Patch: Park Slope Precinct Among Lowest For Cop Misconduct, Data Shows

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By Anna Quinn, Patch Staff
Mar 7, 2019

Park Slope's police are some of the most well behaved in Brooklyn, and maybe even in the city, according to a new database.

The neighborhood's 78th Precinct was one of three throughout Brooklyn that had the least number of lawsuits filed against its cops since 2015, a CAPStat database launched by The Legal Aid society shows.

The three precincts — Park Slope's 78th, Bensonhurst's 62nd and Carroll Gardens' 76th — each had four lawsuits filed during that time period, as compared to as many as 91 federal lawsuits filed against the precinct that landed at the top of the list for both Brooklyn and the entire city, the 75th Precinct in East New York. Only about seven precincts in other parts of the city had less than four lawsuits.

The new online tool tracks, which tracks federal police misconduct lawsuits how much taxpayer money has been spent settling these, aims to spot patterns of misconduct and discipline cops who are repeat offenders, Legal Aid says.

"With today's launch, we join a national movement including fellow defenders, advocates, and community members to shed much needed daylight on police departments and their actions," said Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney with the Special Litigation Unit in Legal Aid's Criminal Practice.

It will also help the general public "hold the NYPD accountable" for such patterns, which it "routinely ignores," Conti-Cook added.

Among Park Slope's four lawsuits, only two have reached settlements so far, totaling $26,500 in taxpayer money. For comparison, the precincts at the top of the list paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars, or as much as $9.1 million in the 75th precinct's case.

Both settled lawsuits, one for $25,000 and one for $1,500, involved traffic stops or tickets. In one, an African-American man was arrested but later acquitted after asking an officer "don't have nothing better to do?" when he saw him putting a ticket on his friend's car. In the other, another man was picking a friend up from the airport when he was stopped and charged with "operating outside of the lane" though no crime had been committed, records show.

Read more about the database and how it works here.

Legal Aid Caseload Analysis: 88% of Clients Arrested, Prosecuted for Gravity Knife Possession Are New Yorkers of Color

The Legal Aid Society today released a report on analyzed caseload data for gravity knife arrests and prosecutions between January 1, 2018 and June 28, 2018. The analysis reveals that the New York City Police Department and local district attorneys continue to overwhelmingly target New Yorkers of color for gravity knife possession.

These knives – commonly regarded as work tools and sold at the majority of retailers across the country – are used by construction laborers, electricians, stagehands, and other workers throughout New York City.

“NYPD and local prosecutors use the gravity knife statute as a trap to make arrest numbers and to force our clients through the system. Folding knives are treated as tools at stores such as Ace Hardware and AutoZone; but they are treated as weapons once they are found in our clients’ Black and Brown hands. It is time for Governor Cuomo to end this trap, and to prevent thousands of arbitrary arrests,” said Martin LaFalce, Staff Attorney with the Manhattan Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society.

“The NYPD and city prosecutors continue to exploit the State’s broken gravity knife statute to target New Yorkers of color who use this tool simply for work purposes. It’s shameful, and the disparate treatment must stop,” said Julie Ciccolini, Analyst at The Legal Aid Society and author of the report. “This report demonstrates a real need for Albany to enact reform immediately, as law enforcement shows no sign of changing their ways any time soon.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • There were 885 gravity knife arrests arraigned by Legal Aid in the first 6 months of 2018
  • 88% of people arrested for gravity knife possession are people of color; 85% are Black or Latino
  • 91% of those arrested for gravity knife possession were charged with a misdemeanor, 9% with a felony
  • The 49th and 79th Precincts made the most gravity knife arrests
  • Fewer than 1% of gravity knife cases in the Bronx are charged as felonies, as compared to 42% in Staten Island
  • The Legal Aid Society represents approximately five gravity knife cases a day, or about 1,800 such cases each year

In 2017 after claims from the NYPD and local prosecutors that gravity knives are uniquely dangerous weapons, The Legal Aid Society issued an analysis of 1,800 violent felony cases where weapons were recovered. Those cases show that gravity knives were alleged to have been used in the commission of violent crime in less than one percent of cases. Canes, crutches, glass bottles, baseball bats, and other household items were alleged to have been used in the commission of violent crime at the same rate as, or more frequently than, gravity knives.

New York’s current gravity knife statute has long garnered criticism for being antiquated, overly broad, and exploited by law enforcement to arrest and prosecute unsuspecting workers. In 2016 and 2017, the New York State Legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation to overhaul the law; but Governor Andrew Cuomo issued vetoes in both years.

NYT: Looking for Details on Rogue N.Y. Cops? This Database Can Help

Some New York City police officers are sued more often than others. The Legal Aid Society has created a searchable database of 2,300 lawsuits filed against city police officers since 2015.CreditCreditGregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

Some New York City police officers are sued more often than others. The Legal Aid Society has created a searchable database of 2,300 lawsuits filed against city police officers since 2015.CreditCreditGregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

By Ali Winston
March 6, 2019

For decades, New York has gone further than most states in keeping police misconduct records confidential, even as high-profile incidents like Eric Garner’s death on Staten Island at the hands of police officers prompted calls from civil-rights advocates for more transparency and accountability.

The Legal Aid Society took a step on Wednesday toward lifting the veil on allegations of police misconduct by releasing a detailed database that collates and analyzes about 2,300 lawsuits filed against New York City police officers since 2015.

Legal Aid’s decision to create a public database of lawsuits is part of a national push by civil rights groups and journalists to document and analyze police misconduct. The effort has gathered momentum in recent years after a series of fatal shootings by the police sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. It has also drawn criticism from police unions in New York and elsewhere, who argue many allegations against officers are false.

In California, police unions are in a protracted court battle with civil rights groups and media organizations over a law that makes public substantiated incidents of officer misconduct. And a journalism organization in Chicago has published a database of decades of misconduct complaints, which has led to several policy changes.

The New York City database, named CapStat, is searchable by an officer’s name, unit, precinct and type of allegation — or by the names of the people filing suit. The data includes court records, news articles and published decisions about officers that defense attorneys have obtained.

To date, the database includes 2,339 lawsuits filed from January 2015 through mid-2018 against 3,897 officers, as well as internal disciplinary records for about 1,800 officers accused of misconduct between 2011 and 2015.

The database includes a summary of the complaint and the outcome of each case, but the Legal Aid Society said it cannot vouch for the accuracy of all the allegations, since many suits are settled without the police admitting wrongdoing.

Still, Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society who is spearheading the database project, said one aim is to identify, track and analyze patterns of misconduct.

“Our interest is not just who is a bad officer,” Ms. Conti-Cook said. “The interest is in which commands are really cultivating the type of misconduct that systematically goes undisciplined, completely unchecked, unsupervised and allows officers to act without any accountability?”

Police union leaders said the database included false allegations and frivolous lawsuits that could be used to help defendants who are guilty to undermine the credibility of police witnesses at trial.

“The intent of this database is clearly to help guilty criminals beat the charges against them,” Patrick Lynch, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president, said in an email. “By publishing this database online, they will be doing even greater damage: Anyone with a grudge against cops will be free to peruse the false and frivolous allegations against specific officers and use them as inspiration for a campaign of harassment, intimidation or worse.” New York law prohibits the release of results of internal police investigations, deeming them personnel records. Judicial findings about officers who commit perjury are difficult to collect since they are not centrally recorded or archived. As a result, civil suits against officers are one of the few public, though imperfect, measures that can be used to gauge police misconduct, public defenders said.

The Police Department said in an email that “not all lawsuits filed for money have legal merit.”

“The ones that do can be valuable tools we use to improve officer performance and enhance training or policy where necessary,” the department said.

The lawsuits in the CapStat database are public records taken from federal and state court websites. The database will include lawsuits that were dismissed or settled out of court. It will also incorporate four years of internal disciplinary records leaked to Buzzfeed News last year, even though those records are confidential under state law.

Joanna Schwartz, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies misconduct suits, said the CapStat database could also be used by the police and city officials to identify problematic officers and units.

The current version of CapStat includes a tool that allows users to see where the officers who have been sued for misconduct work, and with whom. The site also lets people map precincts with high numbers of officers who have been sued. The commands with the highest volume of complaints include the plainclothes narcotics units in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Other specialized units, like the Police Deparment’s gang squads, are also sued for misconduct more frequently than most patrol officers, the data shows. There are 132 gang squad officers included in the database who have been sued a total of 130 times. There have been a higher number of lawsuits in some districts than others, led by the 75th Precinct, which covers East New York and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn.

“An officer can go completely under our radar for 10 years in a different command and as soon as they go there, they end up getting sued,” said Julie Ciccolini, a database administrator at the Legal Aid Society, who supervised the design of CapStat.

Certain officers have been the target of many civil complaints as well.

Abdiel Anderson, a detective from Bronx Narcotics, has been the target of 44 lawsuits since 2015, the most of any officer, according to the database.

Sgt. David Grieco, a veteran anti-crime detective who worked in the 75th Precinct for years and was known as “Bullethead” on the street, has been sued at least 31 times, resulting in at least $410,752 in settlement payments, the data shows.

Detective Anderson and Sergeant Grieco did not return calls for comment.

“We hope that this is a tool for the city to identify patterns and address common patterns of misconduct that are pretty obvious if you digest the lawsuits that are coming in and being served on the city,” Ms. Cynthia Conti-Cook said.

Legal Aid Launches “CAPSTAT” – a Public Database of Federal Civil Rights Lawsuits, NYPD Disciplinary Summaries and NYPD Payroll Data

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The Legal Aid Society launched “CAPstat” today – a database containing publically available information culled from federal civil rights lawsuits brought against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for misconduct, alongside the disciplinary summaries BuzzFeed published last year and other public information – all of which is now easily accessible to the public for the first time.

CAPstat was created to show how transparency can improve the public’s collective ability to identify trends in misconduct and to advocate for reform. The database highlights the amount of taxpayer money spent towards settling repeated incidents of police misconduct that the City has failed to properly track and remedy. The database can and should be used by policymakers and by the NYPD to better identify and prevent systemic patterns of police misconduct and to discipline the officers who repeat this misconduct. The database can also be used as a resource for people who have witnessed or who have been harmed by police misconduct, so as to help them decide whether to take legal action.

“CAPstat will help New Yorkers gain a more thorough understanding of lawsuits filed against the NYPD for misconduct and will help the public hold the NYPD accountable for reoccurring patterns of misconduct that the department itself routinely ignores,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Staff Attorney with the Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society's Criminal Practice. “With today’s launch, we join a national movement including fellow defenders, advocates, and community members to shed much needed daylight on police departments and their actions.”

This website was inspired by decades of work on the parts of grassroots movements, journalists, civil rights attorneys, academics, and policy makers who have advocated for learning from litigation data so as to improve policing policies, trainings, early intervention systems, and accountability. The data was collected by Julie Ciccolini for Legal Aid’s Cop Accountability Project (“CAP”). CAP was started at Legal Aid by staff attorney Cynthia Conti-Cook, and was initially intended to serve Legal Aid's Criminal Defense Practice attorneys who must, due to Civil Rights Law 50-a, argue in the dark for disclosure of internally documented police misconduct. To better serve the public’s right to know about police misconduct in a state where it is shrouded with secrecy due to Civil Rights Law 50-a, we expanded our project to bring this information to the public.

The federal lawsuits included in this database were collected daily between January 2015 and June 2018. For each lawsuit, details are available on the locations and time of the underlying indicent, demographics of the victims, types of civil rights violations alleged, charges underlying false arrest cases, any uses of force, and the outcome or settlement amount.

Similarly, all officers named in the 2015-2018 lawsuits can be sorted based on the total settlement amounts associated with lawsuits they’re named in, the total number of lawsuits they were named in during that period, and their salary and overtime. Each officer also has his or her own profile depicting promotion and salary history, any other publicly known misconduct, and other officers who have also been named in lawsuits.

“Two barriers that we face toward real policing reform are a lack of transparency and accountability-- and accountability requires transparency. I believe that the CAPStat database will be a vital tool for the public as well as for the NYPD and advocates to review, to find and address systemic failures. This administration hides behind 50-a to prevent vital transparency, and I thank the Legal Aid Society for providing this tool that can be used for change,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams.

“Transparency and accountability around police misconduct are two of the most important issues we face in the fight for criminal justice reform today,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety. “While the toll police misconduct takes on our families and communities weighs the heaviest, it also hits our city’s wallet hard as well and the more information available, the better we all can be at addressing patterns of abuse and neglect. I’d like to thank the Legal Aid Society for all of the hard work that went into the creation of CAPstat and for their dedication to sensible reforms that will benefit the people of New York City.”

"We know from our wrongful conviction cases that making findings of police misconduct prevents wrongful conviction by identifying patterns of misconduct and enhancing the public safety.

Transparency will earn the public's trust and promises to deliver more reliable criminal justice outcomes by enabling documented findings of misconduct to be made public. Work is being done in this area now in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and more - so why not New York? Unfortunately the Empire State has the unique distinction of having the worst law in the country and our entire system of justice suffers for it,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

"Lawsuits provide critically important information about incidents of alleged wrongdoing that can be used to identify and address problem officers, units, and practices. Yet, all too often this data is ignored--to the detriment of city officials, taxpayers, and the public at large. CAPstat allows the NYPD and others to identify practices and people that are the subjects of litigation, and then use that data to investigate the underlying causes for those trends. Lawsuit data should not be relied upon without further investigation and assessment--like all data, it has its flaws. But it offers unique insights into police practices that provoke litigation and payouts,” said Joanna C. Schwartz, Vice Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law.

Newsday: Dire need to reform criminal justice rules

By Tina Luongo and Lori Cohen
March 5, 2019

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas’ comments about criminal justice reforms proposed in Albany are tone deaf and out of touch with reality. She urges everyone to “slow down” the advancement of much-needed and overdue reforms central to fairness and justice — for bail, discovery and speedy trials. But Singas ignores the fact that problematic existing laws have been around for decades and harmed thousands of New Yorkers. Further, her claim that the new proposals were written by lawyers who have never practiced criminal law is mystifying.

As the presidents of two statewide criminal defense bar associations composed of private counsel and public defenders, we will happily clarify for Singas. All of the proposals under consideration have been vetted by legal scholars, current and former practitioners, and members of the judiciary. Many proposals followed years of thoughtful work by task forces and committees. To suggest they were created in haste or by novices is misguided and insulting.

These reforms were introduced last year in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget. His office has discussed them at length with prosecutors and the defense bar. Both sides have been given time to comment on specifics.

What we support will not advantage or disadvantage prosecutors or defenders. The reforms balance the law enforcement perspective with greater protections of due process, fairness, and efforts to avoid wrongful prosecutions and convictions. 

Editor’s note: Luongo is president of the Chief Defenders Association of New York. Cohen is president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Daily News: Advocates for criminal justice reform accuse prosecutors, state task force of falling short on bail changes

Activists says bail reform is moving too slowly at the state Capitol in Albany. (Hans Pennink / AP)

Activists says bail reform is moving too slowly at the state Capitol in Albany. (Hans Pennink / AP)

By Denis Slattery
March 04, 2019

A coalition fighting for criminal justice reform in New York says prosecutors and others urging caution on ending cash bail are way off base, arguing the system favors the wealthy despite recommendations from a state task force for some changes.

The advocates, including the Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, the Legal Aid Society, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Citizen Action of New York, said in a statement on Monday that they are looking for “meaningful bail reform that protects the presumption of innocence and maximizes pretrial liberty.” The coalition is led by the non-profit advocacy group FWD.us.

They contend that such reform would promote “the strength and safety of New York communities,” especially minority and low-income areas “that are disproportionately affected by over-incarceration.”.

Advocates are reacting to a February report from the New York State Justice Task Force containing bail reform recommendations. The task force includes judges and representatives of the criminal justice system.

It recommended a presumption of release without bail for people charged with most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, additional training for judges and funding for pretrial services, helping the court ensure defendants return for their next court date, and allowing prosecutors to argue against release if they believe a defendant poses a threat.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has endorsed those recommendations.

“Certain groups like District Attorneys Association of the State of New York have long tried to hinder criminal justice reform efforts, especially pretrial reforms, and continue to make false, fear-mongering public safety threats that run contrary to the facts,” the coalition said in its statement.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares, president of the District Attorneys Association, said in a statement on Sunday, ““The time has come for ending cash bail and we want to make sure it is done in a meaningful and successful manner. This means careful consideration of all details of any proposals.

“We have the opportunity to make some of the most significant changes to New York State’s bail system in decades. This is not about fear. This is about facts. DAASNY is not the boogeyman in this discussion.”

Efforts to end cash bail were renewed after the suicide of Kalief Browder, who at age 16 was accused of stealing a backpack and spent three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial because his family couldn’t afford $3,000 bail. His case was eventually dropped and Kalief was sent home. Browder committed suicide in 2015, when he was 22.

Advocates have long argued that the current cash bail system favors the wealthy and adversely affects poor black and Latino New Yorkers.

The median bail set for a misdemeanor arrest in New York City is $1,000, according to the non-profit New York City Criminal Justice Agency. Those for whom bail is set must provide it in full to the court, pay a bondsman to cover it for them, or remain in jail.

Democrats in Albany say they are nearing a consensus on criminal justice reforms, including a bill proposed by state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) calling for a complete end to cash bail. mocrats in Albany say they are nearing a consensus on criminal justice reforms, including a bill proposed by state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) calling for a complete end to cash bail.

Under current law, judges often set cash bail even for minor offenses.

The coalition said two out of three people in New York’s jails haven’t been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial. And, it cited a 2017 study by researchers from Brigham Young University and the University of Maryland that found individuals who are held in pretrial detention on a felony charge in the city are 7.5 % more likely to be rearrested in the two years following their jail time than those who made bail and were released.

The coalition said the task force recommendations are “out-of-step and regressive when compared to the proposals of the Governor and the legislative leaders who have publicly announced their intention to end cash bail entirely, with far narrower allowances for detention.”

Gov. Cuomo has suggested reforms that include ending cash bail, updating evidence disclosure laws and guaranteeing speedy trials.

Democrats in Albany say they are nearing a consensus on criminal justice reforms, including a bill proposed by state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) calling for a complete end to cash bail.

“Thousands of New Yorkers who have not yet been convicted of a crime are languishing in jail simply because they cannot afford bail,” Gianaris told The News.

Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) is sponsoring legislation to open up New York’s antiquated discovery laws, which currently impose restrictions on when defense attorneys see evidence against their clients. New legislation would allow defendants to see all evidence against them.

Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) is sponsoring legislation to open up New York’s antiquated discovery laws, which currently impose restrictions on when defense attorneys see evidence against their clients.

“Real, meaningful reform will ultimately reduce unnecessary and unjust incarceration, lead to less recidivism, and create stronger, safer communities and a more just New York,” the coalition said.

Daily News: NYU professor says he was targeted for turnstile jumping at Harlem station with broken MetroCard machines, Legal Aid calls for an investigation

Prof. Terrance Coffie claims police were exploiting broken MetroCard machines in order to ticket subway riders in minority communities. (Handout)

Prof. Terrance Coffie claims police were exploiting broken MetroCard machines in order to ticket subway riders in minority communities. (Handout)

By Janon Fisher
March 04, 2019

A New York University professor's turnstile jumping summons at a Harlem train station with malfunctioning MetroCard machines has prompted civil rights advocates to call on the NYPD's inspector general to probe racial disparities in fare evasion enforcement.

The Legal Aid Society fired off a letter last week to Inspector General Phil Eure asking him to look into a January ticket that Prof. Terrance Coffie received for going through the security gate at the St. Nicholas Ave. station when none of the MetroCard machines were working properly.

Coffie, an adjunct professor who teaches about community policing and discretionary enforcement, says he was on his way to work on Jan. 11 when he realized his MetroCard was out of money.

He had ignored people clustered around the station's three machines as he headed to the turnstile. Now, he realized the crowd had formed because the machines were only taking coins.

"I don't walk around with three dollars worth of coins in the morning," he said.

Faced with the decision to use the security gate or be late for work, he followed many of the other morning commuters and bypassed the turnstile.

Moments later, he said, he was approached by four plainclothes police officers regarding his fare evasion.

When Coffie explained that the machines were malfunctioning, one of the officers said that the department and the MTA knew of the problem.

"That's when the situation really kicked in," the professor said. "Are you saying to me that you are consciously aware that there is a malfunction, but instead of assisting the patrons, what you chose to do is be in a disclosed location to surveil the situation and issue summonses?"

Coffie, who studies police-community relations, said this flies in the face of what his research has determined builds trust between police and minority neighborhoods.

Annoyed, Coffie reached in his pocket for his phone to record the exchange, prompting one the officers to order him to remove his hands and threatening to handcuff him.

"I saw where a minor interaction could have been escalated into something more -- that makes the headlines," he said.

In the end, the cops issued a $100 ticket for fare evasion and everyone walked away.

The MTA has said that fare evasion costs the troubled transit system $215 million every year. Statistics show that 90% of the tickets issued were to black and Hispanic riders. The department still has not released full data regarding turnstile jumping.

Legal Aid lawyers say that Coffie's encounter shows that the NYPD targets minority neighborhoods with their "fare evasion strike teams."

"It's a wrong-headed approach to try to bridge budget woes on the backs of riders," Legal Aid lawyer Benjamin Rutkin-Becker said.

Both cops and transit officials denied that they target minority communities for fare enforcement.

"We're committed to a fair response to a citywide problem and are categorically opposed to any inappropriate targeting," transit spokesman Shams Tarek said.

Police said they are being more lenient on transit scofflaws and are posting signs to remind people that it's illegal.

"The NYPD has implemented a new fare evasion policy, moving from arrest to summonses, and continues to work closely with the MTA to increase awareness with signage giving people very direct warnings that fare evasion is illegal."

Police said riders can appeal a summons using an online form.

Celebrating Black History Month With the Talent of Nia Witherspoon

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Last night, members of the Legal Aid Staff were treated to a special performance from Nia Witherspoon and her new production “Dark Girls’ Chronicles,” an epic journey of Black womanhood expressed through Black music and dance as we celebrated Black History Month.

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 The event was organized by Anne Oredeko, the Supervising attorney of the Racial Justice Unit.

Pro Bono Bulletin | March 2019

Bob Paul

Bob Paul

Volunteer Spotlight: Bob Paul

When Bob Paul was in Law School at NYU, he had a keen interest in criminal law. His course load was heavy on criminal law and he even represented clients from Legal Aid in Manhattan Criminal Court through a clinical program. But upon graduation, he found that he was unable to find a good job in criminal law. He went to work for a firm and spent nearly 40 years practicing law for a variety of employers, including law firms, banks, and the federal government focusing on the regulation of financial markets and derivatives. As his career in financial services was winding down, he looked for opportunities to give back to the community, and discovered the Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP). Through AEP he found a placement with The Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project (PRP).

His volunteer work focuses on advocating on behalf of people incarcerated in prisons throughout New York State. For his very first case he wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Upstate Correctional Facility requesting medication for a client. Just one week later, the client reported that the medication had been received. This was an impressive outcome considering that similar claims are often denied, and a great victory for the client. He also joined Legal Aid attorneys on a trip to interview potential plaintiffs for a class action lawsuit on behalf of imprisoned people with mental health disorders, which was filed in January. He noted that is gave him the opportunity to see how his “PRP colleagues used the individual experiences of potential plaintiffs to develop large scale impact litigation.”

Asked about the impact his volunteer service has had, he said “Through my work with PRP I feel like I am making at least a small contribution to improving how our individual clients are treated in DOCCS custody. It is rewarding when I have a client transferred to safe housing or treated more respectfully by staff.” He also noted that he enjoyed the camaraderie he has with the PRP staff.

Bob has been able to expand the work the Prisoners’ Rights Project can do through his volunteering. He is a terrific addition to the team.

Legal Aid, Cravath Announce Settlement for Client Who Was Raped and Sexually Abused by Doc Officers on Rikers Island

The Legal Aid Society and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP announced a substantial monetary settlement today on behalf of their client, “Jane Doe,” who was repeatedly raped, sexually abused, and sexually harassed by two New York City Department of Correction (DOC) officers while she was a pre-trial detainee on Rikers Island.

This lawsuit was filed in August 2018 against the City of New York and DOC Officers Jose Cosme and Leonard McNeil, in both their individual and official capacities. Cosme pled guilty to a Criminal Sex Act, a felony charge, which required him to register as a sex offender. McNeil is still employed by the DOC.

In 2015, Jane Doe was a detainee awaiting trial at Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC.) There, she suffered brutal rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment by Cosme after McNeil conspired with Cosme so Cosme could rape her. McNeil separately also raped, sexually abused, and sexually harassed Jane Doe. As a result of Cosme’s and McNeil’s criminal acts, Jane Doe suffers from severe trauma. After Jane Doe reported the rapes, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, correction staff and inmates retaliated against her. This retaliation included threats to her life and other verbal abuse, as well as denial of the most basic necessities, such as soap.

“No compensation will ever come close to righting the sexual violence our client suffered at the hands of Jose Cosme and Leonard McNeil while at Rikers Island,” said Marlen Bodden and Barbara Hamilton, Staff Attorneys with the Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “This settlement delivers some justice and further underscores the culture of impunity that exists among correctional staff at NYC jails. We hope other people who have suffered similar trauma at Rikers Island or other local jails will speak out and seek justice.”

“No individual should ever be subjected to the abuse and trauma that our client experienced,” said Brittany L. Sukiennik, associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. “This settlement is a small measure of justice for an exceptionally strong woman who has experienced unfathomable trauma. We are hopeful that cases like this will persuade the City to take any and all steps necessary to ensure that the constitutional and human rights of individuals in custody are protected and held sacrosanct.”

Plaintiffs Praise SDNY Ruling That Preserves Vital Humanitarian Program

On behalf of their clients, the Legal Aid Society and Latham & Watkins praised a decision rendered today by United States District Judge John Koeltl on litigation brought last June which preserves a vital humanitarian program – Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) – utilized by thousands of abused, abandoned, or neglected children in New York State and others nationwide.

The lawsuit, filed as a class action by five young adults who applied for but were denied SIJS by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS), challenged a 2018 policy change in which USCIS unilaterally reinterpreted the law in a manner that effectively precluded minors between the ages of 18 and up to 21 from qualifying for SIJS.

The agency’s unannounced policy change, which impacted thousands of immigrant youth across the country, was first reported in April 2018. The Plaintiffs are represented by The Legal Aid Society and Latham & Watkins.

“This sweeping decision leaves no doubt that USCIS deliberately violated the rights of the most vulnerable, young immigrants – those who were abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents,” said Beth Krause, Supervising Attorney in the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “We are relieved that the federal courts have once again been willing to rein in the arbitrary and capricious policies of the Trump Administration.”

“It is our duty as lawyers to protect those who are most in need. Congress created the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status program in 1990 to protect a particularly vulnerable group – young immigrants who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by a parent. We are pleased with the court decision to uphold the program on a classwide basis,” said Latham & Watkins partner Robert Malionek, who filed the class action with the Legal Aid Society and argued the cross-motions for summary judgment. “Our class, made up of thousands of abused, abandoned, or neglected young immigrants, once again have a path to citizenship.”

Specifically, the lawsuit challenged USCIS’s new position that New York State Family Courts are not “juvenile courts” for young people aged 18 to up to 21, and are therefore not authorized to issue the orders that must support SIJS applications. This policy change ran counter to a decade of practice. Plaintiffs successfully argued that the agency’s new policy violates the federal Administrative Procedures Act (APA) because it contradicts the statute that created SIJS and misinterprets New York law.

SIJS Background

Since 2008, SIJS has served as a legal pathway for unaccompanied minors under the age of 21, who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents, to obtain lawful permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship. However, under the Trump Administration’s policy change, individuals who are over 18, but not yet 21, no longer qualify for SIJS, despite there being no change in the law or regulations related to SIJS. This is a sharp departure from a decade of consistent policy, where SIJS applications filed by young immigrants between 18 to up to 21 years of age who were placed under guardianship by New York Family Courts were consistently, and properly, granted.

For a young person in New York to apply for SIJS, a New York Family Court must first determine that the applicant was abused, abandoned, neglected or subjected to similar maltreatment under New York State law, that the applicant cannot reunite with one or both parents, and that it’s not in the applicant’s best interest to be returned to the applicant’s country of birth. The court must also declare that the applicant is dependent on the court or place the applicant in the custody of a caretaker. This order is then submitted to USCIS as part of the SIJS application.

Without any prior announcement, USCIS narrowed its interpretation of the law starting in 2017, ultimately documenting its new policy in February 2018. The policy change provided that in cases where applicants are over 18, they no longer qualify, incorrectly reasoning that the state court’s authority ends at 18. This new policy had the practical effect of depriving immigrant youth of the opportunity to regularize their immigration status, and caused tremendous uncertainty, anxiety and other harm to children who have, by definition, already suffered emotional trauma. As the US District Court for the Southern District of New York recognized, the agency’s new position had no basis in law.

You can read the decision here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59578aade110eba6434f4b72/t/5c8c65894785d34f4980665c/1552704910483/special_immigrant_juvenile_status.pdf

NY1 Noticias: Aumentan deportaciones en New York: análisis del reporte del Contralor de la ciudad

Anthony Posada, Abogado, Legal Aid Society

Anthony Posada, Abogado, Legal Aid Society

By Juan Manuel Benitez
Feb. 27, 2019

El número de deportaciones en New York aumento en un 150% entre 2016 y 2018, según un reporte del Contralor de la ciudad Scott Stringer.

Para analizar el informe de Stringer estuvieron en Pura Política Anthony Posada, Abogado, Legal Aid Society y José Xavier Orochena, Abogado de Inmigración.

El abogado Orochena contó que para el caso, nunca en su carrera como abogado de inmigración había estado en una situación en la que una corte penal detenían a un inmigrante por un asunto de inmigración.

"Hace unos pocos días, saliendo de la corte criminal de Queens detuvieron a mi cliente", relató Orochena.

Mi cliente "no tiene ningún record criminal", aseguró el abogado.

El abogado Posada por su parte, habló entre otras cosas sobre lo difícil que es para las personas que son detenidas por ICE de pelear en las cortes sus mismos casos migratorios.

"Una de las cosas que demuestra el reporte del Contralor es que las fianzas han subido también", dijo Posada.

Vea el segmento completo de Pura Política con el presentador Juan Manuel Benítez.