Notable Cases

 
 

Brian Sughrim et al. v. State of New York et al.


This Class Action lawsuit challenges a practice of religious discrimination by the State of New York and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) against Corrections Officers who wear beards because of their religious beliefs.

Officers Brian Sughrim and David Feliciano were suspended from DOCCS because they would not shave their beards. They are both Muslim and they both wear beards as part of their religious beliefs.

Shortly before DOCCS suspended Mr. Sughrim and Mr. Feliciano, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law “prohibiting employment discrimination based on . . . facial hair.”  According to Governor Cuomo, this law will “make clear that employers cannot refuse to hire, attain, promote, or take other discriminatory action against an individual for wearing . . . facial hair in accordance with tenets of their religion.”  

The day after Governor Cuomo signed this law, DOCCS suspended Mr. Sughrim because he had a beard, and five days later, it suspended Mr. Feliciano for the same reason.

Mr. Sughrim and Mr. Feliciano brought their lawsuit to stop DOCCS’s practice of religious intolerance and to vindicate their constitutional rights and the rights of other similarly-situated DOCCS employees.

 

Karen Brown v. The City of New York et al.


On September 17, 2013, Barrington Williams died in NYPD custody. He was 25 years old.

Almost immediately after the police arrested Mr. Williams for selling a MetroCard swipe in a subway station, the officers saw that he was unresponsive and having difficulty breathing. The officers understood that he was having a cardiac condition or respiratory arrest. The officers summoned an ambulance and one of the officers checked Mr. Williams’ pulse once or twice, but detected only a weak pulse. Yet, for ten minutes, while waiting for emergency medical technicians to arrive, the officers did not check if Mr. Williams was breathing, did not monitor to see whether Mr. Williams heart was still beating, did not provide CPR, and did not get a readily-available automated external defibrillator (“AED”), which would have analyzed Mr. Williams’ heart rhythm and announced verbal directions to begin cardio pulmonary resuscitation (“CPR”) and shock Mr. Williams’ heart. The NYPD provides extensive training to police officers in how to use CPR and AEDs, and the officers who arrested Mr. Williams knew how to use CPR and AEDs.

Mr. Williams’ mother, Karen Brown, brought this federal lawsuit against the City and the officers who left her son to die. In seeking justice for her son, Ms. Brown wants the City to change its policies so that NYPD officers have no doubt in the future that they must follow their training to help a person in distress before an ambulance arrives.