March 09, 2021
Firm principal Joel Rudin today argued an important civil rights case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Listen to the oral argument here. At issue is whether a plaintiff in a federal civil rights case claiming that fabricated evidence was used against him must also prove that he won his state criminal case on the basis of his innocence. Very few criminal cases are resolved that way. In this case, Smalls v. City of New York, our client’s gun possession conviction was reversed on appeal, and the indictment dismissed, not on the basis of his innocence, but because police illegally stopped him, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. After a federal civil jury found he was framed by police using fabricated evidence, the federal trial judge dismissed the case because the state court had not indicated in its decision that Mr. Smalls was innocent.
Retained to handle the appeal by Mr. Smalls and his trial attorney, we are seeking to have the jury’s verdict reinstated. Resolution of our appeal will depend upon the Second Circuit’s interpretation of a recent Supreme Court decision, McDonough v. Smith, 139 S. Ct. 2149 (2019), a case in which Mr. Rudin was co-counsel. You can read our Second Circuit briefs, authored by Mr. Rudin and associates Jacob Loup and Matthew Wasserman, here (opening) and here (reply). An amicus brief supporting our appeal was submitted by 12 leading civil rights and public interest organizations. You can read it here.
March 05, 2021
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted Rhian Taylor’s motion to amend his complaint yesterday, allowing him to add claims of evidence fabrication and excessive pretrial detention under the Fourth Amendment. Mr. Taylor alleges that he spent nearly nine years in jail and prison because of the police and prosecution’s withholding of exculpatory and impeachment evidence. In addition to his federal lawsuit, Mr. Taylor’s suit in the Court of Claims for his unjust conviction remains ongoing. Matthew Wasserman drafted the briefs and argued the motion, under firm principal Joel Rudin’s supervision.
You can read the district court’s opinion here.
February 02, 2021
The firm filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case of Farhane v. United States today. The Government is trying to denaturalize naturalized citizen Abderrahmane Farhane on the basis of his 2006 guilty plea. We argue that the Sixth Amendment requires defense counsel to advise naturalized citizens of the denaturalization and deportation risks of a guilty plea. Matthew Wasserman and Haran Tae wrote the brief on behalf of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
You can read our brief here.
January 29, 2021
Firm principal Joel Rudin was quoted in a recent Times article about the Queens District Attorney’s Office. The article also cited information compiled by the firm showing that, between 1985 and 2017, judges had ruled that Queens prosecutors had “failed to disclose information to the defense or committed other misconduct” at least 117 times.
You can read the article here.
January 25, 2021
In August 2020, the firm won the reversal of a Suffolk County murder conviction because the trial judge made an improper deal with a witness to testify for the prosecution. People v. Greenspan, 186 A.D.3d 505 (2d Dep’t 2020). On remand, in January 2021, our motion convinced the trial court to dismiss the case on the basis that the prosecution had impaired the integrity of the grand jury proceedings by, among other things, withholding exculpatory evidence. Jacob Loup took the lead in writing the briefs, with the collaboration of firm principal Joel Rudin, who argued the appeal.
You can read the Second Department’s decision here.
January 15, 2021
In a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that prison officials violated Devar Hurd’s Eight Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process when they held him in prison for almost a year after his conditional release date. While the Court of Appeals held that correctional officials were entitled to qualified immunity, this decision clearly establishes that it violates the constitution to imprison someone after their mandatory release date. The firm previously obtained a substantial settlement for Mr. Hurd from other defendants in the case. Jacob Loup drafted the briefs and argued the appeal, under firm principal Joel Rudin’s supervision.
You can read the Second Circuit’s opinion here.
August 26, 2020
A recent article in Gothamist profiled Jawaun Fraser’s lawsuit against the City of New York. Mr. Fraser’s conviction was overturned when it came out after trial that the narcotics officers who arrested him—and provided the only evidence against him at trial—had been sued dozens of times for allegedly making false arrests and fabricating evidence.
August 06, 2020
The City of New York has agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle a wrongful conviction lawsuit brought by Shuaib O’Neill. As alleged in the lawsuit, NYPD officers falsely claimed to have found marijuana and a gun on Mr. O’Neill during a stop-and-frisk, and coerced a false confession from him. Mr. O’Neill served three years in prison and more than two years on parole before his conviction was reversed on direct appeal.
The firm previously won a settlement of $699,000 for Mr. O’Neill in a parallel action in the New York Court of Claims.
July 15, 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all our lives, it has had an especially deadly toll behind bars. People in jail and prison are among the most vulnerable, and lack the ability to protect themselves by social distancing. Since the pandemic hit, associates Jacob Loup and Matt Wasserman have filed several sentence-reduction motions in federal court on behalf of pro bono clients who suffer from health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19, winning the early release of Lea Ann Blystone and Christopher Reese.
You can view the court order granting the motion for Mr. Reese here and the order granting the motion for Ms. Blystone here.
May 21, 2020
The City of New York has agreed to pay $1.725 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Ricardo Benitez, who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for almost 6 years for an armed robbery he did not commit.
The firm also represented Mr. Benitez in a parallel Court of Claims lawsuit against the State of New York which resulted in a settlement of $675,000.