As part of Nave Law Firm’s efforts to give back to the communities we practice in, our own Derek Andrews took action after reading a Times Union article about a local woman’s plight against a local government who stonewalled her efforts to obtain body camera recordings of an incident that involved her.
In 2019, uniformed members of the Albany Police Department wearing body cameras forcibly removed Reverend Cheryl Hawkins, a street-reach minister in the New York Capital District, from a public park as she preached and sang Christian hymns, for which she had received a special event permit from the City of Albany. That removal violated her constitutionally-guaranteed rights to free expression. As part of a lawsuit, her civil rights attorney requested those body camera recordings from the city through New York’s Freedom of Information Law but was rebuffed, having been told that they were protected and confidential because of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a.
Mr. Andrews helped both Ms. Hawkins and her civil rights attorney by filing an Article 78 special proceeding, a type of lawsuit, against the City of Albany and the Albany Police Department, claiming that they violated Ms. Hawkins’ right to free access to body camera recordings of that incident.
Although the city produced those recordings before the conclusion of the lawsuit, Judge David Weinstein of the Albany County Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Andrews’ arguments when he issued a decision at the end of 2020 stating that Ms. Hawkins had substantially prevailed and that the city was unreasonable in originally denying her access. That last part meant that the city Times Union Article, which resulted in a five-figure settlement. Ms. Hawkins will now continue her lawsuit against Albany for violating her civil rights.
When asked for comment by Reverand Hawkins, she responded:
“Mr. Andrews saw the Times-Union Newspaper Front Page Huge Article (February 17, 2020). He then contacted my attorney and wanted to see how he could help. He felt that I was facing an injustice. I was already paying another lawyer big money to represent me, and I could not afford a second law firm. Derek then spoke with the leadership team with Nave Law Firm, and the team decided to take the case at no cost to me.
I was so grateful that he believed in me enough to advocate for me and cared enough to help me at no cost.
The best part is that he WON THE CASE; he even won the city’s and the cop’s appeal filed in Albany County after winning the case.”
Nave Law Firm is grateful for the opportunity to have assisted Ms. Hawkins in her pursuit of justice.