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ECBA Clients Achieve $1 Million Settlement and Major Reforms Barring City from Sending Young Rikers Detainees to Solitary Confinement at Albany County Jail

On October 18, 2019, ECBA clients Davon Washington, Steven Espinal, Pariis Tillery, and John Doe reached a significant settlement of their civil rights claims against the City of New York, Albany County, individual correctional defendants, and a jail medical provider.

Plaintiffs are four young men who filed suit in 2018 after the City of New York abruptly transferred them from Rikers to an Albany County “black site” jail.  Upon arrival upstate, the four young men were systematically subjected to brutal beatings and sexual assaults by jail guards, suffering severe injuries including a perforated eardrum.  For the entirety of their time at the Albany County Jail, they were held in solitary confinement, cut off from meaningful human contact and isolated from family, adequate medical care, and their lawyers.  These events came just three years after New York City banned solitary confinement for detainees ages 21 and younger, and restricted the practice for all detainees.  By sending plaintiffs to Albany County, DOC conducted an “end run” around solitary confinement restrictions.

As part of Friday’s settlement, the City agreed to no longer transfer any person detained at Rikers to Albany County through December 31, 2021, and agreed to start providing a written notice to any detainee that is transferred out of Rikers to any other jail on a Substitute Jail Order.  Albany County agreed that if DOC detainees are sent to its jail in the future, they will follow New York City’s rules about solitary confinement, through December 31, 2023.

Plaintiff Davon Washington told The New York Times, “In the future nobody will have to go through what we went through. They won’t have to experience that feeling.”

“The City’s responsibility for (prisoners’) well-being doesn’t stop at the northern border of the Bronx.  It doesn’t end by shipping them somewhere else,” said Doug Lieb, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Doug Lieb of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, and Steven Goldman of Goldman & Associates.

Read the New York Times and NY Daily News coverage here and here.

Read our original press of the story here.

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Jazmine Headley Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against The City Of New York

Today, ECBA client Jazmine Headley filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York and its Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) peace officers and New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officers who attacked and arrested her at the DeKalb Job Center on December 7, 2018.  Simply because Ms. Headley was sitting on the floor waiting for her appointment, these officers brandished a taser in Ms. Headley’s face, forcibly yanked her one-year-old son from her arms, charged her with several crimes, and detained her on Rikers Island for days.  Her experience is just one example of HRA security staff’s widespread abuse of New Yorkers who seek assistance with their public benefits.

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.  The Complaint is available here.  A press release about the filing is available here.

To learn more, read coverage from the New York Law Journal, Politico, the New York Post, and Patch.

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Settlement of Jane Doe’s Lawsuit for Shackling During Pregnancy and Labor: NYPD Will Pay $610,000 and Reform Patrol Guide Procedures

On July 3, 2019, ECBA reached a $610,000 settlement in the case of Jane Doe, a 28-year old Bronx woman who was arrested and shackled by the NYPD when she was 40 weeks pregnant, after she was arrested for a misdemeanor on February 7, 2018.  NYPD officers and supervisors insisted on keeping Ms. Doe in shackles for approximately thirty hours, even while she was in active labor and during her post-partum recovery with her infant daughter at the hospital.  The NYPD kept Ms. Doe shackled during her transport, labor and post-partum delivery despite being repeatedly warned of the health risks and illegality by hospital doctors and staff.

As part of the settlement, Ms. Doe insisted that the NYPD also agree to amend its Patrol Guide to prevent its officers from ever violating the rights and safety of another woman through the unlawful use of shackles. “Because of Jane Doe’s bravery and determination in pursuing this case, the NYPD will now change its procedures to better protect pregnant women in the future,” said ECBA partner Katie Rosenfeld.

Ms. Doe is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran.  A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.  The New York Times coverage of the settlement can be found here.

Other coverage of the case can be found here, here and here.

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ECBA Represents Bronx High School Senior Kymani Johnson in His Effort to Hold the NYPD Accountable

As reported in the Daily News on June 10, 2019,  Kymani Johnson is a 19-year old high school senior in the Bronx who plans to become a lawyer.  On Monday, May 27, 2019, Mr. Johnson was wrongfully arrested by the New York City Police Department at approximately 2:00 pm in Haffen Park, after he attempted to record NYPD officers in an interaction with another individual.   NYPD officers grabbed Mr. Johnson, threw him again a fence, and repeatedly punched him.  He was then handcuffed, arrested, and held for many hours, until a judge dismissed the baseless charges against him.   On the day after his arrest, the same NYPD officers went to Mr. Johnson’s house, where they harassed and threatened him, in an apparent attempt to intimidate him from reporting their misconduct.  Mr. Johnson is represented by ECBA attorney Katie Rosenfeld.  You can read the Daily News’ coverage and see the video here.

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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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Chief Judge Requests Federal Investigation in ECBA Class Action Challenging Illegal Transfers of Rikers Detainees to Albany

Chief Judge McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied New York City’s motion to dismiss a federal civil rights class action brought by four young pretrial detainees who allege that they were illegally transferred to an upstate jail in Albany, where they were beaten, sexually assaulted, and held in solitary confinement without due process, and requested a criminal investigation into the plaintiffs’ allegations.

 

Chief Judge McMahon noted: “The Court is deeply troubled by the allegations . . . .  [T]here is reason to conclude, even at this early stage, that at least some of the horrors that are described” in the complaint “actually took place.”  The Court referred the matter for investigation to federal and state prosecutors’ offices in New York and Albany.  The New York Daily News reported on the Court’s decision.

 

Plaintiffs Davon Washington, Steven Espinal, John Doe, and Pariis Tillery allege that they were suddenly transferred without notice by the City of New York to the Albany County Correctional Facility, cut off from their criminal defense lawyers and their families.  In Albany, they were systematically subjected to brutal beatings and sexual assaults upon their arrival. For the entirety of their time in Albany, they were held in round-the-clock isolation in solitary confinement without meaningful human contact.  The lawsuit seeks to transfer all New York City detainees back from Albany and to prevent the City from sending detainees there in the future.

 

The plaintiffs are represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Doug Lieb of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Steven Goldman of the Law Offices of Goldman & Associates.

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Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer Files Lawsuit Seeking Community Review of NYCHA’s Plans for Holmes Towers

On April 18, 2019, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer filed an action to ensure that NYCHA complies with state and local law requiring full community input into its plans to redevelop the Holmes Towers public housing project on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. NYCHA plans to allow a private developer to construct a mixed-income 50-story tower in the middle of the Holmes Towers, obliterating a central playground and large areas of open space that currently occupy the land (shown below) and violating the neighborhood zoning requirements that protect access to light and air. The suit alleges that the NYCHA and the Respondents have acted unlawfully by circumventing the important role of the Borough President and the community in reviewing land use proposals in Manhattan. Through this lawsuit, Borough President Brewer seeks to ensure that the important goal of generating much-needed capital for public housing revitalization does not trump the public and City elected leaders’ roles in decision-making about significant development projects in their community.

The Borough President is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran. The petition and brief can be found here and here, respectively.  Coverage of the case filling can be found here and here.

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ECBA Wins Legal Victory in 200 Amsterdam Case: Court Orders Board of Standards and Appeals to Revisit Building Permit for Out-of-Scale 55-Story Tower

On March 14, 2019, Justice W. Franc Perry ruled in favor of firm clients, the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, in their ongoing action to halt the unlawful construction of a 668-foot residential mega-tower on a gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, previously slated to be the tallest building on the Upper West Side.  The Court held that the building permit rested on an unreasonable interpretation of the Zoning Resolution that was inconsistent with a plain reading of the statute, and remanded the building permit back to the BSA for further review consistent with the Court’s order. The Court also rejected the argument of the developer, Amsterdam Avenue Redevelopment Associates LLC, that simply because DOB had issued the permit in the first place, it was therefore entitled to complete the building.  “Vested rights,” the Court wrote, “cannot be acquired by relying on an invalid permit.”

Read the decision here.

Read the coverage of the win here and here.

MAS and CFESD were represented in the proceeding by ECBA lawyers Katherine Rosenfeld, Richard D. Emery, and Ashok Chandran, and co-counsel Charles Weinstock, Esq.

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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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ECBA Attorneys Reach Historic Settlement to Reform Facebook’s Housing Advertising Platform

On March 18, 2019 ECBA attorneys announced a $2,450,000 settlement for clients the National Fair Housing Alliance (“NFHA”), the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (“HOPE”), and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (“FHCGSA”) to settle housing discrimination claims against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”).  This agreement will implement far-reaching changes across Facebook’s advertising platform for housing, employment and credit (“HEC”) advertising.  In March, 2018 ECBA filed suit in federal district court alleging that Facebook had created pre-populated lists making it possible for housing advertisers to “exclude” (in Facebook terminology) Facebook users from receiving rental, sales or financing ads because of their race, national origin, sex, disability or family status.

The Facebook settlement sets a new benchmark for assuring that targeted advertising on social media complies with civil rights laws.  Facebook will establish a separate advertising portal for creating HEC ads on Facebook and all Facebook-owned platforms, including Instagram and Messenger.  On this new portal, HEC advertisers will not be able to target Facebook users (1) based on gender, age or multi-cultural affinity; (2) by zip code as all HEC ads must have a minimum geographic radius of 15 miles from a specific address or from the center of a city; and (3) based on categories that describe or appear to relate to personal characteristics or classes protected under federal, state, and local fair housing laws, including, race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, family status, disability, and sexual orientation.

In addition, Facebook will create a new page which will allow consumers to view all housing ads placed on the Facebook platform irrespective of whether the consumer was part of the advertisers’ targeted audience.  NFHA will work with Facebook to develop an in-house fair housing training program for Facebook leadership and staff.  Facebook will provide ECBA’s clients with $500,000 of in-kind advertising to promote fair housing on Facebook.

Finally, Facebook will pay $1.9 million in damages and attorneys’ fees, including to provide future training for housing advertisers on how to use social media in a manner consistent with fair housing laws and to create programming to promote fair housing using social media.

The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Katherine Rosenfeld, and David Berman.

Click here to read NFHA’s press release.

Click here to read the settlement agreement.

Read more about ECBA’s work on this case in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

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