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38th Annual Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation

Speaker(s): Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Frederick K. Brewington, Hon. Brenda K. Sannes, John "Jack" Ryan, Karen M. Blum, Martin A. Schwartz, Peter G. Farrell, Professor Alex Reinert, Professor Theodore M. Shaw
Recorded on: Oct. 28, 2021
PLI Program #: 304810

Alex Reinert joined the faculty of Cardozo Law School in 2007, after working as an associate at Koob & Magoolaghan for six years, where he focused on the rights of people confined in prisons and jails, employment discrimination, and disability rights.  Alex teaches and conducts research in the areas of constitutional law, civil procedure, and criminal law. He argued before the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, and has appeared on behalf of parties and amicus curiae in many significant civil rights cases. In 2016 he became the director of the Center for Rights and Justice, which brings together the scholarship, programs and clinics at Cardozo engaged in public service, client advocacy and academic scholarship dealing with issues of fairness, equality, access to justice and transparency.

Alex graduated magna cum laude from New York University School of Law.  Upon graduating from law school, he held two clerkships, first with the Hon. Harry T. Edwards, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then with United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer. 

Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann is a partner at Neufeld Scheck & Brustin LLP, a New York law firm with a national civil rights practice.

She has represented plaintiffs in § 1983 police and other official misconduct suits in federal courts in 20 different states. For example, in 2014, she represented two men who had been exonerated by DNA after spending 18 years wrongly imprisoned; she proved they were maliciously prosecuted and denied fair trials and obtained one of the largest wrongful-conviction jury verdicts in U.S. history.

Ms. Hoffmann earned her AB from Harvard College and her JD from New York University School of Law. Before joining Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP, she clerked for the late Hon. Reginald C. Lindsay, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Ms. Hoffmann serves on the Executive Committee of the National Police Accountability Project. She regularly speaks, writes, and consults on civil rights litigation.

Brenda K. Sannes was sworn in as a United States District Judge for the Northern District of New York on December 4, 2014. Judge Sannes graduated magna cum laude, with distinction in the English Department, from Carleton College in 1980. She earned her J.D. degree magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1983 where she was an articles editor for the law review and was elected to the Order of the Coif.

From 1983 to 1984, Judge Sannes clerked for the Honorable Jerome Farris of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. From 1984 to 1988, she was a litigation associate at the firm of Wyman, Bautzer, Kuchel & Silbert in Los Angeles, California. In 1988, she became an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles. During her time in that office she served as a Deputy Chief in the Narcotics Section and later as the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council Coordinator. She moved to Central New York in 1994 and was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of New York from 1995 until her judicial appointment in 2014. She served as the Appellate Chief in that office from 2005 until her appointment to the bench.

Erwin Chemerinsky became the 13th Dean of Berkeley Law on July 1, 2017, when he joined the faculty as the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law.

Prior to assuming this position, from 2008-2017, he was the founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at University of California, Irvine School of Law, with a joint appointment in Political Science.  Before that he was the Alston and Bird Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2008, and from 1983-2004 was a professor at the University of Southern California Law School, including as the Sydney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics, and Political Science. He also has taught at DePaul College of Law and UCLA Law School. 

He is the author of twelve books, including leading casebooks and treatises about constitutional law, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction.  His most recent books are The Religion Clauses:  The Case for Separating Church and State (with Howard Gillman) (Oxford University Press 2020), and We the People:  A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century (Picador Macmillan 2018).

He also is the author of more than 250 law review articles. He is a contributing writer for the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times, and writes regular columns for the Sacramento Bee, the ABA Journal and the Daily Journal, and frequent op-eds in newspapers across the country. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court. 

In 2016, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In 2017, National Jurist magazine again named Dean Chemerinsky as the most influential person in legal education in the United States.


B.S., Northwestern University (1975)

J.D., Harvard Law School (1978)

Frederick K. Brewington is the principal of The Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington in Hempstead, New York.  He is admitted to the Bars of the states of New York and New Jersey, as well as the United States Supreme Court, United States First and Second Circuit Courts of Appeal, United States District Courts of New Jersey and the Eastern, Southern and Northern Districts of New York. He is a prominent member of the New York State and State of New Jersey Bar Associations, Amistad Black Bar Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Nassau County Bar Association, the National Police Accountability Project as well as other local and regional associations.

Fred has served tirelessly as the “People’s” lawyer and a powerful promoter of our nation’s highest values. He has successfully challenged the “at large” voting system in the Town of Hempstead and worked on preventing future unconstitutional and discriminatory purging of voters from the voting rolls. He challenges other discriminatory practices as well—with a sustained focus on issues such as affordable housing, community revitalization, employment and civil rights, the environment and, especially, voting rights and fair representation in government. He labors against injustices through litigating, writing, lecturing and through building relationships of encouragement among citizen organizations. He is an adjunct professor at Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, Touro College and has had articles published in The National Bar Association Magazine, The Amsterdam News, Black Westchester and the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association’s e-newsletter. He is a highly sought-after speaker/presenter to the legal community and many community organizations. He has been a volunteer football coach in the Malverne School District for over 30 years and is married to Reverend Adrienne Brewington, a former attorney, who is a Senior Pastor in the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Jack Ryan is an Attorney in Rhode Island, a graduate Juris Doctorate, Cum Laude at Suffolk University Law School. Jack has 20 years police experience as a police officer with the Providence Police Department, Providence, RI. He has earned a law degree in addition to experience as a police officer, providing a unique perspective on legal and liability issues. Jack is a former adjunct faculty member at Salve Regina University and lectures frequently throughout the United States. Since retiring, Jack has conducted numerous training sessions around the country for Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute. Among the programs, he is responsible for courses on “Policy Development for Public Safety Agencies;” “Advanced Internal Affairs;” “Liability and Risk Management for Law Enforcement Agencies;” “Legal and Liability Issues in the Public Schools;” “Arrest, Search & Seizure;” “Use of Force and Documentation;” “Legal & Liability Issues in SWAT Operations;” and “Legal and Liability Issues for Negotiators.” Jack is also a co-director of the Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute which provides services relating to risk management for law enforcement agencies nationwide. These services include training, high risk/critical task policy review, policy development, improved supervision, audits, risks assessments, and expert witness services.

Karen Blum is a Professor Emerita and Research Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School where she taught for over forty years in the areas of Federal Courts, Police Misconduct Litigation and Civil Procedure. She received her B.A. from Wells College, a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and an LL. M. from Harvard Law School. Professor Blum has been a regular faculty participant in § 1983 Civil Rights Programs and Institutes throughout the United States. Since 1990, she has served as a faculty member for workshops sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center for Federal Judges and Federal Magistrate Judges. She has authored numerous articles in the Section 1983 area, including Qualified Immunity: Time to Change the Message, 93 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1887 (2018).  She is co-author, along with Michael Avery, David Rudovsky, and Jennifer Laurin of Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation.

Peter G. Farrell is employed by the New York City Law Department as a Deputy Chief of the Special Federal Litigation Division.   Mr. Farrell and the Division practice exclusively in federal court and defend the City of New York and its municipal employees against individual and class actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging violations of the United States Constitution and state law.

Mr. Farrell’s management responsibilities as Deputy Chief include the oversight of the Division’s more than 100 attorneys with whom he meets regularly to assess the merits and decide the appropriate litigation strategy for every case within the Division.  

In addition to his management responsibilities, Mr. Farrell has led the City’s defense for the past several years of three cases brought in the district courts of New York and New Jersey that alleged the NYPD had a policy of conducting unlawful surveillance and investigations based upon religion.  Handschu v. Special Services Division and Raza v. City of New York were successfully resolved in 2017 after a fairness hearing and included revisions to the NYPD’s guidelines that govern counter-terrorism investigations and the New Jersey case, Hassan v. City of New York, was settled in 2018.

Mr. Farrell previously supervised and led the City’s defense in over one-hundred individual and class action cases arising out of arrests of protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention (“RNC”).  As part of that litigation, he successfully argued that the City’s “no summons” policy at RNC protests met the strict scrutiny standard of review and the policy was deemed constitutional.  In addition, the City prevailed on its assertion of the law enforcement privilege over confidential intelligence documents and created leading 2d Circuit precedent on the law enforcement privilege. In Re City of New York, 607 F.3d 923 (2d Cir. 2010). 

Mr. Farrell was also one of the attorneys who successfully defended at trial the NYPD’s policy of conducting random bag searches when entering the NYC subway in the case of MacWade v. City of New York.  He has also successfully defended at trial cases asserting claims of false arrest and excessive force against individual police officers. 

Mr. Farrell graduated cum laude from the SUNY Buffalo Law School in 1990 where he was a member of the Buffalo Law Review and began his career at Lord Day and Lord, Barrett Smith and subsequently worked at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP before moving to the NYC Law Department in 2002.

Professor Emeritus of Law Martin A. Schwartz is one of the nation's leading authorities on Section 1983 civil rights litigation and is the author of a multi-volume treatise on that subject.  He has argued three Section 1983 cases in the United States Supreme Court. He is the author of Essential Trial Evidence, Brought to Life by Famous Trials, Film, and Fiction (2017).  He recently published Schwartz on Section 1983, Law and Commentary (PLI Press 2021).  He has been a columnist for the New York Law Journal for over 45 years.  He also chaired the Practising Law Institute’s program on Trial Evidence, and chairs the Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation program.

Theodore M. Shaw is the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill. Professor Shaw teaches Civil Procedure and Advanced Constitutional Law/Fourteenth Amendment. Before joining the faculty of UNC Law School, from 2008-2014 Professor Shaw taught at Columbia University Law School, where he was Professor of Professional Practice. During that time he was also “Of Counsel” to the law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright (formerly Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP). His practice involved civil litigation and representation of institutional clients on matters concerning diversity and civil rights.

Professor Shaw was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of twenty-six years. He has litigated education, employment, voting rights, housing, police misconduct, capital punishment and other civil rights cases in trial and appellate courts, and in the United States Supreme Court. From 1982 until 1987, he litigated education, housing, and capital punishment cases and directed LDF’s education litigation docket. In 1987, under the direction of LDF's third Director-Counsel, Julius Chambers, Mr. Shaw relocated to Los Angeles to establish LDF’s Western Regional Office. In 1990, Mr. Shaw left LDF to join the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, where he taught Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure and Civil Rights. While at Michigan, he played a key role in initiating a review of the law school’s admissions practices and policies, and served on the faculty committee that promulgated the admissions program that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger.

In 1993, Mr. Shaw returned to LDF as Associate Director-Counsel, and in 2004, he became LDF’s fifth Director-Counsel. Mr. Shaw’s legal career began as a Trial Attorney in the Honors Program of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., where he worked from 1979 until 1982.

Mr. Shaw has testified on numerous occasions before Congress and before state and local legislatures. His human rights work has taken him to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. In addition to teaching at Columbia and at Michigan Law School, Professor Shaw held the 1997-1998 Haywood Burns Chair at CUNY School of Law at Queens College and the 2003 Phyllis Beck Chair at Temple Law School. He was a visiting scholar at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia in 2008-2009. He is a member of the faculty of the Practising Law Institute (PLI).

Mr. Shaw served on the Obama Transition Team after the 2008 presidential election, as team leader for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.