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Inmate at Auburn Correctional Facility Sues Prison Personnel after Brutal Assault by Correctional Officer

ECBA filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Matthew Raymond, an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility, against the Superintendent of Auburn Correctional Facility, eight Auburn correctional officers, and two Auburn medical personnel.  ECBA’s Katie Rosenfeld and Emma L. Freeman represent Mr. Raymond.

The suit—filed in the Northern District of New York—charges that, on September 14, 2016, Mr. Raymond was viciously assaulted by Lieutenant Troy Mitchell, an employee of New York State’s Auburn Correctional Facility.  Mitchell—a notorious and violent abuser who has cost the State of New York nearly one million dollars in settlement payouts—took Mr. Raymond into a private room in Auburn’s medical unit.  With Mr. Raymond shackled and immobile, Mitchell cursed at Mr. Raymond and beat him about the head, neck, chest, and groin, using his fists and officers’ baton.  Throughout the attack, five other officers, including Sgt. Thomas Harte and Correction Officers Charles Thomas, Thomas Phillips, and Thomas Giancola, stood by and watched.

The assault left Mr. Raymond with severe and permanent injuries.  He will never be able to urinate on his own again and must be permanently catheterized.  He may not be able to father children.  He suffers from near constant kidney and urinary tract infections.  And he suffers from what appear to be neurological symptoms that impact his ability to walk.

As the suit details, in the aftermath of the assault and in retaliation for Mr. Raymond’s decision to file grievances against the officers involved, medical care personnel at Auburn ignored Mr. Raymond’s serious medical needs and neglected to provide him with remotely adequate care.  Only months after the beating was Mr. Raymond taken to an outside medical facility and given the care he required.

Although Mr. Raymond attempted to use Auburn’s internal grievance procedure to spur an investigation of the assault, Auburn personnel papered over the incident and, instead, levied false disciplinary charges against Mr. Raymond that led to weeks in solitary confinement.

“For decades, DOCCS employee Lt. Mitchell systematically abused prisoners in the New York State prisons,” said Katie Rosenfeld, a partner at ECBA.  “He also corrupted other officers to join this abuse.  DOCCS’ Office of Special Investigation repeatedly turned a blind eye to the truth.  OSI always credited Lt. Mitchell over the reports of prisoners.  DOCCS and OSI must stop covering it up when serial abusers in the ranks hurt people like our client Matt Raymond.  Brutal abuse is not part of the sentence that courts hand down to people in New York State.”

“This lawsuit seeks to remedy the vicious attack perpetrated by Troy Mitchell and his cohort against Matthew—and DOCCS’s long history of ignoring predators in its midst,” said Emma L. Freeman.  “It is long past time for state facilities to take meaningful responsibility for correctional officers tasked with caring for inmates.”

To learn more, read coverage from the NY Daily News here and coverage from the Times Union here.  The complaint can be found here.

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#HimToo: Porter Files Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Upper West Side Building with New York City Commission on Human Rights

ECBA filed a complaint with New York City’s Human Rights Commission on behalf of Hairo Olivares, an Upper West Side porter at 315 Riverside Drive, alleging years of sexual harassment by the building superintendent and manager. The complaint alleges, among other things, that the superintendent grabbed Mr. Olivares’s crotch and buttocks and made him an ongoing target of harassment and humiliation. ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel and Emma L. Freeman represent Mr. Olivares.

To learn more, read coverage from the NY Daily News here.

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Federal Judge Allows Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Trump To Go Forward

On March 28, 2018, a federal judge sitting in Maryland allowed a landmark lawsuit against Donald Trump, prompted by his violations of the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution, to go forward, rejecting parts of Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the case.  On November 28, 2017, ECBA had filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Plaintiffs on behalf of Sarah P. Chayes, an internationally-recognized expert in corruption and kleptocratic regimes who argued that Trump’s business interests promote corruption, undermine U.S. foreign policy, and threaten American democracy.  The Complaint, which was filed on behalf of the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, is available here.  Chayes’s amicus brief is available here.  The New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, and Vox, among other outlets, have covered this recent development.

ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Emma Freeman represent Sarah Chayes.

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CAIR-NY, ECBA File Civil Rights Class Action Lawsuit to Block NYPD From Removing Arrestees’ Hijabs for Booking Photos

Together with the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA), filed a class action civil rights law lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction to block the New York City Police Department (NYPD) from removing arrestees’ religious head coverings (like hijabs) for their booking photos.

The lawsuit claims that NYPD Patrol Guide Order 208-03 and 208-07 forces religiously-observant women to remove their head coverings for a booking photo, even when these garments leave the face completely unobstructed, as the hijab does.

CAIR-NY and ECBA filed the lawsuit this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that the NYPD photograph policy violates the New York State Constitution, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

As the lawsuit notes, municipalities across the country allow arrestees to retain religious head covering for their booking photos. In addition, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles allows women to retain their hijab for driver’s license photos, and the U.S. State Department allows women to retain their hijab in passport photos.

NYPD booking photos are kept in arrestees’ files and computer databases where they are readily visible to officers and other men, compounding arrestees’ sense of violation.

“Our city is quick to make progressive promises, but slow to enact reforms,” said CAIR NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn. “This is a moment when Muslim New Yorkers need our support, not abuse. In just the past two years, New York State saw a 974 percent increase in anti-Muslim harassment, discrimination and hate crimes. It is intolerable that our officers force Muslim women to uncover against their will. It’s time for New York City to live-up to our promise of being a sanctuary for all faiths – we’ve fallen short for too long.”

“No New Yorker should be mugged for a mug shot,” said ECBA Partner O. Andrew F. Wilson. “Stripping New Yorkers of religious head coverings that do not obscure their faces serves no legitimate purpose.”

“There is a rapidly-consolidating consensus among police departments across the United States that religious head coverings should not be removed for mug shots,” said ECBA Associate Emma L. Freeman. “New York should be leading this trend, not following it.”

“When they forced me to take off my hijab, I felt as if I were naked, I’m not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt,” said plaintiff Jamilla Clark.

“I expected to be celebrating the holidays with my family, but instead I found myself being forced to undress in a room full of men, my beliefs being trampled,” said plaintiff Arwa Aziz.

“I fear this policy makes it harder for victims of domestic violence that we serve to report their abusers to the police,” said Turning Point for Women and Families’ Founder and Executive Director, Robina Niaz.

The lawsuit names two individual plaintiffs, including Jamilla Clark, a survivor of domestic violence, who was allegedly arrested on charges fabricated by her abuser. Even though the charges against Clark were later dropped, during the course of her arrest she was forced to remove her hijab.

According to the complaint, a “NYPD officer took a photograph of Ms. Clark as she wept and begged to put her hijab back on. The officer ignored Ms. Clark, stored the photograph in an online database and on Ms. Clark’s paper file, and showed it to numerous male officers.” An officer also allegedly mocked Clark’s Muslim faith. A second named plaintiff, Arwa Aziz, is a mother of two who was detained on the eve of the Eid holiday (an Islamic religious holiday) just as she planned to prepare the family’s holiday meal. Instead of celebrating with loved ones, she was held on charges allegedly fabricated by an estranged relative. The charges against Aziz were later dismissed, but she too was forced to remove her hijab.

According to the complaint, “officers refused to allow Ms. Aziz to keep her hijab on while having her picture taken. . . They told her, falsely: ‘It’s the law.’ Frantic, weeping, and bareheaded in a hallway full of men who do not belong to her immediate family, Ms. Aziz felt broken.”

A third plaintiff is the organization Turning Points for Women and Families (TPNY), a non-profit that works on behalf of Muslim women who have survived domestic violence. TPNY has expressed concern about how the NYPD policy, and the threat of retaliatory arrest, could deter survivors from contacting police when help is most needed.

For more information, read coverage from the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, New York Daily NewsGuardian, Haaretz, and Huffington Post. Additional coverage can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

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Rachel Maddow Interviews Professor Sarah Chayes About Donald Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clause

On October 18, 2017, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington presented oral argument in their landmark Emoluments Clause lawsuit against Donald Trump before Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York.  Sarah P. Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on whose behalf ECBA filed an amicus curiae brief in support of CREW, was interviewed by Rachel Maddow on October 20, 2017.  The interview featured Chayes’s analysis of the case and of oral argument and excerpts from ECBA’s brief.  CREW’s Second Amended Complaint is available here.  Chayes’s amicus brief is available here.  Chayes’s interview with Maddow is available here.  The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Slate, among other outlets, covered the recent argument.

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ECBA Represents Amica Curiae Professor Sarah Chayes In Landmark Emoluments Clause Suit Against Donald Trump

On January 23, 2017, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed 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.  On August 11, 2017, ECBA filed an amicus curiae brief in support of CREW on behalf of Sarah P. Chayes, an internationally-recognized expert in corruption and kleptocratic regimes and a Senior Fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Chayes argues that Trump’s business interests promote corruption, undermine U.S. foreign policy, and threaten American democracy.  CREW’s Second Amended Complaint is available here.  Chayes’s amicus brief is available here.  The New York Times, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Slate, among other outlets, have covered the lawsuit.

ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Emma Freeman represent Sarah Chayes.

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