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.”
Judge Analisa Torres of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that a New York cosmetic surgeon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law when he refused to treat patients living with HIV. Emery Celli and the HIV Law Project represent Mark Milano, a man living with HIV who was summarily turned away by Dr. Emanuel Asare after Asare said he had a policy against performing surgery on people living with HIV. The District Court granted summary judgment to Mr. Milano and the United States government, which also sued the physician, ruling that Asare’s blanket policy violated the law.
“Even after having lived with HIV for 30 years, the statement from Dr. Asare that it was his policy to never perform any procedures on people with HIV was like a punch in the gut,” Mr. Milano said. “It left me on the verge of tears. I had never experienced such blatant HIV discrimination in my life. Since then, I have heard similar stories from friends about other cosmetic surgeons. No one should have to go through this. People with HIV have as much right to cosmetic surgery as anybody else.”
Mr. Milano was represented by Matthew Brinckerhoff and Ali Frick. Speaking to the Associated Press, Ms. Frick praised the court for “elevat[ing] science and facts over fear and prejudice.” Read the AP’s story here; the New York Law Journal also covered the decision. Judge Torres’ opinion is available here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady filed an amicus brief on behalf of four veterans organizations, Vets for American Ideals, Vote Vets, Common Defense, and No One Left Behind. The brief was filed in the pending case Darweesh, et al. v. Trump, et al. (E.D.N.Y.), which challenges President Trump’s Executive Order banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations. Based on their experience fighting on the front lines against ISIS and other U.S. enemies, these veterans argue that the ban is contrary to the American ideals they fought for, will make it more difficult for their fellow American soldiers to recruit essential local allies in Iraq and in other Muslim countries, and will be a powerful propaganda tool for our enemies that will make the work of deployed American soldiers more difficult and more dangerous. The brief was written by ECBA partners Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and Zoe Salzman.
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.