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Earl Ward Speaks on Panel on Wrongful Convictions

ECBA partner Earl S. Ward appeared on a panel at Fordham Law School to discuss wrongful convictions. The panelists discussed the problems with eye witness testimony, Brady material, and prosecutorial discretion. Earl has successfully represented many people challenging their convictions. Most recently, he helped secure over $30 million from New York State and New York City for three men who were convicted of a murder they did not commit. Two of the men spent 18 years in prison; the third was incarcerated for over 12 years. Read more about the Firm’s wrongful conviction work 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 and the New York Daily News.

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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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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Hal Lieberman explains the New Attorney Discipline Rules

Hal Lieberman published the first of three articles on the impact of the new statewide uniform rules governing attorney disciplinary procedures. The current article addresses formal proceedings and concludes that, although statewide uniformity is a major advance, the new rules also contain flaws and gaps. Specifically, Hal cites provisions that more deeply involve the courts in pre-hearing stages, potentially leading to unnecessary delays. Furthermore, the new rules do not address or remedy several disparate practices among the four departments, including the availability of oral argument. Read the full article here.

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Former Law Firm Partners Held Not Personally Liable for Future Office Rent

In a widely watched case, a Manhattan judge ruled on April 1, 2016 that former partners cannot be held personally liable for the remainder of the office lease of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, which had filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The landlord had sued hundreds of former partners of the law firm and its Dewey Ballantine predecessors to hold them individually liable for rent until the office lease expired in 2020 — up to $220 million. The court granted motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on the language of the lease and the criteria for personal liability of partners in a limited partnership. The decision is important for the lease obligations of law firm partners.

ECBA partner Dan Kornstein successfully represented 44 former Dewey Ballantine partners in the case.

 

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ECBA Settles Race Discrimination Case Against Former Pro-Nazi Residential Community

A lawsuit filed by ECBA against the German American Settlement League (“GASL”) alleging racial discrimination settled this month for $175,000 and broad injunctive relief. The complaint alleged that GASL, a membership-based nonprofit, had excluded non-whites from purchasing homes in its Long Island community since the late 1930s. GASL has agreed to remove its racially restrictive membership rules and to permit advertising, open houses, and other forms of public marketing of homes for sale. Among other things, GASL Board members have agreed to attend fair housing training and to permit Long Island Housing Services to monitor its applications and organizational records for several years.

Plaintiffs were represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and O. Andrew F. Wilson.

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Jessica Clarke Joins ECBA

ECBA is excited to announce that Jessica Clarke has joined the firm as an Associate. Prior to joining the firm, Jessica worked for five years as a Trial Attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the Housing & Civil Enforcement Section. Before joining the Department of Justice, she clerked for the Hon. Solomon Oliver, Jr. of the Northern District of Ohio. She also worked as a summer associate with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, LLP and served as a judicial extern for the Hon. James L. Graham of the Southern District of Ohio.

While at the U.S. Department of Justice, Jessica successfully tried United States v. Town of Colorado City, a first-of-its-kind housing discrimination and police misconduct case. Read about the favorable jury verdict here. To read an in-depth profile of the case in Rolling Stone, click here.