Friday, June 19, 2020

SJLC Stands in Solidarity with Those Fighting Government-Sanctioned Violence Against our Black Communities and Speaking Out in Favor of Comprehensive Police Reforms

JUNETEENTH, 2020 - The Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC) and its member attorneys condemn the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black people who have been victims of police violence and racist oppression, and join with the growing movement calling for systematic reforms in policing, housing, and other social service areas for which Black communities have long been denied equal access and treatment.  As we deeply mourn these deaths, we recognize that they are only the most recent examples of a deeper current of racialized police brutality that pervades our law enforcement institutions and which has existed since their inception.  We stand in solidarity with those fighting oppression and unequivocally join them in stating that Black Lives Matter.

We also condemn the brutal and violent tactics that militarized police forces around the country have used against demonstrators seeking to have their voices heard.  We’ve seen protesters beaten, pepper sprayed, tear gassed, and in some cases shot and killed.  We stand in solidarity with them as well, and with everyone working to correct our nation’s legacy of systemic racism.  We also wholeheartedly support the removal of government-sponsored statues, flags, and other monuments that glorify historical proponents and symbols of slavery, and which have long stood in the way of the healing that is so desperately needed.  

The Social Justice Law Collective strives to dismantle modern forms of racist oppression such as the prison industrial complex, the criminalization of poverty, and systemic discrimination in housing, employment, and in places of public accommodation.  We are dedicated to working with and supporting people who have been victims of violence, discrimination, and the harsh criminal justice policies that have led to mass incarceration.  Our litigation and advocacy is just one form of resistance to these modern-day tools of oppression.

As we mourn the needless death and violence, we are encouraged by the many people taking to the streets demanding justice.  We hope this critical moment marks a shift toward true systemic change.  In the meantime, we will keep fighting for our clients and communities, lifting up their voices during this struggle.

Donate to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement here »
Visit SJLC's website here »

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Court Approves Preliminary Settlement in Class Action Lawsuit Against Florida Department of Corrections for Confiscation of Millions of Dollars of Digital Music

MIAMI/TALLAHASSEE/TAMPA BAY – Today, a federal judge preliminarily approved a settlement resolving a statewide class action lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) involving the confiscation of million of dollars of lawfully purchased digital music from incarcerated people in Florida. The settlement requires the FDOC to provide 3.9 million credits for class members to use in the current Multimedia Tablet Program that is available to people in prison, which will enable all class members to replace as many or more songs than they had purchased in the previous program.

The lawsuit, filed in February 2019, explained that the FDOC for several years permitted incarcerated people to purchase and listen to digital songs on media players while in prison, with the FDOC receiving a commission on each song purchase.  But when the FDOC decided to switch program vendors, it required participants to surrender their digital media players, cut off access to their songs, and did not permit any of the songs to be transferred to the new program.  If participants wanted to access their purchased music, they had to re-purchase it in the new program.  The Complaint alleged that these actions violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“We are pleased that this resolution restores the class members’ ability to use what they purchased: the right to listen to their chosen music while in prison,” said FJI Executive Director Dante Trevisani. “We hope this case sends a message that the property of incarcerated people cannot just be indiscriminately taken.”

The settlement, which is still subject to final approval by the Court, requires the FDOC to provide 3.9 million credits to roughly 11,000 class members that will enable them to replace as many or more songs than they had purchased in the previous program, or use them for any purpose in the current Multimedia Tablet Program.  The FDOC has also agreed to pay $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The plaintiffs and class representatives are William Demler, Wayne Pula, and Michael Gisi, all of whom purchased hundreds of songs through the previous program, only to have them confiscated by the FDOC without compensation.  They, along with the class members, were promised by the program’s advertisements that they would always own the music they purchased—a promise that turned out to be empty.  Now, as a result of their efforts, and this lawsuit, their property will be restored.

“These men and women, many of whom are indigent, spent lots of hard-earned money on this music,” said SJLC attorney Shawn Heller. “We hope this case informs the way the FDOC approaches the end of the contract with its current vendor when the time comes.”

The case is Demler v. Inch, Case No. 4:19-CV-0094, and is before Judge Robert Hinkle in the Northern District of Florida.  

CONTACT:  For further information, please contact SJLC attorneys Josh Glickman or Shawn Heller at media@sjlawcollective.com.

Visit SJLC's website here »
Visit FJI's website here »
See the Press Release here »
Read the Complaint here » 
See the Court's Preliminary Approval Order here » 
Read the Notice of Proposed Settlement here »

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against LEGOLAND Florida Resort For Denying Access to Local Nine-Year Old Amputee


Tampa, FL – Today, the Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC) announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Polk County, Florida (LEGOLAND), for repeated violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Florida Civil Rights Act.  The lawsuit challenges LEGOLAND’s policy of denying access to significant portions of its resort to children and other guests who use prosthetic devices, even when such restrictions are not required by reasonable safety concerns.  The lawsuit alleges that these discriminatory restrictions ignore the extraordinary capabilities of such individuals and result in the denial of access to more than half of LEGOLAND’s attractions for thousands of children and families from around the world.
Polk County residents Josias and Sarahy Suarez have brought this lawsuit on behalf of themselves as well as their nine-year old son, Isaias, who was forced to undergo through-knee amputations on both of his legs when he was only one-year old.  A true inspiration, Isaias refuses to let his disability define him, using various-length prosthetics to play baseball, soccer and flag football with his friends and to enjoy camping and hiking with his family.
These abilities are ignored, however, whenever the Suarez Family visits LEGOLAND Florida Resort.  Despite careful planning and communication with LEGOLAND, the Suarez Family has been repeatedly denied access to attraction after attraction at the resort, solely because of Isaias’s prosthetics, with LEGOLAND staff continually singling out and confronting Isaias and his family because of his disability, providing no explanation other than that LEGOLAND policy requires it.
LEGOLAND’s discriminatory treatment of Isaias seems particularly apparent when compared to his treatment at similar amusement parks, including SeaWorld and Walt Disney World Resort in nearby Orlando, Florida, at which Isaias was never asked about his prosthetics and was able to participate in every attraction for which he met the height and ability-based requirements.  Meanwhile, LEGOLAND has repeatedly turned Isaias away from attractions that are designed for infants and toddlers.  “I can’t ride the rides that my family, even my little brother, are riding, even though I’m able to ride them,” said Isaias when describing his treatment by LEGOLAND, “I used to love going to LEGOLAND, now it makes me sad just to think about it.”
“Individuals who use prosthetic devices climb mountains, compete in competitive sports, and otherwise excel at a broad array of physical activities,” said SJLC attorney Shawn Heller, “in 2019, there is simply no excuse for a large amusement park – one designed for children, no less – to enforce such discriminatory and exclusionary policies.”
For further information, please contact Social Justice Law Collective attorneys Shawn Heller or Josh Glickman at media@sjlawcollective.com or (202) 709-5744.

Visit SJLC's website here »
See the Press Release here » 
Read the Complaint here » 

Media Photos: (coming soon)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Florida Department of Corrections for Unlawfully Confiscating Millions of Dollars of Digital Music and Books

MIAMI/TALLAHASEE – Today, the Florida Justice Institute (FJI) and the Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC) announced the filing of a federal class action lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) for confiscating the lawfully purchased digital music and books of thousands of Florida prisoners.  After years of selling digital music and books to Florida prisoners – and realizing millions of dollars in profits from those sales – the FDOC has now implemented a statewide policy forcing Florida prisoners to surrender their digital media players and all of their lawfully purchased music and books, without just compensation.  The Complaint alleges violations of the Takings and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. 

“In effect, the Florida Department of Corrections has stolen millions of dollars of digital music and books from the incarcerated people in its custody,” said FJI Executive Director Dante Trevisani. “This was done merely to obtain a more profitable contract, at the direct expense of incarcerated people and their families.”

William Demler, the named plaintiff in the lawsuit, has brought this lawsuit on behalf of himself and other victims of the FDOC’s unconstitutional policy.  He had purchased over 300 digital songs and books from the FDOC and its prior vendor since 2012.  Now, the FDOC has taken his digital media player and all of his digital songs and books from him.  The FDOC’s explanation is even more callous – in response to the hundreds of formal grievances filed by Mr. Demler and other affected prisoners, the FDOC developed a form response, admitting that the unlawful confiscation of their property was necessary in order for the FDOC and its new vendor to realize additional profits.

According to the lawsuit, the FDOC induced Mr. Demler and other prisoners to purchase the now-confiscated digital music and books by explicitly promising them that they would own any purchased media files forever.  The promises had their intended effect, as from 2011 to 2017, FDOC prisoners purchased nearly 6.7 million digital media files, at a cost of roughly $11.3 million to those prisoners and their families.  However, this promise quickly became meaningless when the FDOC had the opportunity to enter into a more profitable contract with a new vendor. 


“These men and women relied on the representations made by the FDOC and its vendor that, once purchased, they would own these songs and books for the duration of their incarceration,” said SJLC attorney Josh Glickman. “The FDOC’s confiscation of these individuals’ lawfully purchased property – for no reason other than to turn a profit – is unconscionable.”

For further information please contact SJLC attorneys Josh Glickman or Shawn Heller at media@sjlawcollective.com.  

Visit SJLC's website here »
See the Press Release here »
Read the Complaint here » 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Broward County's BB&T Center for Denying Equal Access to Wheelchair Users

Fort Lauderdale, FL – Today, the Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC) announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the BB&T Center, a sports and entertainment arena owned by and located in Broward County, Florida, for repeated violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Broward County residents Bradley and Susan Krause, alleges that the BB&T Center has repeatedly discriminated against wheelchair users in connection with the sale of accessible seating, and challenges the BB&T Center’s failure to adopt policies to ensure that wheelchair users and their companions have an equal opportunity to purchase tickets for accessible seating in the same manner and under the same conditions as all other ticket sales. 

Bradley Krause suffers from Inclusion Body Myositis, a rare neuromuscular disease that causes the progressive deterioration of muscles throughout the body and which has left Bradley completely dependent on a motorized wheelchair in order to ambulate.  While the degenerative nature of Bradley’s condition has severely restricted his ability to engage in many of the activities he once enjoyed, being able to attend concerts with his wife, Susan, is one of the few activities that has remained relatively unaffected.  That is, unless Bradley and Susan want to attend a concert at the BB&T Center.

In order to attend concerts at other arenas, Bradley and Susan typically need only go online and purchase accessible seats for the event, at the same time and in the same manner as anyone else.  For events at the BB&T Center, however, Bradley and Susan will often attempt to purchase tickets for an event only to find that very little – if any – accessible seating is available for purchase.  Instead, the BB&T Center requires that Bradley and Susan purchase their tickets through other methods, which often involve hours or days of research, telephone calls, emails, and messages.

Moreover, even when Bradley and Susan do manage to purchase accessible seating to an event at the BB&T Center, they have often attended those events only to find equipment stored in areas designated for wheelchair users or that areas of accessible seating that were not available for purchase remain empty or filled with individuals who do not require accessible seating.  “Concerts are one of the very few things I am still able to do in my declining health,” Bradley said when discussing the lawsuit, “it is unconscionable for the BB&T Center to have these events and hold that carrot out in front of me, only to then refuse to provide me with equal access to accessible seating.  I bring this lawsuit not just for myself and Susan, but for all wheelchair users and their companions.”


“The goal of this lawsuit is simply to ensure that wheelchair users and their companions have the same access to tickets to popular events as anyone else in society,” said SJLC attorney Josh Glickman, “there is simply no excuse for the BB&T Center – the largest indoor entertainment arena in the state of Florida – to continue to enforce such discriminatory and exclusionary policies.”

For further information please contact SJLC attorneys Josh Glickman or Shawn Heller at media@sjlawcollective.com.  


Visit SJLC's website here »
See the Press Release here »
Read the Complaint here » 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Class Action Filed Against Hospital ER for Outrageously Overcharging Rural Florida Residents for Routine Scans After Auto Accidents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 22, 2017
Crestview, FL – Today, a class action lawsuit has been filed against North Okaloosa Medical Center (“NOMC”), one of only a few hospitals in Okaloosa County, Florida, for outrageously overcharging victims of automobile accidents for CT Scans performed in its emergency department.  This private hospital, owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems (CHS), charges patients who have been in automobile accidents up to 50 times more than other ER patients for the same scans and up to 718% more than auto accident victims who are treated by other ERs in the same community for the same services.  These charges also represent an astonishing 10,000% markup over the hospital’s Medicare-allowable costs for those scans.
George Washington MacNeil, a long-time resident of Okaloosa County, has brought this lawsuit on behalf of himself and other victims of NOMC’s egregious overbilling practices.  Last Fall, Mr. MacNeil was involved in an automobile accident, causing him serious injuries.  More bad luck befell him after paramedics rushed him to the closest hospital – NOMC.  After three hours, and four routine CT Scans, Mr. MacNeil was sent home to recover, only to be shocked weeks later when an invoice from NOMC arrived, charging him over $40,000 for the four scans that were performed.  “I was a victim twice over that day.  To think a hospital, a place that is supposed to protect and heal you, would take advantage of me and other car accident victims like this is unthinkable,” said Mr. MacNeil.
By charging automobile accident victims exorbitant amounts for CT Scans, the hospital has violated the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, which prohibits hospitals from charging such victims unreasonable amounts for medically necessary services.  “We are seeking a declaration from the Court that these charges violate the law, and commend Mr. MacNeil for taking a stand on behalf of his friends and neighbors who also were overcharged for CT Scans in the emergency department following a car accident,” said attorney Richard Bennett.
Plaintiff George Washington MacNeil is represented by Bennett & Bennett, the Social Justice Law Collective, and local counsel Powell, Powell & Powell, of Crestview, Florida.  The lawsuit was filed in Okaloosa County Circuit Court and is entitled George Washington MacNeil v. Crestview Hospital Corporation, d/b/a North Okaloosa Medical Center.
CONTACT:
Richard Bennett, Bennett & Bennett
(305) 444-5925, richardbennett27@gmail.com, www.bennettlawmiami.com

Joshua Glickman, Social Justice Law Collective
(913) 213-3064, josh@sjlawcollective.com, www.sjlawcollective.com


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