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Judge Approves $60 Million Settlement in Debt Collection Suit

A federal court approved the settlement on behalf of  New Yorkers who alleged fraudulent debt collection practices.  The $60 million settlement in the case, captioned Sykes v. Mel S. Harris and Associates LLC, No. 09 Civ. 8486 (S.D.N.Y), is  the largest ever of its kind.  The settlement should also lead to the unprecedented vacating of approximately 195,000 court judgments and result in the forgiveness of over $1 billion in alleged debt. Plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleged that that Defendants used fraudulent practices to file debt collection lawsuits, obtain default judgments, and then collect on those judgments.

Judge Denny Chin found that the settlement is a “remarkable resolution” to “hard fought litigation” that will bring “extraordinarily meaningful benefits to tens of thousands of individuals.”  He concludes that the settlement will have an “immediate and enormously positive impact on the lives of many.”

The class is represented by ECBA attorneys, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Debbie GreenbergerElizabeth Saylor, and Jonathan Abady,  along with co-counsel MFY Legal Services and the New Economy Project.   Read more about the settlement in coverage by the New York Times, the Nation, the NY Law Journal, the NY Post, the Democrat & Chronicle, the Daily News and NY 1.

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

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2016. Partner Debra Greenberger and associate Hayley Horowitz were named as Rising Stars. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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ECBA Obtains Over $30 Million for Three Wrongfully Convicted Men in Infamous “Bronx Six” Case

New York City and State have agreed to pay $23.78 million to Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 18 years for two 1995 murders in which neither man had any involvement. Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez will each receive $8 million from New York City, in addition to $3.89 million previously paid by New York State, for a total of $11.89 million each in settlements.

Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez were jointly indicted with five other individuals for the 1995 murders of a livery taxi driver and a FedEx employee, despite the absence of any physical evidence connecting them to the crimes. A 2012 investigation by federal authorities revealed that the taxi driver’s murder had actually been committed by two gang members whose names came up repeatedly during the NYPD’s 1995 investigation but who were never pursued as suspects. The revelation that the two gang members had previously confessed to committing the taxi driver murder—without any involvement by any of the six people convicted—led to the recantation of a central witness in the FedEx case, who claimed that her trial testimony had been coerced and manufactured by NYPD detectives. After using this new information to help free Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez from prison in 2013, ECBA attorneys Earl S. Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and David A. Lebowitz represented the men in civil litigation against the City and State along with co-counsel Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC.

ECBA and Romano & Kuan previously obtained $6.7 million in settlements from the City and State on behalf of the estate of Israel Vasquez, one of the other individuals wrongly accused of the same two 1995 murders, who spent over 12 years in prison before his conviction was overturned due to the insufficiency of the evidence against him. The team has thus recovered over $30 million for these three families in connection with this tragic case. The New York Times and the New York Daily News, among other publications, covered the settlements.

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Consumers reach $59 million settlement in debt collection class action

A federal court has preliminarily approved a settlement on behalf of New Yorkers who alleged fraudulent debt collection practices.  The $59 million settlement in the case, captioned Sykes v. Mel S. Harris and Associates LLC, No. 09 Civ. 8486 (S.D.N.Y), is believed to be the largest ever of its kind.  The settlement is also expected to lead to the unprecedented vacating of approximately 195,000 court judgments.     If your debt was owned by LR Credit, you may be a class member; for  more information, please visit www.sykesclassaction.com.

Plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleged that that Defendants used fraudulent practices to file debt collection lawsuits, obtain default judgments, and then collect on those judgments; Defendants deny liability.  The Defendants lost their appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in early 2015, in which they sought to invalidate the trial court’s certification of the class.

The class is represented by ECBA attorneys, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Debbie Greenberger, and Elizabeth Saylor, along with co-counsel MFY Legal Services and the New Economy Project.   Read more about the settlement in coverage by the New York Times, the NY Law Journal, the NY Post, the Democrat & Chronicle, the Daily News and NY 1.

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Bipartisan Group Sues To Close New York’s Corporate Donation Loophole

Today, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady and the Brennan Center for Justice, on behalf of several former and current State legislators and other plaintiffs, filed suit against the New York State Board of Elections to close the State’s infamous “LLC Loophole.” Since the Loophole was created by the BOE in 1996, contributors donating through LLCs have circumvented contribution limits and disclosure requirements that the Legislature created to protect the integrity of New York’s democratic process — and injected millions of secret dollars into state elections. In April the Brennan Center and Emery Celli asked the BOE to close the Loophole, but the board, in a 2-2 vote, refused to rescind its earlier decision and thereby defeated this attempt at reform. This lawsuit presents a promising opportunity to close the Loophole once and for all. ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr., Elizabeth Saylor, and Ali Frick represent the bipartisan group of plaintiffs.

The New York TimesThe Daily News, The Albany Times Union, The Associated Press, Newsday, and The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, among other outlets, covered the lawsuit. Click here to read the press release about the case. On July 21, 2015, the New York Times editorial board called on the court to adopt ECBA and the Brennan Center’s position and close the LLC Loophole.

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$6.6 Million Class Action Settlement on Behalf of Medical Residents

On behalf of hundreds of former medical residents who trained in The New York and Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill Cornell Campus Residency Program between January 1, 1995 and June 30, 2001, ECBA obtained preliminary approval of a $6.632 million settlement. Former medical residents had commenced an action in the SDNY claiming that the hospital acted against their interest when it agreed with the IRS not to seek refunds of Federal Insurance Contribution Act (“FICA”) taxes paid by or on behalf of itself and medical residents in the NYP/Weill Cornell Residency Program and failed to disclose the agreement.  Two related lawsuits were filed as class actions by different sets of plaintiffs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, and both were consolidated. If you are a member of the class, please provide your current address, phone  number, and the years you were a resident to the administrator by calling 877-804-9743 or emailing info@nyficasettlement.com.  More information will soon be available at www.nyficasettlement.com.

To view the Settlement Notice and Declaration of Previous Refund, click here.
To view the Joint Stipulation of Settlement and Release, click here.
To view the Order Granting Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement, Conditionally, Certifying Rule 23 Settlement Class, Appointing Class Class Counsel, and Approving Proposed Notice Procedures, click here.

To read Law360’s coverage, click here.

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ECBA Files Charge of Discrimination on Behalf of Woman Fired Because She Was Pregnant

Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady and A Better Balance, a national legal advocacy organization, today filed a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that Savers, a company that operates hundreds of retail stores nationwide, fired Betzaida Cruz Cardona because she was pregnant. The charge alleges that Savers fired Ms. Cruz, a cashier in the company’s Henrietta, New York store, just days after she announced her pregnancy and on the same day that she brought in a doctor’s note stating that she could not lift over 25 pounds due to her pregnancy. Savers terminated her even though Ms. Cruz never did heavy lifting in the store, and lifting was not part of her job description. According to the charge, Savers’ actions violate federal and state pregnancy and disability anti-discrimination laws. The charge also alleges that Savers, and its subsidiaries, have engaged in a pattern and practice of pregnancy discrimination. Ms. Cruz is represented by ECBA attorney Elizabeth S. Saylor and A Better Balance attorneys Dina Bakst and Jake McDonald.

To read a copy of the charge click here. To read the press release click here. A New York Times article concerning a prior pregnancy discrimination case against Savers is available  here. To read Democrat and Chronicle’s coverage click here and  here. To read Think Progress’ coverage click here.

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Misclassified Workers Settle Class Action Lawsuit Recovering $540,000

In Juan Almendras, et al v. Atelier Meriguet-Carrere, et al, Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP, together with The Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Unit, represent former and current painters of the high end residential decorating and painting companies, Atelier Premiere, Inc. and Atelier Mériguet-Carrère.

On February 4, 2015, the Honorable Judge Paul Crotty of the Southern District of New York granted class certification and final approval of a collective/class action settlement which resolved the painters’ claims that the companies misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to pay overtime compensation as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”), illegally deducted from their pay money for general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance in violation of the NYLL, and failed to provide annual wage statements and correct paystubs as required by the NYLL. A payment of close to $400,000 will be divided among the class, which consists of more than 80 workers, most of whom are South American men who primarily speak Spanish and Portuguese. The remaining money will go to attorneys’ fees and service awards.

Staffing in this case from Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady included Partner Elizabeth Saylor and Associate David Lebowitz. Staffing from The Legal Aid Society included Staff Attorneys Amy Hong and Hollis Pfitsch and Supervising Attorney Karen Cacace.

To read the complaint click here. To read the settlement click here.

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New York City and State Agree to pay $6.7 million in settlements for Wrongful Conviction Cases

The City and State have agreed to pay $6.7 million to the widow of Israel Vasquez, who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for more than 12 years for a 1995 homicide. Mr. Vasquez was jointly indicted with five others for two separate homicides, that of a taxi driver and a Federal Express employee. ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, David Lebowitz and Orion Danjuma, together with co-counsel Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC represent Mr. Vasquez’s widow. ECBA, along with Julia Kuan, also represent Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, two of the five other wrongfully convicted individuals who spent 18 years in prison for two murders they did not commit. Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez’s cases are still pending. To read the New York Times coverage, click here.

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ECBA Defeats Challenge to City Law Banning Race-Based Stop-and-Frisks

The New York Supreme Court upheld a New York City law banning police stops based on race, national origin, citizenship status, gender, disability, housing status, or sexual orientation. ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Elizabeth Saylor, and Vasudha Talla , on behalf of the New York City Council, defended the law, which allows those subjected to illegal stops to sue for injunctive relief. The law, Local Law 71, was passed over former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto in response to unprecedented numbers of police stops that overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino residents. Mayor Bloomberg sued to invalidate the law on constitutional grounds, and the City Council retained ECBA to represent it and defend the statute. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and another police union, organizations that later joined the constitutional challenge to Local Law 71, have vowed to appeal the ruling.

To read the opinion, click here. To read the New York Daily News article, click here.

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