roundup® — seeks to compel the production of virtually every document in Avaaz’s possession concerning its political activities around glyphosate and Monsanto.  If enforced, the subpoena would require the turnover of Avaaz’s confidential internal communications and deliberations, campaign plans, research and source material, and even member and donor information.  ECBA’s filing, which can be found here, argues that the subpoena violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and New York’s Reporter’s Shield law; calls for the production of documents that are irrelevant to the underlying personal-injury case; and imposes an undue burden on Avaaz.  The GuardianEco Watch, and other media outlets, have reported on the case.

Avaaz is represented in this matter by ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Douglas E. Lieb.

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Billionaire Diller Drops Support for Pier 55 after ECBA Victory

Following ECBA’s victory in federal district court on behalf of clients the City Club of New York, Barry Diller (the billionaire backer) pulled his support for “Pier 55,” a proposed island performance venue in the Hudson River in Manhattan. This victory ensures the preservation of the estuarine sanctuary of the Hudson River as the legislature intended.  The controversy could have been avoided if the Hudson River Park Trust had been candid with the Legislature and the public and done a full participatory environmental review. When an agency flouts the law by cutting corners, public-spirited citizens can and should be able to get justice in court.  The real lesson of Diller Island is that the Hudson River Park Trust—like every agency that stewards precious public resources—should rededicate itself to core principles of openness, transparency, and conservation. The decision to end the project was covered by the New York Times and New York Daily News, among others.

ECBA lawyers Richard Emery, Elizabeth Saylor, Doug Lieb, and David Berman represent the City Club, as well as the other petitioners.   Read more about ECBA’s work on this project here, here, and here.

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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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Second Circuit Affirms Subpoena in Worldwide Art Dispute

A federal appellate court has upheld ECBA’s clients’ request to obtain discovery in aid of foreign proceedings under 28 U.S.C. s. 1782. In a victory that further defines the contours of the statute, the decision holds for the first time in the Second Circuit that (1) a victim complainant can obtain documents for use in a foreign criminal prosecution, regardless of whether the victim is seeking reparations; and (2) documents obtained for use in one foreign proceeding may be used in other foreign proceedings, absent a contrary court order from the 1782 court. The applicants were represented by ECBA attorneys Dan Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Doug Lieb.

A full copy of the decision can be found here.

Read more about the underlying dispute in a profile published in the New Yorker.

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