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Sher Tremonte Secures Release for Clients During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc for all of us, but among the most vulnerable are the hundreds of thousands of our citizens who are incarcerated. Through our individual representations and leadership in the defense community, Sher Tremonte has been active in addressing the challenges and dangers of the virus in jails and prisons since the outset of the pandemic. Jails and prisons—tightly packed facilities where social distancing is incredibly difficult, if not impossible—have been hotbeds of COVID-19 outbreaks. Studies have found that correctional facilities have a higher number of cases and deaths than the general population. Many incarcerated people suffer from pre-existing medical conditions that make them particularly susceptible to contracting the virus.  The inability to social distance, coupled with medically vulnerable individuals, is a worst-case scenario that puts countless lives at risk. When the pandemic hit, Sher Tremonte immediately began advocating for our clients and get those who were vulnerable out from behind bars – seeking bail for clients in pretrial detention and compassionate release, a new legal mechanism provided by the First Step Act, for clients serving sentences in federal custody.  In six different cases, the Firm has been successful in securing safety for our clients.  In May, partner Michael Tremonte and associate Noam Biale secured compassionate release for Alberto Pena, a 60-year-old man who was incarcerated in a federal prison in New Jersey which had dozens of COVID-19 cases.  Judge Alison Nathan in the Southern District of New York ordered his release due to the “extraordinary danger” he faced.  In April, partner Justine Harris obtained compassionate release for Basil Hansen, a 72-year-old client who had served 12 years of a 20-year sentence for a non-violent drug offense.  Despite vehement objection from the government, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in the EDNY agreed that given his frail health condition, extraordinary and compelling reasons warranted his release. Sher Tremonte also took a leading role in connecting lawyers with the right resources to support these petitions. Through the Women’s White Collar Defense Association, Ms. Harris, with help from Sher Tremonte associate Heather Yu Han and paralegals Jennifer Lara and Avital Fried, supported lawyers across the country by compiling a resource bank with sample petitions, caselaw and data. An interview with Ms. Harris featuring her leadership efforts can be found here. Ms. Harris also served as a panelist for CLE seminars hosted by the Federal Bar Council and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and continues to serve as pro bono resource counsel for the NACDL/FAMM Compassionate Release Clearinghouse Project.  Finally, as vice-chair of the Board of the Federal Defenders of New York, Ms. Harris has worked to recruit and train pro bono counsel to take on compassionate release cases. As the virus continues to spread throughout our communities, and the risk of infection within jails and prisons shows no sign of abating, this work is not over. Sher Tremonte is committed to protecting those who are most vulnerable during this public health crisis.

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Sher Tremonte Secures Victory For Staten Island Parents

Sher Tremonte recently helped the parents of two special needs students in Staten Island fight back against a New York City Department of Education (DOE) decision to relocate their children to a new school. This matter is part of the firm’s commitment to a robust set of pro bono casework to help New Yorkers in need. In January, the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted to send some students at P.S. 37, a school specifically designated for students with disabilities, to a new general education program nearly an hour and a half away. Moving these students away from P.S. 37 and into a new learning environment unable to meet their needs would have been harmful to their education. Justin Gunnell of Sher Tremonte challenged the validity of the PEP’s voting process and threatened further legal action if the PEP failed to revise the decision. The firm also worked with the family to develop an advocacy strategy that included attending community meetings and enlisting the support of local elected officials. In response, the district Superintendent formalized a new policy that reversed the planned relocation and guaranteed every student at P.S. 37 a seat. Families can rest easy knowing their children can continue to learn at a school that will allow them to thrive.

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Sher Tremonte Earns Rankings in Chambers USA 2020

Sher Tremonte is pleased to announce that Chambers and Partners USA has ranked the firm and partners Theresa Trzaskoma and  Justine Harris in the Chambers USA 2020: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business Guide. The firm has been ranked as a Specialist Firm in White Collar Crime and Government Investigations in New York, an exclusive list including only 10 other law firms. Ms. Trzaskoma and Ms. Harris were individually recognized among the leading white collar practitioners in New York City. Chambers describes Sher Tremonte’s white collar practice as a “go-to group” with a “talented bench.” Chambers also notes that the firm is “[f]requently called on by boards and executives from across the market” because of its “notable expertise handling investigations.”  

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Sher Tremonte Wins Reversal in Second Circuit Appeal Involving Employment Dispute

On March 10, 2020, Sher Tremonte and Paul Weiss, as co-counsel, won a precedent-setting victory on employment rights in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. An employee of a Connecticut police department alleged employment discrimination after being forced to resign.  The district court granted summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim based on its conclusion that the plaintiff was not constructively discharged because she had chosen to resign rather than proceed with a disciplinary hearing.  On appeal, Jennifer X. Luo of Sher Tremonte successfully argued that, even though there was no direct threat of termination by the plaintiff’s employer, the employee was constructively discharged based on the totality of circumstances.  The Second Circuit agreed and found that “neither an absolute statement nor a direct communication by an ultimate decisionmaker” is required for constructive discharge to take place.  Rather, the Second Circuit held that constructive discharge may be implied, and an employee’s decision to resign in the absence of express threats can constitute adverse employment action. Read the full decision here. A Law360 article on the decision is available here.

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Sher Tremonte Obtains $50 Million Judgment

On February 11, 2020, Sher Tremonte obtained a $50 million judgment on behalf of its client, a Singapore-based investment advisory firm focused on sustainable development in the hospitality and real estate industries.  The judgment followed five years of litigation over the investment advisory firm’s claims of breach of contract, tortious interference, fraud, and unjust enrichment arising from the $358 million acquisition of the international luxury hotel chain, Aman Resorts.  The case was handled by partners Justin Sher and Erica Wolff.  Read the judgment here.  Read the Fortune article about the dispute here:  The Global Battle for the Ultimate Luxury Hotel Chain.

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Sher Tremonte Wins Preliminary Injunction Compelling Insurance Company to Fund Tech CEO’s Defense

On February 4, 2020, the Commercial Division of the New York County Supreme Court granted a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by Sher Tremonte on behalf of its client, a former CEO of a technology firm. Sher Tremonte’s client initiated the action seeking to compel an insurance provider to defend and indemnify her under a Directors and Officers liability policy. The Hon. O. Peter Sherwood found that Sher Tremonte’s client had established a high likelihood that coverage is required under the policy and that the insurer should therefore pay defense costs pending a final decision in the case. The case was handled by Sher Tremonte partners Theresa Trzaskoma and Mark Cuccaro.

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Sher Tremonte Promotes Erica Wolff to Partner

Sher Tremonte is pleased to announce that Erica A. Wolff has been promoted to Partner.

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Justin Gunnell Interviewed on True Crime Podcast

Sher Tremonte counsel, Justin Gunnell, was interviewed by Amanda Knox on her podcast concerning the infamous Preppy Murder case. Listen here.

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Sher Tremonte Prevails in Critical Summary Judgment Decision in Minority Shareholder Squeeze-Out Dispute

Sher Tremonte lawyers Theresa Trzaskoma, Justin Gunnell, and Allegra Noonan recently obtained a highly favorable decision on summary judgment on behalf of their client, a one-third owner of a closely held company that is the general and controlling partner of an asset management firm with more than $10 billion AUM. After our client was forced out of the business, his former partners attempted to dilute his interest in the company by wrongfully issuing shares to themselves at improperly low prices. When our client complained, the company sued him, arguing that, among other things, he should be compelled to tender his shares for a tiny fraction of their value and that he was violating a non-competition agreement. Sher Tremonte brought counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty based on self-dealing and excessive compensation. Adopting nearly all of Sher Tremonte’s arguments, Justice Gretchen Walsh of the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court (Westchester County) dismissed each of the company’s claims against our client. The Court also rejected the other side’s arguments that their conduct was consistent with the shareholders’ agreement, setting up a trial on our client’s improper dilution and excessive compensation claims. Read the decision here.

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Sher Tremonte Fights for Bed-Stuy Homeowner

As part of the firm’s ongoing efforts to give back to the community through pro bono work, Sher Tremonte recently took on the case of Dairus Griffiths, a 65-year-old resident of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn who is fighting to regain title to the historic brownstone where he and his family have lived for 30 years. In 2014, Mr. Griffiths fell victim to a predatory scheme that led to the sale of his home for less than half its market value. Mr. Griffiths had been ensnared in litigation with the buyer for several years and was on the brink of eviction in June 2019, when Sher Tremonte stepped in. In July 2019, partner Theresa Trzaskoma, counsel Justin Gunnell, and associate Tasha Branford secured a temporary restraining order to prevent the buyer from taking any further action to evict Mr. Griffiths and his family. In October 2019, the firm filed affirmative claims against the buyer on Mr. Griffiths’s behalf pursuant to the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act (“HETPA”), a New York State law designed to protect vulnerable homeowners who are either in default on their mortgage payments or whose property is subject to foreclosure. HETPA was enacted in 2006 in response to the growing problem of “fraud, deception, and unfair dealing by home equity purchasers.” Such predatory transactions have become a priority for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, the Brooklyn Borough President’s office and, most recently, Governor Cuomo’s office, which this week called on the state’s Department of Financial Services to investigate the issue. Through his lawsuit against the buyer, Mr. Griffiths seeks to rescind the transaction and obtain a damages award. Follow the links below to read more about Mr. Griffiths’s case and similar cases in Brooklyn. "Why Black Homeowners in Brooklyn Are Being Victimized by Fraud", New York Times "Brooklyn couple sue men they say swindled them out of their home", NY Daily News "Brooklyn borough president slams deal that could cost Bed-Stuy family their home, demands DA investigate", NY Daily News "Bed-Stuy family cries foul over deal that could leave them homeless", NY Daily News

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