Koehler & Isaacs Wins Significant Legal Victory for NYC Correction Officers

State Supreme Court Judge Acknowledges, for the First Time, That the City Has Failed to Keep Correction Officers Safe, Gives The Green Light for Potentially Precedent-Setting Case

By: Steven Isaacs & Liam Castro

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association brought a case, by its attorneys Koehler and Isaacs LLP, and the first of its kind in New York, against the City because of its failure to provide to correction officers proper training to deal with, and equipment to protect themselves against violent inmates. COBA believes the City’s failures have resulted, and continue to result in unnecessary, preventable, and serious injuries to its members. This is unacceptable.

The City asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the action because it believed this involved a dispute over tactics, over which the Court has no jurisdiction. On July 12, 2019, the Court released its decision entirely rejecting the City’s argument. The Supreme Court held the City failed to address the danger caused by violent inmates. “This systematic failure is due, in large part, to DOC’s decision not to properly train and equip correction officers so that they can maintain order and security in the jail system, and protect themselves and others from these dangerous inmates…” The City had “not shown that DOC has implemented the controls mandated by the (Workplace Violence Law) or conducted risk assessments for incidents of violence, or defused areas of concern by taking mitigating steps, such as considering the propensities of a part of a jail population, as well as properly training and equipping correction officers to address some of these problems.”

COBA General Counsel Steven Isaacs said that he “hopes the City, instead of the usual defensive reaction and appeal, carefully examines the Judge’s reasoning and addresses the violence in the jails by ensuring it provide proper training and equipment to protect correction officers. Furthermore, the Judge’s decision in this case can benefit all municipal employees in the state whose employers are not properly addressing and protecting them from injuries.”

“In 2013 the NYS Department of Labor found 5 serious systematic violations of the law by the City’s Correction Department,” said COBA Director of Legal Affairs Marc Steier. “Since then, and particularly under the current union administration, the COBA has constantly pointed out the ineffectual Workplace Violence program at the Department. This is a historic judicial decision that gives all municipal workers a meaningful avenue of redress. The Judge’s denunciation of the Department’s reckless disregard of Officer’s safety validates what we have always known – Correction Officers did not “sign up” to be punching bags for inmates or cannon fodder for political ends. Unbelievably, the City’s attorneys made this very argument and even suggested the matter unworthy of judicial review. The reality is that the Department has a special relationship to keep its workers safe – a relationship they have long ignored in favor of so-called reform changes that make everyone unsafe. Perhaps with Judge Rubén Franco’s assistance, we can finally see sanity restored along with security.”

DAILY NEWS – Mercedes Maldonado, proves why K&I is the law firm union members turn to when defending their employment rights!

Correction officer fired after being injured at work settles suit with DOC

Chelsea Rose Marcius, New York Daily News
July 14, 2019

Correction Officer Michael Dispigno is back on the job after winning a wrongful termination suit against the Department of Correction that stemmed from his treatment for damage to his right knee, union officials told the Daily News.

Dispigno, 27, tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus while going through an agility course at the DOC academy in Middle Village, Queens in February 2016 — hearing a sickening pop, but treating the pain with ice packs and reporting to work the next day.

But when the pain persisted, the Brooklyn officer went to a doctor, who told him he needed surgery. The DOC’s Health Management Division approved his time off for the procedure.

Dispigno had the operation, but opted out of full ACL reconstruction that would’ve required a much longer post-surgical rehabilitation — and a lot of missed work time.

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DAILY NEWS – Koehler & Isaacs -Wrongfully fired Rikers Island correction officer wins legal fight to regain her job, collect back pay

Wrongfully fired Rikers Island correction officer wins legal fight to regain her job, collect back pay

by: Ellen Moynahan

While most folks on Rikers Island are eager to get out, Benita Sims fought her way back in.

The fired correction officer reached a June 19 settlement where the city agreed to reinstate her job, plus kick in more than $40,000 in back pay, after a legal battle over her dismissal last year, according to her attorneys.

Sims, 40, was canned barely two years after suffering an assortment of injuries when targeted by a pair of teenage inmates inside the notorious facility. She even received three positive evaluations from her supervisors in the months after the painful June 20, 2016, assault.

“I was just (badge) number 6462,” she told the Daily News about her firing. “They did not care about Benita Sims. They didn’t care about the officer who had got hurt by an inmate and who had stitches.”

Sims was working as support staff in 2016 at the Robert N. Devoren Complex, where juvenile offenders were housed. She had just escorted three boys, each shackled and fitted with thick mitts because of behavioral issues, to a classroom. The problems began when a teen in the adjoining room started screaming at the kids under Sims’ watch.

At that point, one of the boys in the classroom with Sims went after her — “he’s pushing, trying to hit me, I put my arm up to try and block him,” she recalled. “On the other side of me there was a boy sitting down, and at the time it hadn’t appeared that he had done anything. But when they rolled the videotapes back he’s the reason why I fell. I had the boy over me this way, and he actually snatched the chair.”

Sims injured her thumb, shoulder and foot when she landed hard on the floor. Subsequent MRIs in July and September showed ligament tears in all three locations.

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LUSO AMERICANO – Koehler & Isaacs – A Winning Bet in the Portuguese Community

About two years ago, the New York law firm, Koehler & Isaacs, decided to bet on the City of Newark and its surrounding areas. The firm, founded in 1999, by Richard J. Koehler, began operating in New York and soon put their mark on the legal system of the big city. Koehler, a renowned lawyer in the area of labor relations and a former Correction Commissioner and Chief of Personnel in the New York City Police Department, partnered with Steven Isaacs, a veteran lawyer in criminal defense who also specializes in labor issues.

Currently, the firm has 23 lawyers who specialize in various areas of law.

“Investing in Newark was a big step,” says Richard Koehler, who highlights their work and proven results, especially in labor issues, on behalf ethnic communities, such as the Portuguese, Brazilian, and Hispanic populations. “We have many Portuguese and Brazilian clients who we helped compensate for large damages,” says the lawyer proud of the investments he made.

Recently, Koehler & Isaacs received the distinguished “Heart and Soul Award” assigned by Lusamedia at the 9th Grand Night of Fado at the Mediterranean Manor in Newark.

“Of course we like to be recognized. It was fantastic to celebrate such an important honor with the Portuguese community and we look forward to continue to help the community at our local office at 26 Ferry Street,” said Koehler to LusoAmericano.

The law firm has employees who speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese that are always willing to assist the community in any way they can.

Read the full article here

DAILY NEWS – Koehler & Isaacs Attorney, David Kirsch, Is Quoted in The Daily News After Winning a Big Dismissal for NYC CO

Daily News
DA cuts up jail guard razor rap – Took grooming tool to work

THE BRONX district attorney’s office has dropped felony charges against a correction officer who was accused of trying to smuggle a razor-edged tool into Rikers Island.

Charlie Bracey, 47, of Queens, was arrested after officers found a multitool wrapped in black electrical tape inside his backpack on Oct.10.

Bracey insisted he forgot he was carrying the tool when he came to work — and that he never intended to sell itto inmates.

He got the tool as part of a subscription to Birchbox, an online service that sends customers several grooming items each month. The multitool was part of a promotion for the movie “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”in September.

Bracey said he used the gadget as a can opener and wrapped the bottom in black tape because it began to tear. Crooked officers and inmates often use tape to prevent weapons from being spotted by metal detectors.

Before he was screened coming to work, Bracey complained to officers manning the metal detectors about new stringent checks. “I really believe the rant I went on had some thing to do with it,” he said.”You bruise people’s egos when you challenge what they are doing.”

The Correction Department captain on duty told him to just bring the tool back to his car. But a Department of Investigation boss at the scene took the offense more seriously, photographing the tool and ordering his arrest. Bracey spent a night in Bronx central booking before a judge released him on his own recognizance.

“I was in denial,” he recalled. “I didn’t want to believe it was happening.”

At home, his wife of 16 years, Lillian, scrambled to assess their finances. “She was a rock,” he said. “She came up with a plan of action for what we hoped would be ashort period of unemployment.”

Bracey was his family’s sole support of the family. His wife takes care of the couple’s autistic daughter, Genesis,7.

Correction colleagues took up a collection and Bracey’s in-laws and siblings helped out with the mounting bills. “I was lucky in this situation to have such a strong family,” he said.

On Monday, after two meetings with Bronx prosecutors, the case was dismissed. Bronx DA spokeswoman Terry Raskyn declined to detail why the case was tossed other than “there would not have been enough evidence to prove charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Charles Bracey’s lawyer hailed the decision. “The only one who wanted him arrested was DOI,” said attorney David Kirsch, 36.

DOI has been behind the arrest for discipline of more than 50 officers since 2014 as the city desperately tries to stop the smuggling of contraband in to jails, records show.

“They are trying to fight certain systemic issues that have been going on for years,” Kirsch said. “He was the unfortunate victim of a press release.”

The Department of Investigation “stands behind the facts referred to the Bronx district attorney,” said spokeswoman Diane Struzzi. “As the prosecuting authority, they are the appropriate entity to comment on decisions regarding prosecution of the case.”Bracey has been notified by the Correction Department that he will be reinstated within the next few days. But he may still face departmental charges, where the bar is lower than that of criminal court.”I’m very much looking forward to going back to work,” Bracey said.