The Law School Magazine The New York University School of Law


Brown v. State

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In 1991, an elderly Oneonta, NY, woman reported an attempted rape. she never saw her attacker, but believed he was black and may have cut his hand. A dragnet ensued, with the police stopping and questioning every black man they could find in the city.

A new documentary, Brothers of the Black List, tells the story of the resulting civil rights case waged by Scott Fein LLM ’81 (right), partner at Whiteman Osterman & Hannah in Albany and pro bono counsel to the plaintiff, college student Ricky Brown (left). It is one of the longest-litigated civil rights cases in US history, running over 14 years and 50 state and federal court appearances, plus two second Circuit arguments. At the end, though Fein did succeed in having the NYS Court of Appeals recognize the existence of a constitutional tort, a class action was dismissed. The assailant was never found.

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