N E W S
FEBRUARY 15, 2019
SHANIES LAW CLIENTS AND RECENT TRIAL WIN COVERED BY THE New York TIMES
Today The New York Times wrote extensively about Jessica Sunderland, a transgender veteran for whom the firm recently won a groundbreaking jury verdict. The article told Jessica’s story of standing up for her rights, persevering through years of litigation, and emerging victorious. Another Shanies Law client, Alyssa Giordano, was also quoted and her pending case discussed in the article. Shanies Law is proud of both clients and their bravery in sharing their important stories and fighting for their fundamental rights.
FEBRUARY 6, 2019
DAVID B. SHANIES speaks at CITY HALL ABOUT WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS
David B. Shanies joined a group of government officials, exonerees, and advocates gathered at City Hall to address the scourge of wrongful convictions in New York State and discuss ways to prevent and correct them. The rally was organized by Families of the Wrongfully Convicted, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the victims of wrongful convictions and their families. Other speakers included New York State Assemblyman Dan Quart, City Councilman and Queens District Attorney candidate Rory Lancman, Derrick Hamilton, Jeffrey Deskovic, Shabaka Shakur, Sundhe Moses, and Ron Kuby. David spoke on behalf of his client Tyronne Johnson, discussing, among other issues, the need for a conviction review unit in Queens County.
FEBRUARY 4, 2019
DAVID B. SHANIEs addresses bronx wrongful conviction issues in New York law journal
David B. Shanies penned an op-ed commentary in today’s New York Law Journal addressing the recent exoneration of Huwe Burton and its parallels to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s recent experience with Louis Scarcella. The article observes that a systematic review of convictions tied to the disgraced former detective has resulted in an astonishing 14 exonerations to date. David encouraged Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark to devote the resources necessary to conduct a comprehensive review in light of the fact that Mr. Burton’s is the third wrongful conviction tied to the detectives who handled his case. The text of the op-ed appears below.
Last week, Huwe Burton walked out of a Bronx courtroom an exonerated man, after having served 19 years in prison for the murder of his mother. Arrested at age 16, Mr. Burton was convicted based chiefly on what he and his lawyers insisted was a coerced, and false, confession. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark touted her decision to vacate Mr. Burton’s conviction and “clear his name.” This case, given its parallels to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s recent experience with disgraced Detective Louis Scarcella, should serve as a call to action for Ms. Clark.
In March 2013, David Ranta’s exoneration led former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes to begin a comprehensive re-investigation of cases handled by the now-infamous Detective Scarcella. Faced with the public’s growing awareness of the problem of wrongful convictions; numerous reports of troubling behavior by the former detective; and an electoral challenge from Kenneth P. Thompson, who would ultimately unseat him; District Attorney Hynes charged his Conviction Integrity Unit with reviewing a large number of Scarcella-related convictions. District Attorney Thompson and his successor, current District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, have continued that effort, which thus far has resulted in a staggering 14 exonerations attributable to Detective Scarcella, with more likely to come. The systematic review of Mr. Scarcella’s work has uncovered troubling patterns by the detective and his colleagues, including the extraction of false confessions, subornation of perjury, and suppression of exculpatory evidence. That process was greatly facilitated by conviction review prosecutors’ working collaboratively with defense attorneys to investigate suspected wrongful convictions and, where appropriate, to correct them.
Mr. Burton’s recent exoneration highlights indicia of a similar pattern in the Bronx. The detectives responsible for Mr. Burton’s conviction – Frank Viggiano, Stanley Schiffman, and Sevelie Jones – are linked to other alarming allegations suggesting what may be a pattern of misconduct. Mr. Burton’s lawyers with the Innocence Project identified the case of Dennis Coss and Kelvin Parker, two young men from whom the same trio of Bronx detectives procured confessions that led to murder charges later dismissed after the confessions were exposed as false. Two of the three detectives – Viggiano and Schiffman – were also responsible for the conviction of Calvin Buari, another recent exoneree whose case involved subornation of perjury and suppression of exculpatory evidence. The connection of Mr. Burton’s case to Mr. Buari’s has not yet been reported by the media.
In the aftermath of Mr. Burton’s exoneration, District Attorney Clark evidently told the New York Times that her office would review other cases these detectives had worked on. She also told the Times, however, that what these detectives did to Mr. Burton “was not necessarily wrong” because “that is the way things were done then.”
District Attorney Clark now has the opportunity to demonstrate her commitment to the prevention and correction of wrongful convictions. Ms. Clark has already taken great strides in that regard, including her decision to hire wrongful conviction expert Seth Steed, who as deputy chief of the Bronx Conviction Integrity Unit was instrumental in the Burton exoneration, though he has since moved on the run the Neighborhood Defenders Services of Harlem’s criminal defense practice. By focusing on what Brooklyn has done right – in particular, the systematic review of convictions tied to investigators behind other known wrongful convictions, and a focus on cooperation with defense counsel – the Bronx may be able to right many more wrongs. Ms. Clark should now advance that process with the utmost haste and commitment.
David B. Shanies is a civil rights attorney in New York and has handled numerous cases involving wrongful convictions attributed to Detective Louis Scarcella, including those of Carlos Davis, Vanessa Gathers and Shawn Williams.
OCTOBER 23, 2018
SHANIES LAW WINS FEDERAL JURY TRIAL IN GROUNDBREAKING TRANSGENDER CIVIL RIGHTS CASE
David B. Shanies and Joel A. Wertheimer, together with co-counsel from Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, recently won a groundbreaking civil rights case on behalf of a transgender inmate incarcerated at the Suffolk County jail on Long Island.
The jury held two Suffolk County jail doctors liable for violating Jessica Sunderland’s civil rights by refusing to provide her prescribed hormone therapy medications throughout her 16-month incarceration in the county jail. The jury assessed punitive damages against the jail’s medical director for his unconstitutional conduct. In his summation, David told the jury that the case was about “every person’s right to be treated with dignity and humanity and fairness,” a right, he added, “that does not stop when you walk through the door of a jail.”
The verdict was the first of its kind, in holding jail officials liable for violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by denying hormone therapy medication to a transgender inmate.
OCTOBER 20, 2018
DAVID B. SHANIES SPEAKS AT FEDERAL BAR COUNCIL PRESENTATION ON LGBTQ DISCRIMINATION
David spoke on Saturday as part of a panel of judges and attorneys addressing the Federal Bar Council’s Fall Bench & Bar Retreat on the Second Circuit’s recent decision in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., a case in which the en banc circuit court overruled its prior precedent to hold that sexual orientation-based discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
David coordinated the panel, which included Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Peter Barbur of Cravath Swaine & Moore, Erin Harrist of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Marjorie Berman of Krantz & Berman LLP. The panel explored the Zarda decision, the treatment of sexual orientation under Title VII by other courts throughout the country, and other recent developments and trends involving sexual orientation and identity under Title VII anti-discrimination law.
JULY 27, 2018
SHANIES LAW SETTLES QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR FALSE ARREST CASE
The David B. Shanies Law Office, together with co-counsel from the Law Offices of Joel B. Rudin, recently settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York and numerous police officers for a wrongful arrest in December 2012.
As reported in the New York Post, on Christmas Day 2012, NYPD detectives responding to a subway robbery arrested three young men who did not fit the victim's description and who the victim told police were not his attackers. While in custody at the station house, the men overheard one officer say he would not release them because “he needed to make overtime money in order to put a new roof on his house,” the Post reported. The District Attorney declined to prosecute the young men, but police continued to hold them in custody for hours longer. After fighting the case for years, the City settled on the eve of trial for a total sum exceeding a quarter million dollars.
The New York Post reported that two of the arresting officers coincidentally shared names with characters from Brooklyn Nine Nine, a Fox comedy series about a fictitious Brooklyn detective squad. “Jake and Amy would not approve,” David told the Post, referring to the TV comedy detectives who somehow show more professionalism than their real-life namesakes. “A group of New York City police officers arrested three young men for a crime they knew they did not commit . . . That wouldn’t be funny if it happened on a TV show.”
march 16, 2018
SHANIES LAW CLIENT DEFEATS DISMISSAL BID IN New Jersey WRONGFUL CONVICTION LAWSUIT
On March 14, 2018, the David B. Shanies Law Office received a favorable decision from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in the case of Emmanuel Mervilus, a client who was wrongfully convicted of robbery in 2008 based on false polygraph evidence concocted by law enforcement agents in Union County, New Jersey. The federal court rejected all of the arguments Union County made in support of its motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The decision was covered in the New Jersey Law Journal on March 16, 2018.
JANUARY 10, 2018
shanies law FILES SUIT IN TRANSGENDER INMATES' RIGHTS CASE
On January 10, 2018, the David B. Shanies Law Office filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a transgender client formerly incarcerated at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead, New York. The suit alleges that the former inmate was "subjected to weeks of mistreatment" by the County Jail and its staff, including the denial of necessary medical care, punitive segregation solely on account of her transgender status, and both verbal and physical abuse. The suit is pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The filing was covered in New York Newsday on January 10, 2018.
DECEMBER 8, 2017
shanies law OBTAINS $14 MILLION FOR WRONGFULLY CONVICTED MAN
On December 7, 2017, the David B. Shanies Law Office settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York, the second wrongful conviction action brought by Ruddy Quezada, who was exonerated in 2015. News of the settlement was first reported by ProPublica and the New York Daily News, both of which extensively covered the case in its criminal post-conviction and civil litigation phases. The settlements, which represent one of the largest recoveries for a wrongful conviction in New York State history, were widely covered by dozens of media outlets.
“I'm very happy that this settlement will allow Ruddy to live the rest of his life in peace and comfort after the nightmare he endured,” David told the Daily News. “Even $14 million can't give him back 24 years, but this is a just resolution to a very troubling case.”
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017
shanies ANNOUNCES THE HIRING OF JOEL A. WERTHEIMER, LITIGATOR AND FORMER AIDE TO OBAMA, CUOMO
The David B. Shanies Law Office today announced that Joel A. Wertheimer, former Staff Secretary to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Associate Staff Secretary to President Barack Obama, is joining the firm’s litigation practice.
Mr. Wertheimer began his career with South Brooklyn Legal Services, a non-profit legal services organization working toward racial, social, and economic justice for low-income New Yorkers.
Mr. Wertheimer later joined two leading international law firms, Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP, where he worked on a broad spectrum of commercial litigation, arbitration, and antitrust matters.
From 2013 to 2014, Mr. Wertheimer clerked for the Honorable Lorna G. Schofield, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
Beginning in 2015, Mr. Wertheimer served in the White House under President Obama, remaining through the end of the President’s term. Beginning in January 2017, Mr. Wertheimer served as Governor Cuomo’s Staff Secretary before deciding to return to the active practice of law.
“Joel’s distinguished background in both government and private practice, including his litigation and clerkship experience, will be a tremendous addition to our firm,” said David B. Shanies, the firm’s founder and principal attorney. “I am thrilled, both for the firm and especially for our clients, that Joel is joining the team.”
JUNE 29, 2017
DAVID B. SHANIES RECEIVES THE FEDERAL BAR COUNCIL'S THURGOOD MARSHALL AWARD FOR EXCEPTIONAL PRO BONO SERVICE
Today David was honored by the Federal Bar Council, which presented him with its Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service. The Marshall award was presented by Federal Bar Council President David Schaefer and Public Service Committee Chairman Lewis Liman during the Federal Bar Council's Summer Kick-Off Reception at Battery Gardens in Lower Manhattan.
David was introduced at the award ceremony by Edward J.M. Little, Partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and Chair of the firm's White Collar group. Mr. Little, who worked with David on numerous pro bono cases at Hughes Hubbard, described David's tireless pro bono work on cases involving wrongful convictions, prisoners' rights, LGBTQ rights, workplace and housing discrimination, and police misconduct. David's co-recipient of the award, Mary Eaton, was honored for her own outstanding pro bono work, including high-profile wins in the areas of transgender rights and marriage equality. Mary was introduced by Judith Goldiner, Attorney-In-Charge of the Legal Aid Society's Civil Law Reform Unit.
The award ceremony was covered by the New York Law Journal.
MAY 26, 2017
shanies law SCORES IMPORTANT WIN IN FEDERAL WRONGFUL CONVICTION SUIT
Yesterday David and his co-counsel, Ronald L. Kuby, notched an important victory in Carlos Davis' wrongful conviction lawsuit. Mr. Davis was exonerated through the Brooklyn District Attorney's comprehensive investigation of cases handled by disgraced NYPD detective Louis Scarcella. David and Ron filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in July 2016. Yesterday the Court issued its ruling on the City's motion to dismiss the suit, rejecting most of the City's arguments and denying the bid for dismissal.
"This is a positive first step that will allow the case to go forward," David told the New York Daily News. "We look forward to proving our client's claims."
MAY 9, 2017
shanies law OBTAINS $4.5 MILLION FOR WRONGFULLY CONVICTED MAN
Today the New York Daily News and ProPublica covered David's recent multi-million dollar settlement of a wrongful conviction lawsuit in the New York Court of Claims. We are very proud of the outstanding result we achieved for our client and our ongoing efforts to obtain justice for the wrongfully convicted.
MARCH 13, 2017
DAVID B. SHANIES critiques queens d.a.'s opposition to conviction review units
The New York Law Journal published David's Letter to the Editor regarding Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's staunch refusal to join the nationwide trend toward establishing independent "conviction review" units to investigate possible wrongful convictions.
D.A. Brown wrote a Letter to the Editor last week, explaining that he does not support a specialized unit to review suspect convictions because "every man and woman" in the D.A.'s Office shares the responsibility to prevent miscarriages of justice from occurring.
In response, David argued that independent and specialized review units are far more effective in identifying and correcting wrongful convictions than an "ad hoc" approach entrusted to the very prosecutors who obtained the suspect convictions and their close colleagues. David noted that a growing number of prosecutors, including those in three of the five boroughs of New York City, have come to recognize the value of independent conviction review units as a prosecutorial "best practice."
In 2014, David authored the New York City Bar Association's recommendations to then-newly elected Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson regarding the D.A.'s expanded and revitalized conviction review unit. Mr. Thompson's groundbreaking work in this area has received national attention and has been hailed as "visionary." David has commended Mr. Thompson and his successor, Eric Gonzalez, for their noteworthy efforts to correct wrongful convictions, and David's own work on wrongful conviction cases (including his recent work on the cases of Ruddy Quezada, Carlos Davis, and Vanessa Gathers) keeps him engaged in this important and developing area of the law.
NOVEMBER 28, 2016
shanies law FILES WRONGFUL CONVICTION LAWSUIT FOR RUDDY QUEZADA
Today David filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Brooklyn exoneree Ruddy Quezada in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Ruddy Quezada served nearly 24 years in prison before his conviction was vacated on the basis of egregious prosecutorial misconduct uncovered during post-conviction legal proceedings.
Ruddy's story has received widespread media coverage, in particular because his case helped to expose former Brooklyn D.A. Charles J. Hynes' "Hotel Custody" program, which then-challenger Kenneth P. Thompson assailed as "Guantanamo on the Hudson" and a practice with "no place in a civilized society."
“Despite the great changes that Ken Thompson and Eric Gonzalez brought to the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, the Charles Hynes regime inflicted many wounds that have yet to be healed," David told The Daily News.
Press coverage of the filing is available here:
OCTOBER 13, 2016
shanies law WINS on SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION FOR POLICE SHOOTING VICTIM
David won a swift and decisive victory in a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a 15 year-old boy shot numerous times by a New York City police officer in Brooklyn. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York took only a month to rule in favor of David's client and against the City, which sought to dismiss the case on summary judgment and without a trial. The Court ruled that "a reasonable jury could conclude" that the 15 year-old boy "did not pose an immediate risk of harm" and, therefore, that his shooting was unjustified.
“We are pleased by the Court's decision,” David told the New York Daily News. "This is a tremendously important issue and case, and we are eager to bring the facts to light at trial.”
The Daily News sparked international coverage of the case after obtaining video laying waste to the police officer's claim his 16 shots were justified because the boy repeatedly pointed a toy pistol at him as he chased the boy through the public housing project in Brownsville, Brooklyn — which the video shows never happened.
Press coverage of the victory is available here:
AUGUST 26, 2016
shanies law represents victim of unjust police shooting
David recently joined the legal team representing Keston Charles, a 15 year-old African-American boy shot without justification by a New York City police officer in December 2013. The New York Daily News sparked international coverage of the case after obtaining video refuting the officer's claim that a toy gun was repeatedly pointed at him when he fired 16 shots at the boy, striking him three times. The Daily News reported that surveillance video "clearly shows Charles running with his back to the cops" when the officer began shooting, and "the 15-year-old posed no threat at the time" he was shot in the chest, leaving him in a three-week coma.
JULY 1, 2016
shanies law Files Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court
Today David and his co-counsel, Ronald L. Kuby, filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. David and Ron’s client, Carlos Davis, was exonerated after a re-investigation of his conviction by the Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit. Mr. Davis was wrongfully convicted of illegal gun possession in 1991 based on the testimony of a single witness – testimony that the Conviction Review Unit found was false. The filing was covered in various news sources, including The New York Daily News, The New York Post, and Courthouse News Service.
Press coverage of the lawsuit is available here:
JUNE 16, 2016
David B. Shanies Is Honored At Federal Bar Council Event
Today David was recognized for his pro bono work along with 18 other members of the Federal Bar Council at the First Decade Committee's Summer Kick-Off Reception at Battery Gardens in Lower Manhattan.
Federal Bar Council President Vilia Hayes commended David for his outstanding pro bono work on the Ruddy Quezada and Vanessa Gathers wrongful conviction cases, together with his work on behalf of transgender inmates in Suffolk County, New York.
JUNE 16, 2016
shanies law E-Discovery Win in Federal Court Covered By Bloomberg Law
David and his former colleagues at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP represent Ms. Sunderland in her civil rights case against Suffolk County and certain medical staff at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility. The lawsuit alleges that Suffolk County refused Ms. Sunderland's requests for necessary medical treatment for gender dysphoria and engaged in a pattern of denying care to transgender inmates.
JUNE 7, 2016
David B. Shanies Is Honored at New York Law Journal "Rising Stars" Event
David and other recipients of the award, whom the Journal recognized as "attorneys ages 40 and under who have established a record of accomplishments and demonstrated that they are top contributors to the practice of law and their communities," were then honored at a reception at the Manhattan Penthouse.
JUNE 2, 2016
DAVID B. SHANIES IS appointed to city bar federal courts committee
David was appointed to a three-year term on the Federal Courts Committee of the New York City Bar Association.
The Federal Courts Committee addresses a wide range of issues concerning the practice of law in the federal courts, including amendments to the Federal Rules, judicial nominations, electronic discovery, and application of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Committee also publishes a Handbook for Appeals to the Second Circuit.
David currently serves on the City Bar's Criminal Law Committee and its Subcommittee on Brooklyn Conviction Review.
may 31, 2016
shanies law files sex abuse lawsuit against nyc luxury spa
The New York York Daily News, New York Post, Gothamist, and other news outlets covered the filing of a five million dollar lawsuit by a young woman who was sexually abused by an unlicensed fiend masquerading as a massage therapist at Aire Ancient Baths, an upscale spa in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan.
The suit alleges that the spa negligently employed the abuser despite his lack of a professional license and two recent customer complaints reporting similar incidents of sexual misconduct at the spa.
"My client wants more than anything to prevent assaults like the one she was subjected to from happening to anyone else," David was quoted as saying by the New York Daily News.
"Spa businesses like Aire have a responsibility to put their clients in the hands of professionals, not predators," David was quoted as saying by the New York Post.
Press coverage of the lawsuit is available here:
april 5, 2016
david B. shanies is honored as one of the new york law journal's "rising stars"
The New York Law Journal named David Shanies as one of its "Rising Stars" for 2016.
David was among a group of young lawyers selected by a panel of 24 esteemed judges to honor "attorneys ages 40 and under who have established a record of accomplishments and demonstrated that they are top contributors to the practice of law and their communities."
Profiles of the 2016 Rising Stars will appear in a New York Law Journal special section on June 7th.
FEBRUARY 24, 2016
VANESSA GATHERS IS EXONERATED, HER 1998 MANSLAUGHTER CONVICTION VACATED
In the summer of 2013, David Shanies began working with Hughes Hubbard & Reed and The Legal Aid Society to review the conviction of their client, Vanessa Gathers: one of more than 50 cases involving the infamous former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella.
David's work on the case included coordinating the factual investigation and organizing an information-sharing network among the lawyers and law firms working on the Scarcella conviction integrity reviews. David supplemented that work as a member of the Subcommittee on Brooklyn Conviction Review, under the aegis of the New York City Bar Association's Criminal Law Committee. In that capacity, David authored a letter signed by the President of the City Bar to newly elected District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson, making recommendations for the conviction integrity review process on behalf of the 24,000 members of the City Bar.
On February 23, 2016, Ms. Gathers' conviction was vacated in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The Gathers legal team presented a compelling case that Ms. Gathers was wrongfully convicted based on a false confession extracted by Scarcella. Brooklyn District Attorney Thompson told reporters that he intended not only to see Ms. Gathers' conviction vacated, but "to give her her good name back."
Highlighting the importance of this case, Ms. Gathers' was the first exoneration hearing that the District Attorney attended in person.
David is proud and elated by the result the Gathers team achieved. Press coverage of the exoneration is available here:
The press release by Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, David's former firm, celebrated David and Hughes Hubbard Partner Marc Weinstein's recent involvement in the Ruddy Quezada case as well:
For Hughes Hubbard, and Messrs. Weinstein and Shanies specifically, this is the second exoneration from a wrongful murder conviction achieved in the past seven months. Both lawyers were involved also in a Brooklyn state court proceeding seeking a new trial for incarcerated Firm pro bono client Ruddy Quezada. Weinstein and Shanies succeeded in overturning that conviction by proving that prosecutors had withheld from the defense crucial evidence about a witness who was arrested and held captive in a hotel to compel him to testify for the government at trial. Mr. Quezada was released after serving nearly 24 years in prison.
Hughes Hubbard's press release is available here:
NOVEMBER 9, 2015
DAVID B. SHANIES RECEIVES the PRO BONO PUBLICO AWARD
On November 9, 2015, David Shanies received the Legal Aid Society's 2016 Pro Bono Publico award for providing exceptional legal services to the Legal Aid Society and its clients. David and his colleagues on the Vanessa Gathers team were selected for the award based on their work on the Kings County Homicide Conviction Review Project, an initiative through which Legal Aid teamed up with New York City's leading law firms to review problematic convictions connected to disgraced former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella.
David's contributions to the Project included coordinating the defense teams' joint investigation into Scarcella's alleged misconduct. In that capacity, he managed a team of investigators, administered an information-sharing network for the Legal Aid and private lawyers working on the Conviction Review Project, and led joint defense strategy meetings.
New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman presided over the event and presented the awards at The Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan.