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Federal Court Permits Prison Death Case to Go Forward

A judge in the Western District of Oklahoma rejected a motion to dismiss filed by state prison officials seeking to end a lawsuit by the family of a 21 year-old young man who died in prison from untreated appendicitis. The court held that Joshua England’s family could continue its claim that prison officials violated Joshua’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by ignoring his repeated, anguished pleas for medical help over the course of days, before he died alone on the floor of his prison cell. The court also permitted all of the state law claims to go forward. And the court refused to dismiss the senior official defendants – the former head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the warden of the prison – from the case. Now Joshua’s family can move forward with seeking accountability for Joshua’s untimely, entirely preventable death of a common and treatable illness.

ECBA attorneys Katherine Rosenfeld and Ali Frick represent Joshua’s family, along with co-counsel Paul DeMuro and Henry A. “Hank” Meyer, III.

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Family of Young Disabled Man Who Died in New York State Group Home Brings Federal Civil Rights Suit

This morning, the family of C.B., a young man with cognitive disabilities who passed away in April 2018, filed a civil rights lawsuit against employees of a group home run by New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”). C.B. was found dead in his room at the Valley Ridge Center for Intensive Treatment on the morning of April 9, 2018, after Ashley Sessions, a Valley Ridge employee, failed to check in on him during the night as required.

C.B. died from pulmonary embolism and heart failure. The day before his death, C.B. and his mother told State employees he couldn’t breathe. The State ignored him. C.B.’s arms and legs were massively swollen with fluid; he gained 50 pounds in a single year; he exhibited the telltale signs of heart failure. But Staff not only did nothing to help him; they repeatedly encouraged him to drink more fluids, contributing to his death.

Even as Sessions failed to check on C.B. as required during the night of his death, C.B. asphyxiated on fluids in his lungs. Sessions then lied to the police to try to cover up her misconduct. She ultimately plead guilty to the crime of filing false statements.

C.B.’s mother, J.M., federal filed a lawsuit alleging that Valley Ridge employees were deliberately indifferent to C.B.’s health and welfare and that the little medical care they did provide was woefully deficient.

“C.B.’s tragic death should never have happened,” C.B.’s family’s attorney, Ilann M. Maazel, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, said. “State employees ignored the obvious signs that a disabled man’s health was rapidly deteriorating, then left him alone to die a horrible death in his bedroom. It’s unconscionable.”

“C.B.’s dire condition was plain to see,” added Samuel Shapiro, another attorney representing the family, “but the staff here just didn’t care enough to look.”

Read the complaint here.

ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel, Samuel Shapiro, and Ali Frick represent C.B.’s family.

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Family Sues Prison Officials Over Senseless Death of 21 year-old Man from Untreated Appendicitis

The mother of Joshua England, a 21-year-old man who died last year in an Oklahoma prison from untreated appendicitis, sued Oklahoma prison officials and medical workers today for the wrongful, preventable, and needless death of her son.

Joshua was serving a short prison sentence—his first and only one—when, a year ago, he went to the prison health clinic at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center complaining of classic signs of appendicitis, including acute abdominal pain. For a week, prison staff did nothing. As Joshua begged for care, day after day, in five separate written requests for help, the prison staff took no action. No doctor ever examined him. He was never sent to a nearby medical facility for an examination or testing. As his symptoms grew worse and he grew more obviously sick, prison officials still did nothing. On the morning Joshua died, prison medical staff recorded his heart rate at a staggering 158 beats per minute, and still they did nothing. Hours later, Joshua died alone on the floor of his prison cell, of a common and entirely treatable condition. Joshua was set to be released from prison only months after he died.

Joshua’s family is represented by Katherine Rosenfeld and Ali Frick, along with co-counsel Paul DeMuro at Frederic Dorwart Lawyers. You can read a copy of the complaint here. Read the Guardian’s coverage of the case here.

 

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ECBA and A Better Balance Client Successfully Resolve Her Gender Discrimination Claim Against MOMA PS1

Nikki Columbus, who sued MoMA PS1 in the New York City Human Rights Commission for revoking her job offer after learning she had just had a baby, settled her claims with PS1, in an agreement requiring PS1 to pay Ms. Columbus a financial award and to update its written policies to protect women and caregivers. “What happened to me was wrong and clearly against the law,” Ms. Columbus said in a statement. “I decided to speak out in order to protect other women at MoMA PS1 and beyond.”

The New York Times covered her lawsuit and the settlement. Read more press coverage of the case here.

Ms. Columbus was represented by A Better Balance and ECBA lawyers Elizabeth Saylor, Katherine Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, and Ali Frick.

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Historic Settlement in Pennsylvania

ECBA has settled the 2016 Pennsylvania recount case brought by presidential candidate Jill Stein and Pennsylvania voters. The lawsuit challenged Pennsylvania’s use of paperless voting systems, as well as its byzantine, anti-voter recount procedures.

The settlement requires Pennsylvania to provide voter-verifiable paper ballots to all voters by 2020, and automatic, robust, statewide election audits by 2022.

“With this settlement, Pennsylvania will go from an election integrity backwater to a national leader,” said Ilann M. Maazel. “We will be watching closely to ensure Pennsylvania implements every one of these important election reforms.”

The Pennsylvania plaintiffs are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Ali Frick, and Doug Lieb, as well as co-counsel Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. In addition, Jonathan Abady and Andrew G. Celli Jr. represented the overall Stein 2016 recount effort.

The settlement can be found here. The press release is here.

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MoMA PS1 Refuses to Hire Curator After Learning She Recently Had a Baby

On July 5, 2018, ECBA filed a complaint with the New York City Human Rights Commission alleging that MoMA PS1 refused to hire a curator after learning she had recently had a baby. Over a period of several months, Peter Eleey and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator and Director, respectively, of PS1 recruited Nikki Columbus to join PS1 as associate curator of performance. After several discussions about the job, they officially offered her the position. But when Ms. Columbus mentioned that she had recently had a baby, Eleey immediately demanded to know why she hadn’t said earlier that she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, PS1 rescinded the job offer. Represented by ECBA attorneys Elizabeth Saylor and Ali Frick, Ms. Columbus filed a complaint claiming that PS1’s conduct amounted to discrimination on the basis of her status as a caregiver, her gender, and her pregnancy. “This is the thing about discrimination,” Ms. Columbus told the New York Times. “And coming into this from a privileged position — you don’t think it’s going to happen to you.”

Read the New York Times’ coverage here. Read the complaint here.

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Court Rules Cosmetic Surgeon Illegally Denied Surgery to Patient Living with HIV

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.

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City Agrees to Pay $2.5M to Wrongly Convicted Man

New York City will pay $2.5 million to ECBA client Joel Fowler, who was wrongly convicted of a 2007 Brooklyn murder. Prosecutors under the watch of late Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson concluded in 2015 that Mr. Fowler had nothing to do with the murder. The New York Daily News covered the settlement here. This settlement is the latest of the many wrongful conviction cases that Emery Celli has settled.

ECBA attorneys Earl Ward and Ali Frick represented Mr. Fowler, along with the Law Offices of Joel B. Rudin.

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NY State Pays $3 Million to Family of Disabled Boy Abused at Group Home

The State of New York has paid $3 million to the family of a developmentally disabled boy who was repeatedly sexually assaulted and abused by an employee at the State-run group home near Utica where he lived. The abuse took place over multiple years, and was discovered after photos and videos the abuser, Steven DeProspero, had made of the assaults were found on his computer. DeProspero is currently incarcerated under both state and federal convictions for crimes related to the abuse.

ECBA attorneys Ilann MaazelAndrew G. Celli, Jr., and Ali Frick represented the boy’s family. As Mr. Celli told the AP, “This is a case where you had someone who really was evil. But what failed here was the system. You have to have systems in place to ensure the safety of children who have needs, and they just fell down on the job here.”

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ECBA Leads Historic Recount Litigation on Behalf of Jill Stein in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania

In the first ever legal effort to challenge election results in multiple jurisdictions for a Presidential contest in the United States, ECBA is representing Jill Stein and her campaign in election integrity efforts and attempts to obtain recounts in three states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Stein filed petitions for recount in Michigan and Wisconsin, and mobilized voters to seek recounts in Pennsylvania.  ECBA has litigated various state and federal actions to pursue those recount requests. The most recent information and filings concerning the rapidly-changing developments in the three states are available here for Pennsylvania, here for Michigan, and here for Wisconsin.

ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matt D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Ilann Maazel, Elizabeth Saylor, Debra L. Greenberger, Ali Frick, David Lebowitz, Hayley HorowitzDoug Lieb, Alanna Small, and Jessica Clark are the lawyers litigating these efforts.

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