The New York Appellate Division, First Department ruled on December 26, 2019 that rape and sexual assault are necessarily motivated at least in part by animus towards the victim’s gender, and therefore prohibited by the New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law.
The case is Breest v. Haggis, one of the few cases of the MeToo era that is being litigated in civil court. Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP represents Haleigh Breest, who alleges that Hollywood director Paul Haggis raped and assaulted her after a film premiere in 2013. The First Department affirmed the lower court’s decision denying Haggis’s motion to dismiss the case. In so doing, the Court rejected Haggis’s argument that, in order to plead a claim, the plaintiff had to allege that he had expressed hatred towards all women. In the first appellate ruling to ever address this important law, the Court made it clear that it did not agree with other lower court decisions that created “insuperable barriers” for sexual assault victims to plead their claims and seek justice.
The Court held that: “Rape and sexual assault are, by definition, actions taken against the victim without the victim’s consent. Without consent, sexual acts such as those alleged in the complaint are a violation of the victim’s bodily autonomy and an expression of the perpetrator’s contempt for that autonomy. Coerced sexual activity is dehumanizing and fear-inducing. Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself. Animus inheres where consent is absent.”
“This is a historic ruling that breathes new life into the New York City law against gender motivated violence,” said ECBA partner Zoe Salzman. “This decision paves the way for a jury to hold Paul Haggis accountable at trial.”
ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, and Emma Freeman represent Haleigh Breest.
Read the First Department’s decision here.
On September 13, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated a landmark federal lawsuit in New York against Donald Trump, prompted by his violations of the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution. The Second Circuit’s decision means that Trump may be ordered to provide extensive discovery into his business dealings with foreign and state governments. ECBA previously filed an amicus curiae brief in the District Court in support of the Plaintiff, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, on behalf of Sarah P. Chayes, an internationally-recognized expert in corruption and kleptocratic regimes.
The New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, and the New York Law Journal, among others, have covered this recent development. The Second Circuit’s decision is available here.
ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Emma L. Freeman represent Sarah Chayes.
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.
Professor Dershowitz was represented by Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and David Lebowitz.
Coverage of the decision can be found here and here.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the City of Miami has standing under the Fair Housing Act to sue banks that engaged in predatory lending, triggering foreclosures and other harms throughout the City. ECBA filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the City’s position, on behalf of Miami’s firefighters and first responders who have had to cope with an increase in crimes and other problems festering in foreclosed, vacant properties. The brief was authored by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Debra Greenberger, and Zoe Salzman.
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady filed an amicus brief on behalf of four veterans organizations, Vets for American Ideals, Vote Vets, Common Defense, and No One Left Behind. The brief was filed in the pending case Darweesh, et al. v. Trump, et al. (E.D.N.Y.), which challenges President Trump’s Executive Order banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations. Based on their experience fighting on the front lines against ISIS and other U.S. enemies, these veterans argue that the ban is contrary to the American ideals they fought for, will make it more difficult for their fellow American soldiers to recruit essential local allies in Iraq and in other Muslim countries, and will be a powerful propaganda tool for our enemies that will make the work of deployed American soldiers more difficult and more dangerous. The brief was written by ECBA partners Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and Zoe Salzman.
Click here to read the full brief.
On November 16, 2016, ECBA submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf the Asian Americans Advancing Jusice ǀ AAJC and other civil rights and advocacy groups in Lee v. Tam, a first-amendment and trademark case pending before the Supreme Court.
Tam, the Respondent, is the leader of a band called, “The Slants”—a racially derisive term referring to Asian Americans. Tam has stated that his use of “The Slants” is an effort to reclaim that term. Nevertheless, his trademark application for the name was rejected under a section of the trademark law that prohibits registration of derogatory marks. The Supreme Court will consider whether that section is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
Though not submitted in support of either the Respondent or the Petitioner, the amicus curiae brief represents the interests of a coalition of groups whose constituents are harmed by the dissemination of racial slurs. The brief sheds light on the complicated nature of the inquiry before the Court, the free speech interests on both sides, and the power and difficulties of reclamation efforts. ECBA attorneys Daniel Kornstein and Alanna Small worked on the brief. You can read the brief here.
A 5-judge panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling allowing a claim brought on behalf of tenants of London Terrace Gardens, a Chelsea apartment complex, against their landlords to proceed. The case, Dugan v. London Terrace Gardens, N.Y. County Clerk No. 603468/09, concerns the improper deregulation of rent stabilized apartments in buildings participating in the City’s J-51 tax abatement program. The appellate court rejected the landlord’s argument that the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal, and not the courts, was the appropriate venue for the case. A motion for class certification is now pending in the lower court. The case was argued by ECBA associate Adam Pulver. ECBA partner Matthew Brinckerhoff and co-counsel Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph worked on the briefs and represent the plaintiffs in this ongoing litigation. ECBA is also counsel in four other cases brought on behalf of tenants in similar circumstances.
The court’s decision is available here.