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ECBA Sues Westchester Town for Discriminatory Zoning that Favors Whites

ECBA filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO) against the Town of Bedford and its affordable housing agency, Blue Mountain Development.

Like other Westchester County towns, Bedford’s population is overwhelmingly white. The complaint alleges that the Town awards its affordable “middle income” housing using “preferences” in its zoning code. These preferences prioritize people who already live or work in Bedford and who are far more likely to be white. These preferences violate the Fair Housing Act because they discriminate against African Americans who would otherwise be eligible for the Town’s affordable housing and make it more likely the housing will be given to white people.

The plaintiffs FHJC and WRO are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Zoe Salzman.

Read the complaint here.

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Tamir Rice Family Expresses Its Outrage at 10 Day Suspension for Officer Involved in Killing of Tamir

The announcement today by the City of Cleveland that the officers involved in the shooting death of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice have been disciplined has only added insult to the pain and grief of the Rice family. Although pleased with the termination of Officer Timothy Loehmann, the decision says nothing about his unlawful actions in shooting young Tamir without cause or justification. Loehmann was terminated not for causing Tamir’s death but rather for lying on his employment application.

The Rice family is disheartened by the decision to suspend Officer Frank Garmback for a mere 10 days where it has been determined that he failed to employ proper tactics when he drove directly up to Tamir thus contributing to the chain of events that resulted in Tamir’s shooting.

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, described the discipline as “deeply disappointing. I am relieved Loehmann has been fired because he should never have been a police officer in the first place—but he should have been fired for shooting my son in less than one second, not just for lying on his application. And Garmback should be fired too, for his role in pulling up too close to Tamir. As we continue to grieve for Tamir, I hope this is a call for all of us to build stronger communities together.”

Tamir’s family is represented by ECBA attorneys Jonathan AbadyEarl Ward, and Zoe Salzman, together with William Mills of FirmEquity and Subodh Chandra of The Chandra Law Firm LLC.

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Supreme Court Upholds City Standing Under Fair Housing Act, as ECBA Sought in Amicus Brief

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the City of Miami has standing under the Fair Housing Act to sue banks that engaged in predatory lending, triggering foreclosures and other harms throughout the City. ECBA filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the City’s position, on behalf of Miami’s firefighters and first responders who have had to cope with an increase in crimes and other problems festering in foreclosed, vacant properties. The brief was authored by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Debra Greenberger, and Zoe Salzman.

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ECBA Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Veterans Opposed to Trump’s Immigration Ban

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.

 

Click here to read the full brief.

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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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Tamir Rice Settlement in the News

On April 25, 2016, the City of Cleveland agreed to a $6 million payment to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit that arose from the tragic death of Tamir Rice. This settlement has received extensive coverage in the national and local press.

Read coverage of the settlement in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and the Amsterdam News. Read a full profile of the case in GQ.

Listen to an interview with Jonathan Abady on NPR’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

Watch an interview with Zoe Salzman on Democracy Now!.

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City of Cleveland Settles Tamir Rice Lawsuit for $6 Million

The City of Cleveland has agreed to payment of $6 million to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit involving the tragic death of Tamir Rice. Although historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life. Tamir was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police — a young boy with his entire life ahead of him, full of potential and promise.

In a situation such as this, there is no such thing as closure or justice. Nothing will bring Tamir back. His unnecessary and premature death leaves a gaping hole for those who  knew and loved him that can never be filled.

Regrettably, Tamir’s death is not an isolated event. The problem of police violence, especially in communities of  color, is a crisis plaguing our nation. It is the sincere  hope of  the Rice family that Tamir’s death will stimulate a movement for genuine change in our society and our nation’s policing so that no family ever has to suffer a tragedy such as this again.

Tamir’s family was represented by ECBA attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, and Zoe Salzman, and local counsel Subodh Chandra. The New York Times and the New York Daily News, among many other outlets, covered the settlement.

 

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Pressure Mounts to End the Tampon Tax in New York

In response to a class action lawsuit filed last week by ECBA, pressure is mounting to end the Tampon Tax in New York State. The lawsuit has received extensive international, national and local press coverage, including articles in The GuardianCNN, Reuters,  Newsweek, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News, abc7NY, CBS News and Vogue.com.

The five women who brought the lawsuit are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, and Zoe Salzman.

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ECBA Files Class Action to End Tampon Tax in New York

This morning, five women filed a groundbreaking class action suit to end the Tampon Tax in New York.  The suit also seeks refunds for millions of women targeted by the illegal sales tax.

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

New York exempts medical items from sales tax.  But taxing authorities impose a double standard when defining medical items for women and men.  Rogaine, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, chapstick, facial wash, adult diapers, and incontinence pads are not taxed.  Tampons and sanitary pads are.

“It’s time for New York to stop taxing women for being women,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel, and a lawyer at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.  “We hope this case will be the beginning of the end of the Tampon Tax in this country.”

“Tampons and sanitary pads are a necessity for women, not a luxury.  There is no way these products would be taxed if men had to use them,” said Zoe Salzman, another lawyer for the women.

 

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Rice Family Disappointed that Officers Will Not Face Criminal Charges

Today, more than a year after Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a grand jury voted not to indict the shooter.  Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome–but not surprised.

It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment.  Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified.  It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire “experts” to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.  These are the sort of “experts” we would expect the officer’s criminal defense attorney to hire—not the prosecutor.

Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination.  Even though it is black letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse.  This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects.

The way Prosecutor McGinty has mishandled the grand jury process has compounded the grief of this family.

The Rice family is grateful for all the community support they have received and urges people who want to express their disappointment with how Prosecutor McGinty has handled this process to do so peacefully and democratically.  We renew our request that the Department of Justice step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting of a 12-year-old child.

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