On May 8, 2020, a New York state court ruled that ECBA client Stanley “Skip” Karol may rent out a portion of his Brooklyn home through Airbnb. The court directed the City to return the thousands of dollars in fines it had levied against Mr. Karol and to “[l]eave the poor guy alone.” The City had ticketed Mr. Karol for renting out his basement through Airbnb. ECBA attorneys filed a case challenging the legality of those tickets, and the Court ruled in Mr. Karol’s favor.
A full copy of the decision can be found here. Reporting on the decision appears in the New York Daily News here and in Politico here and here.
On April 8, 2020, a federal court denied the attempt of Donald Trump, his immediate family, and The Trump Corporation to compel arbitration of the fraud case pending against them in the Sothern District of New York. The case, filed in the fall of 2018, alleges the Trumps defrauded investors into purchasing memberships in a multi-level marketing scheme called ACN. The Trumps had argued that the court should stay the fraud case in favor of individual arbitration based on agreements that the investors had signed with ACN. The court denied the motion on the grounds that the Trumps and ACN were never sufficiently connected such that the investors would have understood that any of their contractual obligations with ACN would correspond to obligations with the Trumps.
A full copy of the decision can be found here. Reporting on the decision in Reuters can be found here and on Bloomberg Quint here.
Two ECBA clients were featured by the New York Times in its recent article The People vs. Big Development. The article highlights a court order blocking a massive development project, heavily opposed by the local community, in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The New York City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for approving the project without undergoing the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires extensive community input and final approval by the City Council. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a permanent injunction enjoining any construction on the project until a ULURP review is performed.
The article also highlights the legal challenge to the 200 Amsterdam tower, in which ECBA represents the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development in a suit challenging the developer’s creation of a “gerrymandered” 39-sided zoning lot. As The Times reports, the resulting out-of-scale tower would be over twice the height of nearby towers, and the “tallest north of 61st Street.”
ECBA, along with co-counsel, filed a Notice of Claim today on behalf of Sylvester and Iyunolu Osagie, the parents of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie, indicating their intent to sue the Pennsylvania State College Police Department (“SCPD”) and the officers who six months ago shot and killed their then 29-year old son. Sylvester Osagie asked the police to help him find Osaze, so that he could secure treatment for his suicidal son who was suffering a serious mental health crisis. Instead of helping Osaze, an officer shot him three times in the back, killing him.
“The mental health processes in place failed our son. The police procedures also failed our son. And the officers who responded to our son’s apartment failed him as well. We are bringing this case to make sure Osaze is the last person to die under such circumstances,” said Sylvester Osagie.
“Osaze would still be alive today if the police had followed standard procedures for handling mental health emergencies. This tragic loss of life didn’t have to happen; Osaze Osagie did not have to die.” said ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr.
On August 1, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a preliminary injunction and Article 78 Petition blocking the construction of four massive towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan. The New York City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council. ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr., Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.
On July 3, 2019, after nearly three years of litigation, ECBA won a significant constitutional victory when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the unsealing of court records in Giuffre v. Maxwell. The firm appeared on behalf of Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, an intervenor in the case, and it successfully argued that the wholesale sealing of records by the district judge violated the First Amendment’s “presumption of openness” for judicial documents; the presumption, the court reaffirmed, is essential to ensuring transparency and public oversight of the courts.
ECBA’s application for unsealing was followed by related applications filed by The Miami Herald and another media outlet, both of which were also granted.
On June 5, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron extended a temporary restraining order blocking the construction of a development project in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan. The City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council. ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr., Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.
In early December 2018, New York State Attorney General-elect Letitia James appointed ECBA co-founding partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. to her Transition Committee and selected him to lead the Committee’s working group on civil rights enforcement. Celli, who served as Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General from 1999 until 2003, convened a group of 35 leading civil rights lawyers to generate ideas and comment on priorities for the new Attorney General. He presented the group’s findings to General James and the full Transition Committee at the Committee’s final meeting on January 23, 2019.
Sociologist Shamus Khan, Chair and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, praises the work of ECBA in a forthcoming article in Sociological Forum magazine. The article, entitled “The Subpoena of Ethnographic Data,” describes the ethical and legal challenges faced when Prof. Khan, a renowned scholar of gender, sexuality, and cultural elites, received a document subpoena seeking the production of ethnographic data. The data in question was collected by Prof. Khan at St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school which Khan profiled in his ground-breaking book Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. The subpoena arose from a civil suit brought by a young woman who, as a student at St. Paul’s, alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by another student. The case gained national attention and the accused young man was found guilty of statutory rape. The subpoena sought, among other things, copies of Prof. Khan’s contemporaneous field notes of observations he had made of students, faculty and administrators while living on the campus of St. Paul’s in 2004-2005. Describing ECBA as a “powerful law firm” and thanking ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. for “his counsel,” the article details the firm’s successful effort to force the withdrawal of the subpoena. The firm invoked case law that extends the First-Amendment-based “journalist’s privilege” to academic researchers like Prof. Khan. In addition to Mr. Celli, firm associate David Lebowitz handled the matter for Prof. Khan.
Click here to read Prof. Khan’s article in Sociological Forum.
On January 11, 2019 the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted ECBA client Equan Yunus a preliminary injunction removing his unconstitutional designation as a sex offender. Although Mr. Yunus has never committed sexual misconduct, he had been forced to register as a sex offender under New York’s irrational and overbroad offender registration laws. Because of this designation, Mr. Yunus was subject to numerous overbearing parole conditions designed to deter sex offenses that bore no relation to his crime of conviction, including limitations on his ability to access a cell phone or computer and to interact with minor members of his own family.
While the New York Court of Appeals had upheld this law as rational years earlier in another case, the federal court agreed with Mr. Yunus and ECBA that this treatment as a sex offender violated his constitutional right to substantive due process. Mr. Yunus’s designation and its accompanying oppressive restrictions must be removed as a result of the Court’s ruling.
ECBA Attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and David Berman represent Mr. Yunus. To read the Court’s opinion granting Mr. Yunus a preliminary injunction, click here. To read the Guardian’s profile of Mr. Yunus’s case, click here. To read coverage of the case in the New York Law Journal, click here.