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ECBA Clients File Class Action to Challenge Conditions of Confinement at Brooklyn MDC

February 22, 2019 — Plaintiffs David Scott and Jeremy Cerda filed a class action lawsuit today against Warden Herman Quay in federal court. The case challenges the conditions of confinement at Brooklyn’s federal jail, Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”), during the humanitarian crisis that unfolded over the bitterly cold week of January 27, 2019 to February 3, 2019, after an electrical fire at the jail.

As widely reported and alleged in the complaint, during the crisis, people were left locked in their cells with almost no light or heat for a week. People were confined in near pitch-black darkness. People sat shivering in their beds, huddled under blankets with little or no heat in the cells. The suit also alleges that the lack of light and heat was compounded by an array of other of brutal conditions. People were confined to their cells continuously for days. Hot showers and hot water were suspended or severely limited. Cells with toilets that were not functioning were filled with the smell of decaying feces. People continued to live in their soiled clothing and bedsheets without any laundry. Requests for medical and psychiatric care were ignored. People had no access to regular or hot food. Communication with the outside world—whether by email, phone or visits from lawyers or family—ceased. People struggled to maintain their sanity in a void of information about when the blackout would end. And of course, jail employees were forced to work under these impossible circumstances. The lawsuit also claims that, in response to the crisis, MDC’s Warden, Defendant Herman Quay, engaged in a dereliction of his obligation to provide these most basic minimal living standards to more than a thousand people in his care and custody.  These problems were longstanding and foreseeable, and the Warden failed to assess the infrastructure problems that had long plagued the jail.

ECBA Attorneys Katherine R. Rosenfeld and O. Andrew F. Wilson represent Mr. Scott, Mr. Cerda and the putative class.  To read a copy of the complaint, click here. To read coverage of the crisis in the New York Times, click here.  To read the coverage in Gothamist, click here.

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“48 Hours” investigates shooting of DJ Henry and ECBA client, Brandon Cox

CBS news program “48 Hours” presented an in-depth review of the fatal police shooting of Danroy “DJ” Henry, a PACE University student. The segment investigates the cause of the tragedy and includes interviews with DJ’s family, witnesses, DJ’s childhood friend, Brandon Cox, and others. Mr. Cox was seated beside DJ in the car when an officer shot into their vehicle, killing DJ, and wounding Mr. Cox. A link to the story can be found here.

ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra Greenberger, and Jessica Clarke represented Brandon Cox in the related civil case against the police shooter and others.

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

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl Ward, Hal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2018. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro 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 Clients File $380 million Suit Against Sotheby’s

ECBA clients, two trusts named Accent Delight International Ltd. and Xitrans Finance Ltd., filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest and most famous auction houses. The Complaint alleges that Sotheby’s helped Yves Bouvier facilitate the largest art fraud in history. As detailed in the New Yorker, Bouvier is alleged to have defrauded the two plaintiff trusts of approximately $1 billion. The new suit alleges that Sotheby’s played a key role in aiding Mr. Bouvier’s scheme by providing valuations and other support for fraudulent transactions. ECBA attorneys Daniel J. Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Zoe Salzman, and Doug Lieb represent the plaintiffs. Articles describing the filing can be found here and here.

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The National Jewish Democratic Council Files Anti-SLAPP Suit Against Sheldon Adelson

The National Jewish Democratic Council (“NJDC”) and Marc R. Stanley filed a lawsuit against casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in the Southern District of New York. The case seeks damages from Mr. Adelson’s previous filing of a strategic case against public policy, or “SLAPP” suit, against the NJDC in 2012.   After five years of litigation, two federal courts and the Supreme Court of Nevada all found that Adelson’s lawsuit against the NJDC should be dismissed because it was a SLAPP suit. Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute provides that those, like the NJDC, who prevail on a motion to dismiss a SLAPP suit may bring a new case of their own to recover the damages they suffered from that suit. The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA partners Richard D. Emery and O. Andrew F. Wilson.

Articles describing the suit can be found here, here, and here.

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Federal Court Orders Law Firm to Produce Documents, Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782

A federal district judge has ordered the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP to disclose documents in response to an ECBA client’s request to obtain discovery in aid of foreign proceedings under 28 U.S.C. s. 1782. The subpoena sought documents for use in open and contemplated proceedings in the British Virgin Islands concerning a dispute over the ownership and management of Future Media Architects, Inc. The decision further clarifies that a law firm may be required to produce documents in aid of a foreign proceeding that involves one of its clients, if discovery is not available from that client directly. The applicant was represented by ECBA attorneys O. Andrew F. Wilson and Ashok Chandran.

A full copy of the decision can be found here.

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ECBA’s Work Prompts Plan to Make Cooper Union Free Again

The Cooper Union has just announced a plan designed to return to free tuition. This plan was the result of a lawsuit filed by ECBA on behalf of the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), which challenged the school’s decision to charge tuition for the first time in its history.

CSCU is a coalition of current and prospective students, alumni, and faculty.  The case argued that the school’s decision to charge tuition violated the terms of the trust established by Peter Cooper.  As a result of the CSCU lawsuit, the Attorney General of the State of New York launched a confidential investigation into Cooper Union. The settlement reached between CSCU, the school, and the Attorney General imposed an independent financial monitor; established a Board committee made up of alumni, students, and faculty to develop a plan for the return to free tuition; required the school’s leadership to make a good faith effort to return to free; and expanded the presence of alumni, students, and faculty on the Board of Trustees. The recent plan announced by the school is the result of this settlement agreement.

Read more about the plan to return to free here and here.

CSCU was represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Zoe Salzman.

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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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Ten ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; One Named as Rising Star

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl Ward, Hal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2017. Associate Alanna Kaufman was named as a Rising Star. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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