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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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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 Brings Wrongful Arrest Lawsuit on Behalf of Keith Mitchell

ECBA brought suit on behalf of Keith Mitchell against the NYPD detective who wrongfully arrested and prosecuted him for a burglary and assault he did not commit.  Mr. Mitchell spent more than two years at Rikers Island waiting for a trial to clear his name before being acquitted by a jury.  To read the New York Daily News’ coverage of this lawsuit click here.  Mr. Mitchell is represented by Debra L. Greenberger and Doug Lieb.

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Federal Court Halts Construction on Pier 55

On behalf of clients The City Club of New York, Robert Buchanan, and Tom Fox, ECBA won a victory in federal district court against “Pier 55,” a proposed island performance venue in the Hudson River in Manhattan. The court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was wrong to issue a permit for the project under the Clean Water Act because the project did not need to be built in a waterway to achieve its most important goals. Construction has now been halted. The court’s decision was covered by the New York Times, New York Daily News, and Curbed, among others. ECBA lawyers Richard Emery, Elizabeth Saylor, and Doug Lieb represent the City Club and the other petitioners. Read more about ECBA’s work on this project here and here.

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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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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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