Three women were awarded $6.2 million on Tuesday in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit in Bronx County Supreme Court. The women were represented by Scott A. Lucas and Steven M. Sack, two attorneys retained through the New York City Bar Legal Referral Service (LRS), a program that refers screened and qualified lawyers to the public.

After a one month trial, the jury in Santana, et al. v. G.E.B. Medical Management, Inc., et al., 305261-08 awarded the three plaintiffs $4.5 million in compensatory damages, $181,000 in lost wages, and $1.5 million in punitive damages. The Honorable Alison Y. Tuitt presided over the trial.

“The verdict sends a message to all employers that they can’t harass and fire women for being pregnant,” said Lucas, the plaintiff’s lead trial counsel. Sack, their co-trial counsel, said, “We fought this battle for eight long years, and truth and justice prevailed.”

According to the lawsuit, the three plaintiffs worked as administrative employees and were treated as valued members of the team; however, that changed when the employer learned they were pregnant or suspected of being pregnant, and the women were then harassed, falsely accused of poor performance, and fired.

After contacting numerous attorneys who declined to take the case, the plaintiffs contacted the LRS in 2007, which referred them to Lucas and Sack. They were also the lawyers who won a landmark decision from the New York Court of Appeals in 2008 in Samiento v. World Yacht, Inc. on behalf of waiters who were denied the 20% “service charge” commonly added to the bill in lieu of a voluntary tip. That decision made it much harder for restaurants to keep gratuities intended for their wait staffs. That was another case referred through the LRS.

The LRS, a nonprofit sponsored by the New York City Bar Association and the New York County Lawyers Association, was established in 1946 and has up to 100,000 points of contact with the public per year, directing them to experienced lawyers in a wide range of legal fields. The LRS can be reached at 212-626-7373 (212-626-7374 for Spanish speakers) or


Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The New York City Bar Association has evaluated the candidates running in the September 10th Democratic Party primary elections for Civil Court in Kings and New York Counties. The review was conducted by the Association’s Committee on the Judiciary.

The Committee uses two ratings: Approved and Not Approved.  Candidates rated Approved have affirmatively demonstrated qualifications necessary for the performance of the duties of the position for which they are being considered.

Kings County

Civil Court, 6th District

Hon. Michael Gerstein – Approved

Isiris Isela Isaac - Approved

New York County

Civil Court, 8th District

Ta-Tanisha James - Approved

Lisa S. Headley – Approved

Correction to the press release of September 3, 2015: In Kings County, Civil Court, 7th District, as Carolyn Walker-Diallo’s opponent has dropped out of the race, there will be no primary in her district, making her the Democratic candidate in the general election. She has therefore been removed from the list of candidates evaluated by the City Bar for the primary.

Note: To ensure the thoroughness and integrity of the ratings process, the City Bar cannot comment beyond what is provided herein.


Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The Public Service Committee of the City Bar’s New Lawyers Council is collecting new or gently used books for children ages 12 and under, for donation to the New York State Unified Court System’s “Children’s Centers.” This statewide network of centers provides services for the hundreds of young children who accompany caregivers to court appearances every day. In New York City, there are Centers located throughout the five boroughs, run by Safe Horizon. Books in all languages, particularly English and Spanish, are welcome.

Books for donation may be dropped off at the collection station in the lobby of the New York City Bar Association through October 1st. Alternatively, please email Brittney Pescatore to make separate arrangements.


Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on European Affairs recently wrote a letter supporting European Council conclusions adopting provisional measures and urging the adoption by the Council and European Parliament of European Commission proposals to develop a broad and coherent European Migration Agenda. The letter recommends that all EU Member States and others accept responsibility for relocation and resettlement of those asylum applicants who are most vulnerable. Further, the letter recommends that additional proposals be elaborated by the European Commission to continue seeking solutions to the complicated issues affecting the EU, its Member States, citizens in local communities throughout Europe, and the people who have arrived in the EU by whatever means fleeing desperate conditions in their home states and who are in greatest need of protection of their basic legal and social rights.

The letter can be read here:



Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The New York City Bar Association’s Committees on International Human Rights and Asian Affairs authored a letter to the President of the People’s Republic of China to express grave concern regarding the intimidation, arrest, detention, and in many cases ongoing enforced disappearance of 228 – an unprecedented number – of Chinese lawyers, lawyers’ family members, support staff, and human rights and legal activists in a sweeping crackdown that began on July 9th.

These methods – which violate Chinese and international law – are being used against lawyers who were carrying out their duties as legal professionals simply because their work relates to human rights matters and public interest causes. The letter expresses distress that many of those who remain in detention have been denied access to legal counsel and to their families.

The letter urges that the targeted individuals be released, that any ongoing detentions conform to international standards of detention, and that the Chinese government take other steps to ensure that lawyers in China are free to carry out their professional obligation without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference, in conformity with international standards and Chinese domestic law.

The letter may be read here:

Update – August 11, 2015 – Read the editorial mentioning the City Bar’s letter in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

In a letter to the presidents of the Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou Bar Associations, the New York City Bar Association expressed concern over the current draft of the People’s Republic of China Non-Mainland Non-Governmental Organization Management Law with regards to its scope and potential effects.

The letter, prepared by the Committees on Asian Affairs and International Human Rights and signed by City Bar President Debra Raskin, notes that the Association “has long sought to deepen its relationship with and to promote the rule of law in China,” but is generally concerned that “the Draft Law’s ambiguous and potentially expansive breadth, as well as the onerous registration and approval requirements it places on foreign non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”), will unduly discourage many foreign NGOs from engaging in a variety of beneficial exchanges with China.”

The entities covered by the Draft Law span a wide range of sectors, including universities, scientific institutes, charities, environmental and cultural organizations, humanitarian organizations, and trade groups. “Through their participation in China’s growth and progress, such organizations have enabled mutually profitable relationships between China and its most valued international partners in trade, cultural exchange, and strategic cooperation, and have no doubt contributed much to China’s present prosperity and strength.”

However, the letter continues, “unimpeded mutual exchange between China and the rest of the world is a vital part of that process, a process in which foreign NGOs play a crucial role.” As the letter states, the Draft Law “will have numerous negative consequences for China’s ability to import cultural and knowledge capital from the rest of the world,” three of which are most serious:

  • The scope of the Draft Law is ambiguous and potentially overbroad. The Draft Law governs the “activities” of any “not-for-profit, non-governmental social organization established outside of mainland China.” The term “activity” is undefined. This scope of application potentially includes every possible type of foreign NGO, and every possible form of activity it may undertake.
  • The Draft Law stipulates a multi-stage registration and sponsorship process that sets a high cost of compliance. The Draft Law requires that each covered organization seeking to conduct an activity in China obtain both a government sponsor and approval from the ministry of public security, and stipulates an open-ended continuing obligation to submit to monitoring, thereby imposing administrative and compliance costs on organizations, which many would find difficult to sustain.
  • The Draft Law’s ambiguities impose enormous uncertainties, even for organizations that can afford to meet its registration requirements. The Draft Law contains numerous ambiguities, from the lack of specificity as to the criteria upon which an NGO’s application for approval will be assessed, to the lack of specified penalties for violation of the law, which may deter organizations from participating in activities in China regardless of their ability to respond to the law’s stipulations.

For many organizations, including the City Bar, the letter states, “the effort required to respond to the Draft Law’s broad and ambiguous stipulations is unduly burdensome,” and concludes that if China “is to continue reaping the numerous benefits of exchanges that NGOs facilitate, we respectfully request that China seriously re-consider the potential impact and current framework of the Draft Law.”

The letter can be read here:

Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Joseph Tillman, an Associate at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and member of the City Bar’s Diversity Pipeline Initiatives Committee, is the winner of the SoFi #2BillionTogether student loan payoff contest. Joe received more than 14,000 votes to relieve his $170,000 student loan debt. A graduate of New York University School of Law, he served as a Senior Executive Editor on the New York University Law Review and as the Vice-Chair for the Black Allied Law Students Association. Joe is active in mentoring and supporting students in his community and in the legal profession.You can read the moving story Joe wrote to win the contest and watch a video of him getting the good news here.


Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics has issued Formal Opinion (2015-5), stating that an attorney who intends to threaten disciplinary charges against another lawyer should “carefully consider” whether doing so violates the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. Although disciplinary threats do not violate Rule 3.4(e), which applies only to threats of criminal charges, they may violate other Rules.

Rule 3.4(e) arguably comes closest to addressing the issue, as it prohibits lawyers from threatening “to present criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter,” yet it is silent in regards to threatening disciplinary charges. While the plain language of Rule 3.4(e) limits its reach to threats of criminal charges, this does not mean that lawyers are “free to threaten disciplinary charges with impunity,” states the Opinion. As discussed below, other ethical rules impose limits on making such threats.

Under Rule 8.3(a), New York attorneys are required to report certain misconduct by other lawyers.  Specifically, “[a] lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer shall report such knowledge to a tribunal or other authority empowered to investigate or act upon such violation.” Once an attorney concludes that she has a mandatory duty to report another lawyer’s conduct, failure to do so would itself violate Rule 8.4(a), which prohibits a lawyer from “violat[ing] or attempt[ing] to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.” By extension, “threatening to file a disciplinary complaint unless the other lawyer accedes to some demand would, likewise, violate Rule 8.4(a),” even if the attorney who made the threat ultimately reports the other lawyer’s conduct. That said, the Opinion states that “before making a report, an attorney is permitted to confront her adversary with evidence of misconduct to confirm that an ethical violation has occurred.”

Attorneys are not required to report every ethical violation. For instance, an attorney is not required to report conduct that she merely suspects has been committed. However, notes the Opinion, even where an attorney is not required to report unethical conduct, she is permitted to do so, subject to confidentiality restrictions and provided she has a “good faith belief of suspicion that misconduct has been committed.”

“Given that any disciplinary threat must be based on a good faith belief, it necessarily follows that a lawyer may not make a threat she knows to be false,” says the Opinion. Rule 4.1 states that “[i]n the course of representing a client, a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a third person.” This prohibition includes threatening to file a disciplinary grievance that is based on a false statement of fact or law. Such a threat would also violate Rule 8.4(c), which prohibits “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

In addition, making such a threat in a civil or criminal proceeding may also violate Rule 3.1(a), which states that a “lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” According to the Rule, “[a] lawyer’s conduct is ‘frivolous’ if,” inter alia, “the lawyer knowingly asserts material factual statements that are false” or “the conduct . . . serves merely to harass or maliciously injure another.” R. 3.1(b).

Like Rule 3.1(b), Rule 4.4(a) serves to curb misconduct aimed at harming third parties, but applies to all types of representations. Rule 4.4(a) states, inter alia, “[i]n representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass or harm a third person.” Threatening to file a disciplinary complaint against an adversary in order to gain a strategic advantage violates this rule, states the Opinion, “if the threat serves no substantial purpose other than to embarrass or harm the other lawyer or his client.”

Furthermore, notes the Opinion, “We do not believe that the goals of the disciplinary rules are served when an attorney uses a disciplinary threat improperly to create a conflict of interest between another lawyer and his client. There are legitimate options available to the plaintiffs’ attorney to address the misconduct, including seeking sanctions or disqualification.” Additionally, under certain circumstances, threatening to file a disciplinary complaint may also violate New York’s law against extortion or other criminal statutes. 

The Opinion notes that there may be instances in which a threat to report a disciplinary violation is appropriate. “For example, if an attorney suspects another lawyer is unaware that his conduct violates the Rules, it may be appropriate to educate the lawyer about the violation and give him an opportunity to change his conduct, before filing a disciplinary violation. In addition, it may be appropriate to threaten disciplinary action in order to induce the other lawyer to remedy the harm caused by his misconduct, such as returning improperly withheld client funds or correcting a false statement made to the court.” However, given the opportunity for abuse, the Opinion emphasizes that the right to threaten a disciplinary grievance is subject to important limitations, as described in the Opinion.

Ultimately, an attorney intending to threaten disciplinary charges against another lawyer should thoughtfully consider whether doing so violates the New York Rules, because while disciplinary threats do not violate Rule 3.4(e), they may violate other Rules.

The Opinion can be read here:

Posted in New York City Bar Association | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off