Article

Class Action Seeks Release of 540 People and Changes to Protect Others Confined at Brooklyn MDC from the Novel COVID-19 Virus

March 27, 2020 — Petitioners Hassan Chunn, Nehemiah McBride, Ayman Rabadi, and Justin Rodriguez filed a class action lawsuit today against Warden Derek Edge in federal court. The case seeks the immediate release of approximately 540 people most vulnerable to succumbing to COVID-19 and a special master to oversee improvements in the conditions of confinement at Brooklyn’s federal jail, Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”), to combat the spread of the virus.

New York City is the epicenter of the Country’s struggle with COVID-19. The risks posed by COVID-19 to people confined in jails and prisons—in terms of transmission, exposure, and harm—are stark and alarming. For reasons beyond their control, people in jails and prisons cannot practice social distancing, control their exposure to large groups, practice increased hygiene, wear protective clothing, obtain specific products for cleaning or laundry, avoid high-touch surfaces, or sanitize their own environment. People in jails and prisons are more vulnerable and susceptible to the risks of coronavirus because they are more likely to have chronic underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung and liver diseases, asthma, and lower immune systems from HIV. People have limited opportunities to access medical care under normal circumstances in jails; medical facilities are limited, and as staff become sick, fewer people are present to care for those who remain confined.

The outbreak of a highly infectious, deadly virus in a closed detention setting is a disaster, calling for urgent and decisive action to protect the health of those confined in the jail, those who work there, and the medical professionals who will treat those who become infected.

The lawsuit alleges that Respondent Warden Derek Edge has not taken steps to protect Petitioners from the substantial risk of harm posed by COVID-19, nor could he under the MDC’s current conditions.  It seeks immediate relief on the grounds that every hour that Petitioners are held under these circumstances, they are exposed to the substantial risk of a COVID-19 infection, with a substantial risk of death to follow and that continuing to hold vulnerable people under these circumstances violates their Constitutional rights.

ECBA Attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovich, together with the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, and Alexander A. Reinert, represent petitioners and the putative class.  To read a copy of the complaint, click here. To read coverage of the complaint and evolving crisis in the New York Times, click here.

Article

ECBA, Legal Aid File Civil Rights Lawsuit on Behalf of Client who was Illegally Shackled During Labor and After the Delivery of Her Son

On March 12, 2020, ECBA and co-counsel the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the City of New York and several NYPD officers on behalf of an anonymous woman, “Jane Doe,” who was arrested and shackled when she was forty weeks and two days pregnant. The minor charges on which Ms. Doe was arrested were ultimately dismissed.

NYPD officers forced Ms. Doe to labor alone in a holding cell at the NYPD’s 75th Precinct in Brooklyn while they celebrated at a holiday party. When officers finally agreed to seek medical care for Ms. Doe, they handcuffed and shackled her to an ambulance gurney and hospital bed. They removed the restraints only just before Ms. Doe delivered her newborn son and replaced them almost immediately after. After her baby was transferred to the NICU, officers would not permit Ms. Doe to visit him without first shackling her legs together.

Medical experts and correctional experts unanimously agree that pregnant women should not be shackled by law enforcement absent the most extraordinary circumstances. Such extraordinary circumstances are limited to situations where a woman poses a significant risk of injury to herself or others that cannot be addressed by less restrictive means.

To read the complaint, click here.

To read a press release about the lawsuit, click here.

To read coverage in the New York Daily News, click here, in the Guardian, click here, or in the Gothamist/WNYC, click here.

ECBA’s Katie Rosenfeld and Andrew Jondahl, along with Anne Oredeko and Anthony Posada of the Legal Aid Society, represent Ms. Doe.

 

Article

Federal Court Permits Prison Death Case to Go Forward

A judge in the Western District of Oklahoma rejected a motion to dismiss filed by state prison officials seeking to end a lawsuit by the family of a 21 year-old young man who died in prison from untreated appendicitis. The court held that Joshua England’s family could continue its claim that prison officials violated Joshua’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by ignoring his repeated, anguished pleas for medical help over the course of days, before he died alone on the floor of his prison cell. The court also permitted all of the state law claims to go forward. And the court refused to dismiss the senior official defendants – the former head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the warden of the prison – from the case. Now Joshua’s family can move forward with seeking accountability for Joshua’s untimely, entirely preventable death of a common and treatable illness.

ECBA attorneys Katherine Rosenfeld and Ali Frick represent Joshua’s family, along with co-counsel Paul DeMuro and Henry A. “Hank” Meyer, III.

Article

New York Times Features Victories by ECBA Clients over Big Development

Two ECBA clients were featured by the New York Times in its recent article The People vs. Big Development. The article highlights a court order blocking a massive development project, heavily opposed by the local community, in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  The New York City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for approving the project without undergoing the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires extensive community input and final approval by the City Council. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a permanent injunction enjoining any construction on the project until a ULURP review is performed.

The article also highlights the legal challenge to the 200 Amsterdam tower, in which ECBA represents the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development in a suit challenging the developer’s creation of a “gerrymandered” 39-sided zoning lot.  As The Times reports, the resulting out-of-scale tower would be over twice the height of nearby towers, and the “tallest north of 61st Street.”

To read the article, click here.

ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr.Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

ECBA Attorneys Richard D. Emery and Katherine Rosenfeld represent the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development.

Article

ECBA Files Federal Civil Rights Suit Against Prison Officials for Abusive Conditions Leading to a 22-Year-Old Man’s Suicide

On February 24, 2020, ECBA filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Darlene McDay and Temple McDay, the mother and grandmother of Dante Taylor, a 22-year-old man who committed suicide in Wende Correctional Facility on October 7, 2017.   As detailed in the complaint, Mr. Taylor—who had a history of depression and suicide attempts—was confined in isolation for long stretches at Wende, and providers and staff ignored many glaring risk factors for his suicide in the months leading up to his death.  Mr. Taylor was brutally beaten by Wende correction officers the night before he died, thrown into isolation, and denied access to a mental health care provider. Mr. Taylor’s is one of many suicides that have occurred in recent years at Wende and other facilities run by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“Dante Taylor’s death at age 22 was foreseeable and preventable,” said Katie Rosenfeld, one of Mr. Taylor’s lawyers.  “Dante’s family calls for an open and full investigation into the circumstances of his death, and seeks accountability for the vicious, extra-legal beating by the rogue correction officers that triggered his death.”

“We hope this lawsuit promotes public awareness of DOCCS’ failure to improve medical and mental health care for people in prison, even in the face of an epidemic of suicides by people confined in our state’s prisons, particularly people who are in solitary confinement conditions,” said Marissa Benavides, an ECBA associate working on the case.

To read the complaint, click here. To read coverage of the suit in the Washington Post, click here, and to read coverage by the Associated Press, click here.

ECBA’s Katie Rosenfeld and Marissa Benavides represent the McDay family in the suit.

Article

Settlement of Jazmine Headley’s Civil Rights Lawsuit: City of New York Will Pay $625,000

In December 2019, ECBA reached a $625,000 settlement in the case of Jazmine Headley, an ECBA client whose one-year-old son was forcibly yanked from her arms by the City of New York’s Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) employees, NYPD officers, and security guards working for FJC Security Services simply because Ms. Headley was sitting on the floor waiting for her benefits appointment.  The Defendants assaulted Ms. Headley, brandished a taser at her and her young son, charged her with several crimes, and detained her on Rikers Island for days.  In light of Ms. Headley’s and her son’s ordeal, the City Council has passed various bills designed to remedy the City’s systemic abuse of HRA clients.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill DeBlasio said: “Ms. Headley came to the city seeking help, and we failed to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserved. While this injustice should never have happened, it forced a reckoning with how we treat our most vulnerable.”

“Through her intelligence, bravery, and grace, Jazmine Headley turned the worst ordeal of her life—and of any parent’s—into an opportunity for change for the entire city,” said ECBA partner Katie Rosenfeld.  “By testifying at City Council in support of new laws based on her experience and by bringing a civil rights lawsuit, Ms. Headley has carried a heavy burden over the past year.  But from day one, Ms. Headley insisted that this incident was not just about her, but about the dignity of every young woman of color raising her family with immense love and hard work, in a difficult world.  We hope Ms. Hadley’s moral leadership inspires the City to make good on its promises of reform.”

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.  The New York Times and AP coverage of the settlement can be found here and here.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

.