ECBA Files “Friend of the Court” Brief on Behalf of Documentary Filmmakers in Dispute Over “Central Park Five” Outtakes

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.


ECBA Named Law Firm of the Year in Civil Rights Law

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.


ECBA Settles Race Discrimination Case Against Brooklyn Landlords

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 To read the settlement agreement, click here.


Judge Awards Sanctions in HIV/AIDS Housing Discrimination Case

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.


Disabled Son of New York State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg Files Federal Lawsuit After Abuse at AHRC Nassau

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 Join ECBA

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.


Third Circuit Court of Appeals Allows Case Alleging Misconduct in Federal Prison to Continue

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia, largely affirmed the decision of a Pennsylvania District Court, unanimously holding that claims by Peter Bistrian, a former pre-sentencing detainee at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, that various prison officials violated his constitutional rights, should proceed. Bistrian alleges that, while awaiting sentencing, he assisted prison authorities who were investigating violence at the facility. When Bistrian’s cooperation was revealed due to negligence of prison authorities, those authorities failed to protect him from those he had cooperated against. Shortly thereafter, Bistrian was viciously attacked by one of those inmates, resulting in severe physical injury. Bistrian also alleges that he was improperly placed in segregated housing for 447 days, in part in retaliation for complaints he raised in court. Reviewing the District Court’s denial of qualified immunity to the prison officials, the Third Circuit agreed that Bistrian had alleged several violations of clearly-established constitutional rights, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings. ECBA Attorney Andrew Wilson argued before the Third Circuit, and he was joined on the briefs by Adam Pulver, Eisha Jain, and Jonathan Abady. The Third Circuit’s opinion can be read  here.