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On Behalf of Four Young Rikers Pretrial Detainees, ECBA and Co-Counsel File Suit Against New York City and Albany County for Illegal Transfer to “Black Site” Albany County Jail

Today, four young men who were pretrial detainees at Rikers Island until 2018 when the City of New York abruptly transferred them to an upstate “black site” jail, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York, New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”) Commissioner Cynthia Brann, Albany County, Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr., and individual correctional officers.

Since 2015, when it banned solitary confinement for inmates ages 21 and younger, the City and DOC have illegally rendered dozens of young Rikers inmates to Albany County Correctional Facility (the “Albany County Jail”).  Plaintiffs in this case were taken by DOC from Rikers to the Albany County Jail.  Upon arrival, they were systematically subjected to brutal beatings and sexual assaults by jail guards.  Plaintiffs suffered severe injuries, including a perforated eardrum, concussion, rectal bleeding, black eyes, and lacerations.  For the entirety of their time at the Albany County Jail, the Rikers detainees were held in solitary confinement, cut off from meaningful human contact and isolated from family, adequate medical care, and their lawyers.

Plaintiff Davon Washington is a 22-year-old man who resides in the Bronx, New York.  He was released from custody on December 24, 2018.  Plaintiff Steven Espinal is a 19-year-old man, and Plaintiff Pariis Tillery is a 25-year-old man, both of whom are still detained in solitary confinement at the Albany County Jail pending trial.  Plaintiff John Doe is a 24-year-old man who was previously detained at the Albany County Jail and is now serving a sentence in state custody.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks injunctive relief and damages.  Plaintiffs Espinal and Tillery seek to be transferred out of the Albany County Jail, where they fear daily for their safety.  Plaintiffs are represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Douglas E. Lieb of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Steven Goldman of the Law Office of Goldman & Associates.

The complaint is available here.

Read the New York Times coverage here.

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ECBA Represents Jazmine Headley, Brooklyn Mother Wrongfully Attacked and Arrested by HRA and NYPD While Holding Her Toddler Son

ECBA is proud to represent Jazmine Headley, a 23 year-old Brooklyn woman who was subjected to appalling mistreatment by HRA and the NYPD at a Brooklyn HRA office last week, and is now speaking out on her own behalf. After taking the day off of work to address a problem with her son’s childcare voucher, and waiting hours to be seen, Ms. Headley sat on the floor next to her son’s stroller.  In response, HRA and NYPD officers grabbed her, attacked her, ripped her son out of her arms, arrested her, and separated her from her son for several days. The incident was caught on cellphone videos. All charges were dropped, and both the Mayor and HRA Commissioner ultimately issued public apologies to Ms. Headley.  However, in her recent interview with the New York Times, Ms. Headley discussed how this horrific mistreatment is unfortunately all too common for New Yorkers in this situation.

ECBA Partner Katie Rosenfeld represents Ms. Headley, along with ECBA attorney Michele Yankson.

Read coverage of Ms. Headley’s case in the New York Times here.

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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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ECBA Sues NYPD for Shackling Woman in Labor

On December 6, 2018, ECBA filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman who was shackled by the NYPD for approximately thirty hours after she was arrested in the Bronx for misdemeanor. The woman, who is known as Jane Doe in this suit, was repeatedly restrained by numerous different NYPD officers even as she went into labor and was taken to Montefiore Medical Center in the early morning of February 8, 2018. She was forced to labor in shackles, in extreme pain. Although officers partially removed the shackles minutes before Jane Doe gave birth, they reapplied them shortly after. Jane Doe was forced to welcome her baby into the world with her arm chained to her hospital bed.

The shackling of pregnant women is a barbaric and degrading practice. It is universally denounced  by medical and correctional experts as dangerous and unnecessary. It has been illegal in New York for years. Doctors at the hospital reportedly warned the officers that their use of shackles posed serious health risks to Jane Doe and her child, and violated the law. The officers ignored these warnings, claiming that the Patrol Guide required the use of shackles and superseded any law to the contrary.

Through her suit, Jane Doe seeks to end the NYPD’s use of this draconian and illegal practice, and ensure that no pregnant woman is shackled by the NYPD again.

Jane Doe is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran. The complaint can be found here. Press coverage by the New York Times can be found here.

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Consumer Fraud Class Action Filed Against Donald J. Trump, his Corporation, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump

ECBA, along with the law firm of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, has filed a nationwide class action lawsuit on behalf of four individuals and a putative class against Donald J. Trump and the Trump Corporation, as well as Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump, alleging that Plaintiffs were victims of three businesses promoted by Mr. Trump, in his personal capacity, and the other defendants. The Complaint alleges that Mr. Trump and the other defendants conspired to deceptively endorse a series of sham businesses including ACN, the Trump Network, and the Trump Institute.  In exchange for undisclosed endorsement fees, the Complaint alleges, defendants promoted these businesses with the power of the Trump brand — all to persuade vulnerable parties such as the Plaintiffs to invest in opportunities defendants knew had little chance of success.  The filing was covered by, among other outlets, the New York Times.

 

Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Katie Rosenfeld, and O. Andrew F. Wilson are leading the team at ECBA for the plaintiffs.

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ECBA and Co-Counsel File Discrimination Lawsuit Against New York City Department of Education and Public Schools Athletic League Calling for Equal Access to School Sports

ECBA filed a class action lawsuit today, representing a student-led organization Integrate NYC and four Black and Latino students denied access to New York City public high school sports, as co-counsel with civil rights advocacy group New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP.

The suit charges that the Department of Education (DOE) and Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) have engaged in racial discrimination by denying Black and Latino students equal opportunity to play high school sports.

On average, Black and Latino students have access to far fewer teams and sports, and the city spends much less per student than for students of other races. Thousands of Black and Latino New York City public high school students attend schools that offer no team sports whatsoever, and Black and Latino students are twice as likely as students of other races to attend schools without sports teams.

The lawsuit, filed pursuant to the New York City Human Rights Law, seeks to level the playing field and create equal access to high school sports for all students, regardless of race.

Read coverage from the New York times here.

Read New York Daily News’ coverage and the NYLPI’s press release for further information. You can also read additional reporting here and here.

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ECBA Sues on Behalf of Community Organization and the Municipal Art Society to Halt Construction of Mega-Tower On Gerrymandered Zoning Lot

On April 25, 2018, ECBA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society of New York seeking to halt the unlawful construction of a 668-foot residential mega-tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue which, if completed, would be grossly out-of-character with the neighborhood and cast long shadows. The lawsuit alleges that the zoning lot upon which the mega-tower would sit—the only justification for the tower’s height—was cobbled together using partial tax lots, in violation of the New York City Zoning Resolution.

On May 14, 2018, plaintiffs secured their first legal victory in the case, obtaining a Stipulation and Order from the Court preventing the developer from using its continued construction efforts to argue that its rights have “vested” – that is, that construction has progressed to the point that the project can no longer be halted. The developer continues work now at its own peril while the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals decides the pending administrative appeal.

The plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, Katherine Rosenfeld, and Ashok Chandran. A copy of the complaint is available here, and Politico’s coverage of the dispute can be found here.

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ECBA Sues Facebook for Discriminatory Housing Advertising

On March 27, 2018, the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady (“ECBA”) filed suit in federal district court against Facebook, Inc. on behalf of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and three of its member organizations alleging that Facebook’s advertising platform enables landlords and real estate brokers to exclude families with children, women, and other protected classes of people from receiving housing ads.  The lawsuit alleges that Facebook has created pre-populated lists that make it possible for its housing advertisers to “exclude” (in Facebook terminology) home seekers from viewing or receiving rental or sales ads because of protected characteristics, including family status and sex.

Plaintiffs—NFHA, New York City-based Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), Miami-based Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (“HOPE”), and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (“FHCGSA”)—created a non-existent realty firm and then prepared dozens of housing advertisements that they submitted to Facebook for review.  Facebook provided Plaintiffs with specific lists of groups they could exclude from receiving the ads, including families with children, moms with children of certain ages, women or men, and other categories based on sex or family status. The investigations also revealed that Facebook provides housing advertisers with the ability to exclude certain “interest” categories from receiving ads that are disability-based (e.g., people who are interested in disabled veterans or disabled parking permits) or national origin-based (e.g., people who are interested in English as a second language).

The Complaint alleges that these practices violate the Fair Housing Act and New York City Human Rights Law and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief declaring Facebook’s conduct illegal and requiring Facebook to change its advertising platform and practices to comply with fair housing laws.  The plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Katherine Rosenfeld, and David Berman

Read the full complaint here.

For more information, read coverage from the New York Times, New York Daily News, Curbed, and New York Law Journal

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16 Years After First ECBA Class Action, Mayor and City Council Agree to Close Rikers Island

Sixteen years after ECBA filed its first class action alleging a pattern and practice of  brutality and poor training, discipline, and investigations of corrections officers at Rikers Island, Mayor De Blasio and the City Council have agreed to shut down Rikers Island once and for all.  In 2001, ECBA filed the original lawsuit, Ingles v. Toro, with co-counsel Legal Aid Society and Sullivan & Cromwell. The case settled in 2003, but the settlement failed to reduce use of force by corrections officers on Rikers Island. As a result, in 2011, ECBA filed a new class action, Nunez v. City of New York, with co-counsel Legal Aid Society and Ropes & Gray, again alleging a pattern and practice of brutality and cover-ups by corrections officers at Rikers Island. Nunez, and a parallel Department of Justice lawsuit, settled in 2015, resulting in thousands of new cameras, a federal monitor, and other sweeping reforms at Rikers. The case also brought to light the fundamental inhumanity and unfairness of the entire institution.

ECBA lawyers involved in the Rikers cases include Jonathan Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Katherine Rosenfeld, Debra Greenberger, Zoe Salzman, and Vasudha Talla.

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