ECBA filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO) against the Town of Bedford and its affordable housing agency, Blue Mountain Development.
Like other Westchester County towns, Bedford’s population is overwhelmingly white. The complaint alleges that the Town awards its affordable “middle income” housing using “preferences” in its zoning code. These preferences prioritize people who already live or work in Bedford and who are far more likely to be white. These preferences violate the Fair Housing Act because they discriminate against African Americans who would otherwise be eligible for the Town’s affordable housing and make it more likely the housing will be given to white people.
The plaintiffs FHJC and WRO are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Zoe Salzman.
Read the complaint here.
Hal Lieberman was interviewed by Joel Cohen of TalksOnLaw, a website that performs lawyer training through CLEs. Entitled “When Lawyers Break the Law,” the segment explores what happens when lawyers do just that. The segment has been approved for CLE credit.
Watch the interview here.
ECBA partner Andrew Celli Praises AG-Nominee Loretta Lynch in Newsweek. To read the full article, click here.
ECBA’s Elizabeth S. Saylor and Diane L. Houk received recognition from Legal Services NYC for providing “valuable pro bono assistance to low-income New Yorkers in 2011-2012.” Each year, the organization recognizes attorneys and other volunteers who have worked to fill the need for civil legal services among low-income City residents.
ECBA has filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the International Documentary Association, Film Independent, and a host of award winning documentary filmmakers opposing a New York City subpoena seeking outtake footage from the Ken Burns documentary The Central Park Five. Five young men were convicted of the notorious 1989 rape and assault of a jogger in Central Park, and served lengthy prison terms as a result. All five were later exonerated by DNA evidence. The men then brought suit against the City of New York, prosecutors, and police detectives for wrongful conviction. (In re McCray, et al., No. 03 Civ. 9685.) As part of its defense, the City issued a subpoena to Florentine Films, Ken Burns’ production company, seeking outtake footage from interviews conducted for The Central Park Five, which explores the case, the historical context, and the lives of the five men. The amicus brief argues that the subpoena would violate the federal common law “reporter’s privilege,” and undermine the efforts of documentary filmmakers to report on controversial topics. The brief was prepared by ECBA’s Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Julia Fong Sheketoff, along with co-counsel Michael Donaldson of the firm Donaldson & Callif LLP in Los Angeles.
To read the brief, click here.
U.S. News & World Report has named Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady as Law Firm of the Year for 2013 in the Civil Rights Law Practice Area. The award is ranked nationally and is given to one law firm each year based on that firm’s overall performance in a given practice area. In determining the award, lawyers voted on expertise, responsiveness, integrity, and whether they consider the firm a worthy competitor. The firms’ client profiles, significant cases, and demographics were also taken into consideration.
To read more about the award, click here.
On October 11, 2012, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement in FHJC, et al. v. Revlyn Apts., LLC, et al., a case alleging racial discrimination at Brooklyn apartment buildings. The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2012, was based on a testing investigation conducted by the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”) in 2010 and 2011. The Complaint alleged that white testers sent by the FHJC to the buildings were told about available apartments and given truthful information about rent amounts while their African-American counterparts were told that there were no availabilities and/or quoted higher rents.
The settlement agreement provides $225,000 for the FHJC and the four African-American testers who were given false information about rental availabilities to cover damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. The settlement also includes injunctive relief, which will cover a period of three years and apply to three rental buildings in Bay Ridge, Gravesend, and Sheepshead Bay. Defendants Revlyn Apartments LLC and Shorefront Apartments LLC will adopt, display, and distribute a non-discrimination policy; advertise available apartments; maintain rental records and make them available for FHJC inspection; and provide training for all employees on fair housing laws. The plaintiffs are represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk and Julia Einbond.
To read more about the case, go to fairhousingjustice.org. To read the settlement agreement, click here.
Plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions against Manhattan Apartments in Short v. Manhattan Apts., et al., was granted by the Hon. Kimba Wood on October 11, 2012. The lawsuit alleges that Defendants Manhattan Apartments and Abba Realty discriminate on the basis of both disability and source of income. Ignoring repeated requests from the Plaintiffs and flouting multiple court orders, Defendant Manhattan Apartments refused to produce its rental listings database.
Judge Wood found that Manhattan Apartments “had a culpable state of mind in failing to produce the requested documents” and that it “acted with intentional bad faith.” Accordingly, the Court awarded attorneys’ fees to the Plaintiffs in the amount of $23,100 and designated the following fact: for the relevant time period, Manhattan Apartments’ rental listing database included directives from landlords that the company not assist clients with governmental housing subsidies in applying for or renting those landlords’ apartments.
Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk, along with co-counsel Armen Merjian and Robert Bacigalupi of Housing Works. In awarding attorneys’ fees, Judge Wood praised the “exceptionally high quality” of Plaintiffs’ counsel’s work, while citing their extensive experience and positive track records. Further, the decision takes note of the novel subject matter of the case, housing discrimination against individuals living with AIDS and using a rental subsidy provided by the City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (“HASA”).
To read the decision, click here.
New York State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and his wife Ellen Weisenberg filed a lawsuit on behalf of their disabled son Ricky in federal district court for physical and psychological abuse suffered at AHRC Nassau, a chapter organization of NYSARC, Inc., and Dwayne Edwards, an AHRC employee.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Edwards cruelly and repeatedly struck Ricky, and taunted him, calling him a “f***ing Jew,” “nasty,” “evil,” and “worthless.” An internal investigation into the misconduct ultimately concluded: “the allegation of physical and psychological abuse is substantiated.”
The Weisenberg family is represented by Ilann M. Maazel and O. Andrew F. Wilson of ECBA.
To read the New York Times article about the case, click here. To read the complaint, click here.
Julia Fong Sheketoff and Jennifer M. Keighley joined the firm in October 2012. Previously, Ms. Sheketoff clerked for the Hon. John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York and the Hon. David Sentelle, Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She graduated magna cum laude in 2010 from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar and participated in the Juvenile Defender and Immigrant Defense Clinics. Ms. Sheketoff will clerk for the Hon. Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in October Term 2013.
Prior to joining the firm in 2012, Ms. Keighley clerked for the Hon. Kim McLane Wardlaw of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and worked as a Postdoctoral Associate in Law and Fellow in the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School. She graduated in 2010 from Yale Law School, where she was an Editor on the Yale Law Journal and a student director of the Domestic Violence Clinic. Articles written by Ms. Keighley during her postdoctoral fellowship will be published in the Cardozo Law Review and University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.