Article

Haggis Abandons Case against Haleigh Breest

Late yesterday, director Paul Haggis abandoned his lawsuit against Haleigh Breest. A lower court dismissed Haggis’ case on August 14, 2018, and Haggis quietly dropped his appeal yesterday.

Though the Haggis case against Ms. Breest is over, Ms. Breest’s sexual assault case against Mr. Haggis continues.

Read more about the case here, here, and here.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Andrew G. Celli, Jr. Appointed to James Transition Committee

In early December 2018, New York State Attorney General-elect Letitia James appointed ECBA co-founding partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. to her Transition Committee and selected him to lead the Committee’s working group on civil rights enforcement. Celli, who served as Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General from 1999 until 2003, convened a group of 35 leading civil rights lawyers to generate ideas and comment on priorities for the new Attorney General. He presented the group’s findings to General James and the full Transition Committee at the Committee’s final meeting on January 23, 2019.

Article

ECBA Client Jazmine Headley Testifies At City Council Oversight Hearing

ECBA client Jazmine Headley gave powerful testimony to the New York City Council at a City Council hearing on February 4, 2019.  Ms. Headley spoke to lawmakers about her experiences in December 2018 when she was attacked, arrested, and forcibly separated from her one-year-old son, after sitting on the floor in an HRA office as she waited for her appointment.  Ms. Headley advocated for a number of reforms, including “social workers not security officers” and more on-site staff at HRA offices.  Ms. Headley told the Council, “We need to change the way HRA provide services to people when they are most in need.”  Members of the Council commended Ms. Headley for her important testimony, and called her treatment “painful and heartbreaking,” acknowledging that it reflected a “system-wide issue.”

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Michele Yankson

Watch Ms. Headley’s testimony here. Additional press coverage of Ms. Headley’s testimony can be found here, here and here

Article

City & State NY’s 50 Over 50 List Recognizes Jonathan S. Abady

Jonathan S. Abady has been selected by City & State NY as one of New York’s 50 Most Distinguished People Over 50. City & State NY’s power lists have been a long standing institution in New York. This year was the organization’s fourth annual 50 Over 50 list.  The issue honors top professionals from government relations, advocacy, academia, media, business and more.

Article

Columbia Sociologist Lauds ECBA In Sociological Forum

Sociologist Shamus Khan, Chair and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, praises the work of ECBA in a forthcoming article in Sociological Forum magazine.  The article, entitled “The Subpoena of Ethnographic Data,” describes the ethical and legal challenges faced when Prof. Khan, a renowned scholar of gender, sexuality, and cultural elites, received a document subpoena seeking the production of ethnographic data. The data in question was collected by Prof. Khan at St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school which Khan profiled in his ground-breaking book Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School.  The subpoena arose from a civil suit brought by a young woman who, as a student at St. Paul’s, alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by another student. The case gained national attention and the accused young man was found guilty of statutory rape. The subpoena sought, among other things, copies of Prof. Khan’s contemporaneous field notes of observations he had made of students, faculty and administrators while living on the campus of St. Paul’s in 2004-2005.  Describing ECBA as a “powerful law firm” and thanking ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. for “his counsel,” the article details the firm’s successful effort to force the withdrawal of the subpoena. The firm invoked case law that extends the First-Amendment-based “journalist’s privilege” to academic researchers like Prof. Khan.  In addition to Mr. Celli, firm associate David Lebowitz handled the matter for Prof. Khan. 

Click here to read Prof. Khan’s article in Sociological Forum.

Article

Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction for ECBA Client Unlawfully Labeled as a Sex Offender

On January 11, 2019 the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted ECBA client Equan Yunus a preliminary injunction removing his unconstitutional designation as a sex offender.  Although Mr. Yunus has never committed sexual misconduct, he had been forced to register as a sex offender under New York’s irrational and overbroad offender registration laws.  Because of this designation, Mr. Yunus was subject to numerous overbearing parole conditions designed to deter sex offenses that bore no relation to his crime of conviction, including limitations on his ability to access a cell phone or computer and to interact with minor members of his own family.

While the New York Court of Appeals had upheld this law as rational years earlier in another case, the federal court agreed with Mr. Yunus and ECBA that this treatment as a sex offender violated his constitutional right to substantive due process.  Mr. Yunus’s designation and its accompanying oppressive restrictions must be removed as a result of the Court’s ruling.

ECBA Attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and David Berman represent Mr. Yunus.  To read the Court’s opinion granting Mr. Yunus a preliminary injunction, click here.  To read the Guardian’s profile of Mr. Yunus’s case, click here. To read coverage of the case in the New York Law Journal, click here.

Article

ECBA and Co-Counsel File Suit Against New York City and Albany County for Illegal Transfer of Young Rikers Pretrial Detainees to “Black Site” Albany Jail

Today, four young men who were pretrial detainees at Rikers Island until 2018 when the City of New York abruptly transferred them to an upstate “black site” jail, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York, New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”) Commissioner Cynthia Brann, Albany County, Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr., and individual correctional officers.

Since 2015, when it banned solitary confinement for inmates ages 21 and younger, the City and DOC have illegally rendered dozens of young Rikers inmates to Albany County Correctional Facility (the “Albany County Jail”).  Plaintiffs in this case were taken by DOC from Rikers to the Albany County Jail.  Upon arrival, they were systematically subjected to brutal beatings and sexual assaults by jail guards.  Plaintiffs suffered severe injuries, including a perforated eardrum, concussion, rectal bleeding, black eyes, and lacerations.  For the entirety of their time at the Albany County Jail, the Rikers detainees were held in solitary confinement, cut off from meaningful human contact and isolated from family, adequate medical care, and their lawyers.

Plaintiff Davon Washington is a 22-year-old man who resides in the Bronx, New York.  He was released from custody on December 24, 2018.  Plaintiff Steven Espinal is a 19-year-old man, and Plaintiff Pariis Tillery is a 25-year-old man, both of whom are still detained in solitary confinement at the Albany County Jail pending trial.  Plaintiff John Doe is a 24-year-old man who was previously detained at the Albany County Jail and is now serving a sentence in state custody.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks injunctive relief and damages.  Plaintiffs Espinal and Tillery seek to be transferred out of the Albany County Jail, where they fear daily for their safety.  Plaintiffs are represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Douglas E. Lieb of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Steven Goldman of the Law Office of Goldman & Associates.

The complaint is available here.

Read the New York Times coverage here.

Article

ECBA Represents Jazmine Headley, Brooklyn Mother Wrongfully Attacked and Arrested by HRA and NYPD While Holding Her Toddler Son

ECBA is proud to represent Jazmine Headley, a 23 year-old Brooklyn woman who was subjected to appalling mistreatment by HRA and the NYPD at a Brooklyn HRA office last week, and is now speaking out on her own behalf. After taking the day off of work to address a problem with her son’s childcare voucher, and waiting hours to be seen, Ms. Headley sat on the floor next to her son’s stroller.  In response, HRA and NYPD officers grabbed her, attacked her, ripped her son out of her arms, arrested her, and separated her from her son for several days. The incident was caught on cellphone videos. All charges were dropped, and both the Mayor and HRA Commissioner ultimately issued public apologies to Ms. Headley.  However, in her recent interview with the New York Times, Ms. Headley discussed how this horrific mistreatment is unfortunately all too common for New Yorkers in this situation.

ECBA Partner Katie Rosenfeld represents Ms. Headley, along with ECBA attorney Michele Yankson.

Read coverage of Ms. Headley’s case in the New York Times here.

.