ECBA Files Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Lucille Roberts

October 2, 2015 – Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady filed a discrimination lawsuit against the health club chain, Lucille Roberts, in Manhattan federal court.  Lucille Roberts employees targeted, harassed, screamed at, and banned school teacher Yosefa Jalal, all because she wore a modest, fitted, knee-length skirt.  Lucille Roberts even threatened to call the police if she did not leave the premises.

Ms. Jalal is an elementary school teacher, a Master’s student in childhood education, and an observant Jewish woman who follows the Jewish laws of modesty.  She repeatedly told Lucille Roberts she needed to wear the skirt for religious reasons.

“All I want is to work out and take classes like everyone else,” said Ms. Jalal.  “It isn’t fair for Lucille Roberts to target me because I’m Jewish.”

“A half century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we still have a company discriminating on the basis of religion,” said Ilann M. Maazel, a lawyer at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, and counsel for Ms. Jalal.  “The repeated harassment by Lucille Roberts is inexplicable and indefensible.”

Lucille Roberts has also targeted other observant Jewish women who wear fitted, knee-length skirts.

To read the complaint, click here.
To read Lucille Roberts’ “Dress Code,” click here.
To view the photo of the skirt, click here.


Eight ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Two Named as Rising Stars

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl WardHal Lieberman, and Dan Kornstein were named as Super Lawyers for 2015. Partner Debra Greenberger and associate Hayley Horowitz were named as Rising Stars.


Case Challenging Housing Discrimination Against Families Has Settled

A federal court has approved a settlement in a case brought by ECBA challenging an “age-targeted” development project on Kensington Road in the Village of Bronxville.  ECBA filed suit on behalf of Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. (“WRO”), against Bronxville and its chosen developer, Gateway Kensington LLC, alleging that the age-targeted project discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act and New York State Human Rights Law.

After the lawsuit was filed, Bronxville amended the Village Code to eliminate the provision for age-targeted development.  In the settlement approved by the court, the Village agreed to pay $95,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees and to issue a new permit for the Kensington Road project that is not age-targeted.

The defendants also agreed to attend a training on fair housing laws.  In addition, the Village will host a public workshop and distribute a brochure on fair housing laws. The Mayor of Bronxville will also issue a statement explaining that the project is not age-targeted and that families with children are welcome in Bronxville.  The defendants denied the allegations and did not admit liability.

WRO was represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Zoe Salzman.


ECBA Succeeds in Motion to Disqualify Plaintiffs’ Co-Counsel

ECBA recently succeeded on a motion to disqualify plaintiffs’ co-counsel in a pending litigation in New York Supreme Court.  Retained as special ethics counsel on the disqualification motion, ECBA was able to convince the Court to disqualify the firm because one of its associates had previously represented defendants in the same matter, and had obtained material client confidences, before he moved laterally to the plaintiffs’ firm.

ECBA attorneys Hal R. Lieberman, Hayley Horowitz, and Zoe Salzman handled the disqualification motion.



ECBA Settles Case Challenging Tuition at The Cooper Union

A case brought by ECBA against the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Union, disputing the decision to charge tuition for the first time in the school’s history, has settled.  ECBA represents the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), a coalition of current and prospective students, alumni, and faculty.  CSCU filed suit in May 2014, arguing that charging tuition violated the trust established by Peter Cooper and seeking to reinstitute free tuition, to provide a full accounting and to implement greater oversight.  As a result of the CSCU lawsuit, the Attorney General of the State of New York launched a confidential investigation into The Cooper Union, which culminated in the settlement announced today.

The settlement agreements, which will be filed today with the Court and which the Court is expected to approve at a hearing on September 14, include a consent decree signed by the CSCU, the Attorney General, and The Cooper Union, as well as a cy pres petition by the Attorney General.  The agreements impose an independent financial monitor; establish a Board committee made up of alumni, students, and faculty that is dedicated to developing a plan for the return to free tuition; require the school’s leadership to make a good faith effort to return to free; and expand the presence of alumni, students, and faculty on the Board of Trustees.

ECBA lead attorney Richard D. Emery explained: “A tragic chapter in this great school’s history has ended. For the past several years, a lack of fiscal restraint, conflicts of interest and a failure of educational vision banished Peter Cooper and his spirit from the school he founded. Cooper built a completely free, merit-based learning institution that encouraged free thinking and produced some of our nation’s greatest minds in the arts and sciences.  These recent years abandoned those values in favor of financial manipulation and debt. Because of the litigation settled today, Peter Cooper is back. Justice for Peter Cooper and all those who benefited from his great experiment is now a promise that must be kept.”

Read more about the settlement in coverage by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

The CSCU Petitioners were represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Zoe Salzman.


Dan Kornstein Joins ECBA as a Partner

ECBA is pleased to announce that Daniel J. Kornstein has joined the firm as a partner. Mr. Kornstein is a distinguished and experienced trial lawyer and appellate advocate. In his 42 years practicing law, he has conducted over 100 trial-type proceedings (including 20 jury trials) and argued more than 70 appeals. His varied litigation practice spans many subject areas, including First Amendment, securities, commercial, banking and finance, trusts and estates, employment, product liability, family law, and international matters. Mr. Kornstein comes to ECBA from the prominent litigation boutique Kornstein Veisz Wexler & Pollard, LLP, which he founded. In addition to his primary focus on commercial litigation, Mr. Kornstein will be bringing defamation and constitutional law cases with him to ECBA.


Racial Discrimination in Lending Case Settled

A lawsuit filed by ECBA alleging that M&T Bank discriminated on the basis of race and national origin in its lending practices has been resolved for $485,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, plus changes in the bank’s loan products and policies. M&T Bank agreed not to use neighborhood racial criteria in its residential mortgage programs, to revise its fair lending policies and training program for loan officers, and to implement other reforms. In their complaint filed in early 2015, nine African American, Hispanic, South Asian, and white testers, along with the Fair Housing Justice Center, alleged that two of the bank’s New York City loan officers had discriminated against them during the pre-application stage of inquiring about home mortgages. Even though minority testers were assigned by FHJC to have more income, greater assets, fewer debts, and higher credit scores than their white counterparts, they alleged that the bank told them to consider lower home prices, higher cost loans or, in one instance, not to buy a home.  Further, the plaintiffs alleged that they were steered away from certain loan products as well as neighborhoods because of their race and the racial composition of New York City neighborhoods.

Plaintiffs were represented by Diane L. Houk and R. Orion Danjuma.


Disability Housing Discrimination Case Settles for $1.3 million

A federal court has approved a $1.3 million settlement relating to the design and construction of two housing developments in Queens and Dutchess Counties, New York. The plaintiffs, a disabled woman who purchased a ground floor unit at the Queens site and the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), alleged that the developers, architects, and site engineers failed to design and build the developments in compliance with the Fair Housing Act, rendering them inaccessible to residents and guests with physical disabilities.

Defendants will pay $900,000 for damages, attorneys’ fees, and retrofits to the individual plaintiff’s unit, driveway, and sidewalks.  Defendants will also retrofit ground floor units and certain common areas at the Dutchess County project at their expense and have future residential sites reviewed for compliance. In addition, the settlement provides $400,000 for the FHJC to use to provide financial assistance to income eligible homeowners and renters with physical disabilities seeking to make accessibility modifications to their existing housing, including unit owners at the Queens development.

Plaintiffs were represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Ali Frick, and by James E. Bahamonde of the Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde, P.C.


ECBA Ranked Tier 1 for Civil Rights Law by US News & World Report

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP is proud to announce that the firm has been named to the 2016 U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list. For the fourth consecutive year, ECBA was ranked as a Tier 1 firm for Civil Rights Law.


Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP Now Lead Counsel in Tamir Rice Police Shooting

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) is lead counsel representing the Estate of Tamir Rice. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child, was tragically shot and killed by Cleveland police officers on November 22, 2014 in a case which has now received widespread attention across the nation. The firm also represents Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, and his sister.  ECBA is co-counseling the case with The Chandra Law Firm, LLC from Cleveland, Ohio and FirmEquity of Chicago, Illinois.