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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.

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Family of Young Disabled Man Who Died in New York State Group Home Brings Federal Civil Rights Suit

This morning, the family of C.B., a young man with cognitive disabilities who passed away in April 2018, filed a civil rights lawsuit against employees of a group home run by New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”). C.B. was found dead in his room at the Valley Ridge Center for Intensive Treatment on the morning of April 9, 2018, after Ashley Sessions, a Valley Ridge employee, failed to check in on him during the night as required.

C.B. died from pulmonary embolism and heart failure. The day before his death, C.B. and his mother told State employees he couldn’t breathe. The State ignored him. C.B.’s arms and legs were massively swollen with fluid; he gained 50 pounds in a single year; he exhibited the telltale signs of heart failure. But Staff not only did nothing to help him; they repeatedly encouraged him to drink more fluids, contributing to his death.

Even as Sessions failed to check on C.B. as required during the night of his death, C.B. asphyxiated on fluids in his lungs. Sessions then lied to the police to try to cover up her misconduct. She ultimately plead guilty to the crime of filing false statements.

C.B.’s mother, J.M., federal filed a lawsuit alleging that Valley Ridge employees were deliberately indifferent to C.B.’s health and welfare and that the little medical care they did provide was woefully deficient.

“C.B.’s tragic death should never have happened,” C.B.’s family’s attorney, Ilann M. Maazel, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, said. “State employees ignored the obvious signs that a disabled man’s health was rapidly deteriorating, then left him alone to die a horrible death in his bedroom. It’s unconscionable.”

“C.B.’s dire condition was plain to see,” added Samuel Shapiro, another attorney representing the family, “but the staff here just didn’t care enough to look.”

Read the complaint here.

ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel, Samuel Shapiro, and Ali Frick represent C.B.’s family.

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

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew BrinckerhoffJonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal LiebermanDan KornsteinAndrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2019. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro and associates David Lebowitz and Alanna Kaufman 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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Court Rules City Could Be Liable for DA’s Illegal Wiretapping of Colleague

On March 1, 2019, ECBA won a significant victory on behalf of Stephanie Rosenfeld, a victim of a months-long illegal wiretap scheme perpetrated by an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn. Rejecting the City of New York’s efforts to absolve itself of any responsibility for the misconduct of one of its employees, the Court ruled that the City could be held liable for the unlawful wiretapping scheme under the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, the U.S. Constitution, and state law. The case is now proceeding to discovery against the City of New York, the Assistant District Attorney who conducted the illegal wiretaps, and other officials within the Brooklyn DA’s office.

Richard D. Emery, Sam Shapiro, and Jessica Clarke represent Ms. Rosenfeld.

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Jury Awards $14.3 Million for Wrongful Police Shooting

November 2, 2018 –

Yesterday, a Manhattan federal court jury awarded $14.325 million to the Estate of John Collado, who was shot and killed by a New York City police officer in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan on September 6, 2011. The jury found that the officer, James Connolly, used excessive force when he shot and killed Mr. Collado.

Mr. Collado was shot for being a Good Samaritan. The shooting occurred when Connolly, who was working as a plain-clothes narcotics officer, got into a fight with a suspect on the street, and Mr. Collado, who was unarmed, tried to break it up.

Connolly testified that he shot Mr. Collado because Mr. Collado put him in a choke hold – but the jury specifically found that was false. The jury found that Connolly’s story did not hold up against the witnesses’ testimony, the forensic evidence, and the video evidence. Since the shooting, Connolly has been promoted by the NYPD; he is now a sergeant.

“My husband was a loving, caring man who was doing nothing more than trying to help,” Mr. Collado’s wife, Amarilis Collado, said. “This verdict is confirmation that John should never have been killed that day. After seven years of fighting, I finally feel like justice has been served,” Mrs. Collado added.

“The jury thoughtfully considered the evidence in this case and determined that what happened here was wrong, and that the Collado family is deserving of a significant award,” said ECBA partner Sam Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro and ECBA partner Earl Ward represented Mrs. Collado.

This case was covered in the New York Daily News, available here.

 

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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 Files Brief For Public Defenders and Civil Rights Groups Urging Appeals Court to Reconsider Approach to False Evidence Claims

ECBA has filed a “friend of the court” brief in the federal appeals court in Manhattan urging the full court to reconsider a recent decision that affects how much time victims of police misconduct have to file civil rights claims in court.  The amici curiae brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of organizations that defend indigent people accused of crimes, work to correct wrongful convictions, and protect civil rights.  It argues that when someone alleges that police fabricated evidence used to charge him with a crime, the statute of limitations on his civil claim should not start running until the criminal case against him is resolved in his favor.  As the brief explains, the recent decision, if not corrected by the full court, could hurt criminal defendants’ ability to defend themselves against charges and lead to the dismissal of valid civil rights claims for technical reasons, even if the plaintiff is the victim of egregious misconduct or has served years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The groups represented by ECBA in the case are the American Civil Liberties Union, Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Center for Appellate Litigation, Connecticut Innocence Project, The Innocence Project, The Legal Aid Society, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, New York County Defender Services, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Office of the Appellate Defender, and Vermont Office of the Defender General.  ECBA attorneys Sam Shapiro, David Lebowitz, Doug Lieb and Ashok Chandran worked on the brief.

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ECBA Files Article 78 and Declaratory Judgment Petition on Behalf of City Council and the Council Members

On April 17, 2018, ECBA filed an Article 78 and Declaratory Judgment Petition in New York County Supreme Court on behalf of the Council of the City of New York, Council Member Ritchie J. Torres, Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, and Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and against Zachary W. Carter, the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. The Petition challenges the Corporation Counsel’s assertion that only that office can represent members of the City Council who wish to file friend-of-the-court briefs in their official capacities as Council Members. The City Council and the Council Members allege that both the separation of powers and the First Amendment allow them to retain their own lawyers for purposes of filing friend-of-the-court briefs in their official capacities.

The City Council and the Council Members are represented in this matter by ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli and Sam Shapiro.

For more information, read coverage from the New York Times and the New York Post.

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ECBA Reaches Over $12 Million Settlement on Behalf of Family of Children Killed in Fire

The City of Stamford and two of its employees, Ernest Orgera and Robert DeMarco, have agreed to pay $6.65 million to settle wrongful death claims by the Estates of Lily Badger, Sarah Badger, and Grace Badger. The settlement includes a $250,000 annuity to the Stamford Chapter of the Girl Scouts of America to fund scholarships for young girls. Previous settlements with other defendants in the case totaled over $6 million, for a total settlement of over $12.7 million.

The case arose from a tragic house fire in Stamford, Connecticut on Christmas Day, 2011. Lily, 9, and Sarah and Grace, each 7, all died in the fire, as did their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. The settlement marks the end of more than five years of investigation and litigation. Matthew Badger, the girls’ father and the original administrator of their estates, brought the case in June 2012.

ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, Ilann M. Maazel, Sam Shapiro, Jessica Clarke, Vasudha Talla, and Jennifer Keighley represented the Badger estates at various stages of the litigation.

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