ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl Ward, Hal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2018. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro were named as Rising Stars. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.
On September 28, 2018, federal judge William H. Pauley III denied a motion by the city of New York seeking to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit filed by ECBA and co-counsel Romano & Kuan PLLC 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 court held that “Plaintiffs adequately allege that their interest in paying bail and being released after paying bail has been infringed by the City’s deliberate indifference.” The suit alleges that the City is responsible for unreasonable systemic delays in accepting bail payments and in processing detainees for release once bail is posted. The complaint 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. The court’s decision ruled that these allegations are sufficient to claim violations of the United States constitution and New York law. The case will now proceed to discovery.
To read coverage of the lawsuit in the New York Daily News, click here.
ECBA is credited for its legal work in Michael Moore’s new film ” Fahrenheit 11/9″. The film — a scathing indictment of the state of American politics, media and culture in the Trump Era — was the subject of a pre-release legal vetting by ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. Watch the trailer for the film here.
ECBA clients, two trusts named Accent Delight International Ltd. and Xitrans Finance Ltd., filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest and most famous auction houses. The Complaint alleges that Sotheby’s helped Yves Bouvier facilitate the largest art fraud in history. As detailed in the New Yorker, Bouvier is alleged to have defrauded the two plaintiff trusts of approximately $1 billion. The new suit alleges that Sotheby’s played a key role in aiding Mr. Bouvier’s scheme by providing valuations and other support for fraudulent transactions. ECBA attorneys Daniel J. Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Zoe Salzman, and Doug Lieb represent the plaintiffs. Articles describing the filing can be found here and here.
The National Jewish Democratic Council (“NJDC”) and Marc R. Stanley filed a lawsuit against casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in the Southern District of New York. The case seeks damages from Mr. Adelson’s previous filing of a strategic case against public policy, or “SLAPP” suit, against the NJDC in 2012. After five years of litigation, two federal courts and the Supreme Court of Nevada all found that Adelson’s lawsuit against the NJDC should be dismissed because it was a SLAPP suit. Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute provides that those, like the NJDC, who prevail on a motion to dismiss a SLAPP suit may bring a new case of their own to recover the damages they suffered from that suit. The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA partners Richard D. Emery and O. Andrew F. Wilson.
On September 19, 2018, ECBA filed a Petition pursuant to Article 78 of the CPLR on behalf of New York City Council Member Rory I. Lancman, MTA Board Member David R. Jones, and the Community Service Society of New York (“CSSNY”) seeking an order to compel the New York City Police Department to comply with a New York City Law which requires it to post reports on its website regarding arrests made and civil summonses issued to individuals for fare evasion at each of the 472 subway stations in New York City.
After CSSNY issued a detailed report reflecting that the vast majority of arrests and summonses for subway fare evasion occur in poor African-American communities, Council Member Lancman introduced legislation requiring the Police Department to release quarterly reports detailing the number of arrests under New York Penal Law § 165.15 and summonses under MTA Rule of Conduct § 1050.4 that were issued for fare evasion at each subway station throughout New York City and to break down the data by various demographic criteria, such as the race, gender, and age range of each person arrested or summonsed. Council Member’s Lancman’s proposed bill was unanimously approved by the City Council and went into law as New York City Administrative Code § 14-172 in January 2018. Three required reporting periods have passed since the law’s enactment and the Police Department has brazenly refused to comply with its statutory obligation.
The Petitioners are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery and David Berman. A copy of the Petition is available here, and coverage of this lawsuit in the New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News is available here, here, and here.
ECBA filed suit in federal district court alleging racially discriminatory rental practices at a 53-unit Eastchester apartment building in Westchester County, New York. The Fair Housing Justice Center sent similarly qualified White and African-American testers posing as potential renters to the building to inquire about the availability of apartments for rent and the application process. The 2018 tests revealed that the building superintendent treated African-Americans less favorably than Whites, including refusing to give them applications, showing them fewer apartments, and/or falsely claiming there was a waiting list or contracts pending on vacant apartments. The building is in a census tract that is less than 3% African American but is adjacent to communities with a 20% or higher African American population.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ilann M. Maazel, ECBA, 212.763.5000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean McElligott, Koskoff, 203.336.4421 email@example.com
September 7, 2018 – Vernon Horn, who was exonerated in April 2018 after spending 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New Haven, three New Haven detectives, and a state firearms examiner. The New Haven Police Department (NHPD) hid 137 pages of exculpatory phone records in a detective’s home basement, failed to investigate evidence that would have proven Mr. Horn’s innocence, and coerced witnesses against him. Mr. Horn is represented by the law firms of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C.
Mr. Horn was convicted of murder for a shooting at the Dixwell Deli in New Haven on January 24, 1999. A cell phone stolen from the murder scene was a key piece of evidence at trial. The state claimed that Mr. Horn had taken the phone to Bridgeport, given it to his accomplice, brought it back to New Haven the next day, and lent it to a friend to make a call.
In fact, the stolen cell phone never left Bridgeport, and Mr. Horn never touched it. Evidence proving as much was readily available to the NHPD all along, but detectives never bothered to ask for it. Phone records showed that every call from the stolen cell phone was linked to the same crew of Bridgeport drug dealers. But instead of turning those records over to Mr. Horn, as the Constitution requires, the NHPD buried them in a basement.
This and other new evidence was discovered only because the Federal Public Defender for the District of Connecticut doggedly reinvestigated the case. In April 2018, in response to the new evidence uncovered by the investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office moved to vacate Mr. Horn’s conviction and dismiss the charges. Mr. Horn’s co-defendant, Marquis Jackson, was also exonerated and released.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, seeks damages for the 17 dehumanizing years that Mr. Horn spent in prison as an innocent man. While in prison, Mr. Horn was assaulted by inmates, strip-searched by guards, held in solitary confinement, and denied essential medical care for serious injuries suffered in a car accident. His young daughter began to grow up without him.
Mr. Horn said:
First and foremost, I would like to thank the Most High for allowing me to make it through this injustice. I would like to thank my attorneys David Keenan and Terence Ward of the Connecticut Federal Public Defender Office for securing my freedom.
What happened to me was not only a crime against me, but it was a crime against humanity. I was falsely prosecuted and lied about by people who are supposed to be public servants. I suffered emotionally, and I was physically and mentally abused in prison. I was not able to go to college and learn the things a man should know. I was taken away from my first child when she was only 10 months old.
After being released, I was put back into the world without any help and without an apology. The thing that hurts the most is that my daughter does not know me. After what happened, I cannot trust anyone or hold on to relationships because I think everyone is trying to hurt me.
I hope that people who are a part of the criminal justice system learn from what was done to me. They need to know that there are more innocent men and women who have been framed and falsely accused. It is real, and it needs to end.
Ilann M. Maazel, partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:
The New Haven Police Department stole the prime of Vernon Horn’s life. This was a complete breakdown in the criminal justice system. We intend to hold the police and everyone responsible for this travesty of justice accountable.
Sean McElligott, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:
After seventeen years of lies and betrayal, Vernon Horn will finally have the opportunity to speak the truth through this lawsuit. We look forward to helping him gain some measure of peace after decades of wrongful incarceration and suffering.
Matt Blumenthal, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:
We all depend on law enforcement to act with competence and integrity. Vernon Horn suffered a spectacular betrayal of this trust. We are proud to stand with him in his fight for justice and accountability.
The complaint is available here.
In a victory for the First Amendment, a New York judge granted ECBA’s motion on behalf of the Avaaz Foundation, a global civic movement, to quash a sweeping document subpoena issued by the Monsanto Company, the multi-billion-dollar agricultural and biotech giant. The subpoena sought access to three-and-a-half years’ worth of Avaaz’s confidential political communications, internal strategy memos, and campaign plans – its political “playbook,” in the judge’s words — for its ongoing, worldwide effort to persuade governments around the world to ban the chemical agent glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® products. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and a California jury recently found that Roundup® caused a school groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In quashing the subpoena, Justice Shlomo Hagler of the New York County Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto’s request would have a “tremendous chilling effect” on the protected First Amendment activities of Avaaz and other civic organizations. Giving Monsanto access to Avaaz’s internal communications, Justice Hagler explained, would discourage Avaaz and its members from participating in “a movement they feel is just and right.” Justice Hagler also ruled that the documents Monsanto sought were “utterly irrelevant” to a Missouri lawsuit for which it purportedly sought them. If enforced, the subpoena would have required Avaaz to produce its campaign plans, strategy deliberations, and research to Monsanto.