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.
Juliet Dietrich—a disabled, 68-year-old former corrections officer—has filed suit against the City of New York and Department of Citywide Administrative Services Special Officer Charles Parker for false arrest and excessive force.
On August 6, 2018, Special Officer Parker pulled her from her car and arrested her over a perceived parking violation. Ms. Dietrich’s permit for her disability allowed her to use spaces designated for “any governmental agency.” Nonetheless, Special Officer Parker was angry that Ms. Dietrich was occupying a parking spot reserved for those associated with the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. Apparently, an able-bodied member of the Borough President’s administration—David Johnson—had demanded that her car be moved. Special Officer Parker reached into the car, grabbed Ms. Dietrich by the arm and yanked her from the vehicle onto the street. Special Officer Parker then arrested Ms. Dietrich on false charges. Ms. Dietrich had no record. But because of the defendants, she was held in custody for more than twelve hours and then forced to fight false charges against her for nine months. Ms. Dietrich’s case challenges this abuse of power on the doorstep of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.
Ms. Dietrich is represented by ECBA attorneys O. Andrew F. Wilson and Alanna Kaufman. The Complaint is available here. An article about the case in the New York Daily News is available here.
On July 3, 2019, after nearly three years of litigation, ECBA won a significant constitutional victory when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the unsealing of court records in Giuffre v. Maxwell. The firm appeared on behalf of Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, an intervenor in the case, and it successfully argued that the wholesale sealing of records by the district judge violated the First Amendment’s “presumption of openness” for judicial documents; the presumption, the court reaffirmed, is essential to ensuring transparency and public oversight of the courts.
ECBA’s application for unsealing was followed by related applications filed by The Miami Herald and another media outlet, both of which were also granted.
Professor Dershowitz was represented by Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and David Lebowitz.
Coverage of the decision can be found here and here.
ECBA Partner Zoe Salzman was quoted in a Law360 article discussing the impact of a new case holding that New York’s CPLR 7515 does not prohibit arbitration of sexual harassment claims. “It’s just a fact when there’s an arbitration clause in an employment discrimination dispute, the company gets to keep that dispute out of the public eye,” Salzman said. “This may be the only decision analyzing 7515, but it’s not the only decision that reads arbitration clauses very broadly in a very pro-employer way, and in a way that greatly undermines the ability of employees to vindicate their rights and to protect other employees from future discrimination.” But Salzman noted that legal arguments can still be made in support of the statute and that public sentiment is moving away from the use of arbitration pacts. “I think there is a shift going on right now and the state legislatures are saying very strongly what I think the people of the state are saying very strongly — which is that they think those agreements are unconscionable and against public policy and they don’t want to see them,” Salzman said.
ECBA won a landmark ruling in Breest v. Haggis. ECBA represents a young woman named Haleigh Breest in a case alleging that she was raped and sexually assaulted by the director Paul Haggis. In a legal filing, Haggis swore under oath that he had not had intercourse with Breest. But he refused to give a sample of his DNA to compare to the sample left in Breest’s tights. Justice Robert R. Reed of the New York Supreme Court ruled that Haggis had to provide his DNA because, if it matched the DNA on the tights, it could help prove Breest’s claim of rape and rebut Haggis’s denial of intercourse. “This is an important decision by the court. We believe it is the first case of the #MeToo era to order disclosure of DNA evidence,” said Breest’s lawyer, Zoe Salzman.
The decision can be found here.
Read more about Justice Reed’s decision granting the DNA sample here and here.
ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, and Emma Freeman represent the plaintiff Haleigh Breest.
To read Ilann Maazel’s Civil Rights Litigation column titled “SCOTUS Goes One for Two in Police Decisions,” click here.
On July 2nd, ECBA filed an amended complaint in its case against the Albany County Nursing Home, alleging a pattern and practice of mistreatment against elderly patients and residents. The complaint was amended to include three additional plaintiffs, who experienced similarly tragic and disturbing neglect while in the care of the facility.
Read coverage of the complaint and the new plaintiffs from the Albany Times Union here. The amended complaint is available here.
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.
City & State New York named ECBA Co-Founder Jonathan S. Abady to its inaugural Law Power 50, a list of the 50 most influential lawyers in New York State. The list considers each lawyer’s achievements, track record and political influence. Click here to view City & State’s list.
As reported on CNN, ECBA filed suit against the MTA on June 18, 2019, alleging that it violated the First Amendment rights of Dame Products, a company that designs and manufactures innovative tools for women’s sexual pleasure and wellness.
Dame submitted proposed advertisements for its toys to the MTA in July 2018. At first, the MTA approved certain advertisements and provided Dame with creative feedback over the course of six months. Then, the MTA suddenly changed course and refused to display Dame’s advertisements on subways and other MTA property, even though the MTA already displays numerous ads for erectile dysfunction medication, condoms, and other products geared towards men. The Complaint details how the MTA’s decision to ban Dame’s advertisement amounts to unconstitutional censorship and reflects the MTA’s sexist views of women’s sexual health.
Dame is represented by ECBA attorneys Richard Emery and Emma L. Freeman. You can read the Complaint here.