Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pro bono trial selected as one of 2005's best

It is gratifying to see a pro bono trial like this getting the attention it deserves. Here it is as reported in The Business Review:
Whiteman Osterman profiling case named to list of top pro-bono cases

A pro-bono case handled by a partner at the Albany, N.Y., law firm of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP was selected as one of the Top Trials of 2005 by New York Law Journal magazine. The case, handled by partner Scott Fein, has cost $1.5 million in lawyers fees and expenses since it was launched in 1992.

The case, Brown versus State, involved racial profiling in Oneonta in 1992 following the rape of an elderly woman in that college town. The woman identified her assailant as a young black man, and police believed the suspect may have fled towards the SUNY Oneonta campus. The police asked for a list of all black male students at the college and then interviewed all of them. The police also began questioning all nonwhite individuals found in the town. The lawsuit was designed to force the New York state Police to adopt a policy barring racial profiling. When the State Police refused the lawsuit was launched. The 13-year case was finally heard in 2005. On Oct. 28, 2005, following trial in the New York state Court of Claims, Judge Thomas McNamara ruled that the Constitutional rights of one woman in the class action suit were violated by the 1992 street sweep. On Feb. 14,2006 he ruled that the Constitutional rights of one of the men in the suit were also violated. The judge dismissed the claims of the other 58 litigants in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs have filed notice to appeal the decision. The magazine highlighted 15 trials in four categories: civil rights, professional conduct, public policy and corporate crimes. The cases are determined to have major news impact and highlight legal principals. The case, the New York Law Journal reported, received international attention.


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