Sussman & Associates continues to be at the forefront of efforts to improve the quality of life and justice for those living and working in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Cases we are now hard at work on illustrate the nature of our law practice and the commitments we have.
The last year has been remarkable for its diversity and for our firm's need to move increasingly into areas of law which are made current in our region by attacks on our environment and civil liberties.
Last month, the Town of Mount Pleasant ended the six and one-half year old litigation spawned by the tragic murder of DJ Henry by issuing a joint statement in which its current leaders apologized for the rush to judgment and the false comments prior leaders made in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The joint statement may be found in the Henry section of this web site.
My own comments, released with the joint statement, reflect my abiding love for the Henry family and my belief that the truth-telling function of our legal system was well served in this most awful situation.
We continue to try to bring truth to power:
In April, I had the honor of representing the Wawayanda Six in a two-day bench trial in a local justice court. We presented not only the extraordinary and moving testimony from the participants themselves, but three exceptional scientists who explained how imminent the dangers of global warming are and how the impacts of climate change are experienced in our own neighborhoods.
Additionally, they well explained the dangers posed by CPV, with increased ambient air pollution, increased demand for fracked nature gas provided through an environmentally devastating process. Finally, our medical expert linked these pollutants to increased risks to human health.
As we get ready to argue in the Appellate Division against CPV, the Legoland project winds its way through the Town of Goshen, with a
substantial delay between the receipt of public comments on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement and expected Town Board approval of unreasonable zoning changes meant to facilitate this huge and out-of-place project.
We represent a major citizens group which will challenge approvals provided the project and expect to strongly support a public referendum, objecting to the sale of Town owned parcels integral to the site plan now before the Planning Board.
Since last summer, our long-time para-legal, Jonathan Goldman, has been admitted to practice law and he is doing a wonderful job on a broad array of matters.
In early April 2017, we welcomed to our staff Valeria Gheorghiu, Esq., an attorney deeply committed to progressive values. Valeria is working on helping the Ramapough/Lenape nation protect sacred religious grounds in Mahwah from local land use regulations which would effectively disallow religious observance and expression.
Valeria is also working on immigration issues, running clinics for the most affected local communities and handling a range of other employment and environmental cases.
I am also pleased that Jasper Garczynski has joined the firm as a para-legal, adding significant commitment to reforming the criminal justice system and advocating for the rights of incarcerated persons.
We remain committed to protecting such people, whatever their crimes, from brutalization and inhumane treatment. Only in such a manner can we uphold critical constitutional values.
Chris Watkins, my long-time partner, is now of counsel to the firm, continuing to handle important police misconduct and employment discrimination cases while opening his own office in his home town, New Paltz.
Chris recently received well-deserved recognition from the Orange County Human Rights Commission for his two decades of civil rights work in our region.
The firm continues to handle many cases which fight back against discrimination in education and employment, police misconduct and abuse of rights by government and private sector interests alike.
We also continue to handle criminal cases which implicate matters of broad public concern and to represent prisoners subjected to brutality.
I have personally been concerned for many years about bias in our local courts, as manifest through disparate bail and sentencing decisions for minority group members, as well as the unreasonable incarceration of those unable to meet bail for misdemeanors.
During the last several months, I have initiated a court watching program in several counties in the region, drawing volunteers to observe and report back on what they see in the courts and thereby gaining empirical data which will undergird efforts to highlight such disparities and eliminate them.
I am also working with people throughout the region in formulating bail funds which will raise money to insure that those who have bail for minor crimes [misdemeanors] are afforded release and not locked up for [often] longer than they would be sentenced if convicted.
Since May 2015, the firm has represented Joseph and Jeanne Viserta and others in litigation challenging CPV's approval.
We have argued that CPV skirted the environmental review process controlled by the Town of Wawayanda Planning Board and never completed a supplemental Environmental Impact Study which would have properly assessed major issues facing the project.
After we were unsuccessful in State Supreme Court Orange County in forcing a fuller review, we filed an appeal with the intermediate appellate court in Brooklyn. That appeal has now been pending without argument for more than one year. We have filed two motions to expedite judicial consideration of our appeal; both have been denied.
In support of the second motion, I submitted to the Court the report showing the corrupt practices engaged in by CPV at the highest levels of our State, suggesting that the same may well have caused this project to skate through with such minimal review.
I await argument with great anticipation and note that there are several examples of major projects built but never open because of late recognition of their profound environmental impacts.
I refer to Shoreham on Long Island and the new landfill in our own county which we stopped in the early 1990' s.
Anti-CPV activists engaged in civil disobedience at the site in December 2015.
After substantial delay, in April 2017, their case went to trial. We argued that they acted out of "necessity'' --- because of a well premised belief that allowing such a plan to come on line would measurably contribute to climate change.
Moreover, Dr. Howarth explained that the fracking process substantially devalues the environment where it occurs and that this plant will induce 150-75 new fracking sites each year due to the need for natural gas to power it.
The current environmental studies do not even address this issue and both scientists explained that we know far more today about the impact of fracking than we did in 2009-11, when this plant was reviewed.
The firm continues to pursue all avenues available to stop the plant's operation as we believe that lawyers have the obligation to bring the law into concert with the teachings and truths of science, and before it is too late.
At trial, Dr. Ingraffea and Dr. Howarth, both leading environmental scientists from Cornell University, explained that 10% of airborne pollutants in our state would derive from this single project which would be the largest power plant in our state.
On another front, The Village of Goshen is under attack by Merlin Entertainment and Legoland.