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Litigation Group Wins Appeal in Anti-Discrimination Case Against a Long Island Country Club Which Denied Admission Based on Religion

In a case discussed in the Wall Street Journal on June 25, 2009, Russell Penzer, Partner in the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group, recently won a decision in the Appellate Division, Second Department, in a major anti-discrimination action against a Long Island country club. Our client is a member of a club that admitted members based upon a quota system that sought to “balance” the number of Jewish members (“J” members), Christian members (“C” members), those with mixed marriages (“M” members), and those classified as “O” for others. The client challenged this practice as a form of illegal discrimination, noting that persons who would have otherwise gained admission to the club were excluded due to their religion if their admission would upset the club’s religious “balance.” In an action before the New York State Division of Human Rights, Mr. Penzer successfully argued that country clubs that open themselves to various uses by non-members, as the client’s club did, are “places of public accommodation” and, as such, are covered by the state Human Rights Law. These types of clubs, therefore, may not accept or reject members based upon a religious or racial litmus test. The initial decision by an administrative law judge who presided over the hearing on the matter was adopted by the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights and confirmed by the Appellate Division in February 2009 decision. This case is likely to have far-reaching implications for country clubs in New York State. Any club that permits non-members to use facilities or services in some fashion is now deemed covered by the Human Rights Law. Any such club, therefore, that engages in discriminatory admissions or membership practices no longer has the ability to shield those practices from the requirements of the state’s principal anti-discrimination statute.

Litigation Group Successfully Negotiates Plea Arrangement in Grand Larceny Case

David Lazer of the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group recently negotiated a plea arrangement for a criminal defendant charged with Grand Larceny for stealing more than $38,000.00 from a little league baseball program in a much publicized case. The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office recommended to the Court a sentence of 1-3 years in state prison. Despite that drastic recommendation, the Firm’s attorneys were able to persuade the Court to accept a guilty plea with a sentence of 16 weekends in county jail, plus a term of probation, to which the defendant agreed. Through persistent advocacy, the Firm’s attorneys subsequently convinced the judge to eliminate the jail portion of the sentence entirely and instead impose only a probation term, restitution and community service.

Litigation Group Secures Supreme Court Judgment in Law Firm Partnership Dispute Over Partner Loan

David Lazer of the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group recently secured a significant judgment for a client against a law firm partnership and its surviving partner, who resides and practices law in Florida. The client loaned money to the partnership at the request of his then-attorney, the New York-based partner in the partnership. After loaning the partnership hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years, purportedly secured by a mortgage on the home of the New York attorney, that attorney committed suicide, leaving an unpaid balance on the client’s loans of more than a quarter-million dollars. The client also discovered that the loans were never secured with a mortgage on the attorney’s home; the attorney had forged the his wife’s signature on mortgage documents, pulled the equity out of his home and spent it for his own ends. The Firm commenced an action in New York State Supreme Court against the law firm partnership for failing to repay the loans. After the defendant law firm defended the case throughout, it failed to appear for trial and a default judgment was obtained. The Firm’s attorneys conducted a trial on damages, winning a total judgment for the client in excess of $400,000, including $60,000 in legal fees and costs. Through our Florida office, the Firm converted the client’s New York judgment into a Florida judgment in order to pursue the surviving partner in that state.