Sussman & Watkins is a civil rights firm located in Goshen, NY. Michael Sussman has been fighting for social and individual justice for more than 35 years. He is well known as one of the top trial lawyers in the region. Like Sussman, Christopher Watkins is an experienced and well-regarded trial attorney and litigator who has consistently obtained outstanding results for his clients. With a team of knowledgeable and hard-working staff, Heather M. Abissi, Esq., Mary Jo Whateley, Esq., Jonathan Goldman, Esq, and Geri Prescott, we comprise the law firm of Sussman & Watkins, dedicated to preserving civil rights and fighting for justice.
— Michael H. Sussman, Esq.
— Christopher D. Watkins, Esq
— Background & Mission
— Our Staff
— Domestic Violence
— Employment Discrimination
— Employment & Labor
— First Amendment: Retaliation
• Carpenter v NYS OCFS
— Governmental Abuse
— Land Use
— Police Abuse & Misconduct
• Police Abuse Cases
— Voting Rights
Blockade and Demonstration at CPV Site • Demonstrators Arrested
Sussman & Watkins continues to be at the forefront of efforts to improve the quality of life and justice for those living and working in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Cases we are now hard at work on illustrate the nature of our law practice and the commitments we have.
CRIMINAL DEFENSE AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Ismail Shabazz is a long-time civil rights activist from the city of Kingston. Mr. Shabazz was indicted in mid-2015 for possession and sales of guns. He was accused of wanting to kill local police. The truth was far from these claims and we are working hard to defend him. Ismail was the target of the government - confidential informants approached Ismail and tried to get him to sell them guns. Their pitch was simple - we are here to help you get guns off the streets of Kingston and we will send those guns to Africa, for use in liberation struggles. Ismail had no proclivity for violence or criminality but, rather, had spent years trying to intercede between gangs in Kingston and welcomed the chance to get guns off the street. He now faces a lengthy jail sentence for implementing a plan to do so hatched by government informants. For our brief seeking successfully to disqualify the County Court judge and for our brief seeking removal of the local prosecutor, see the following links.
AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT: In 2013, IBM decided to hire younger workers at the same time the company laid off 4800 workers, 85% of whom were over the age of 40. Through a collective action which Sussman & Watkins has filed in federal court, we are challenging as a classic instance of age discrimination IBM's plan to "get younger" at the expense of older employees. For the Complaint and a decision rendered by the district court denying IBM's motion to dismiss,
see the following links.
ADVOCACY FOR SPECIAL CHILDREN: On May 17, 2016, Orange County Supreme Court Justice Gretchen Walsh approved a far reaching settlement by which First Student Bus Company will pay the families of two severely autistic boys beaten in a bus by an aide it employed. As critically, the Pine Bush Central School District will be implementing major changes in the security provided such children during their transport to and from school. For a copy of the complaint against First Student and the recently approved agreement, see this link.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN IN EMPLOYMENT: Our firm continues to fight for equal opportunity for women in the workplace. In a series of recent lawsuits, we have challenged as gender discriminatory the failure of the Orange County Sheriff the promote fully qualified women to supervisory positions. This reactionary practice has kept women subservient in the workplace. In addition, our lawsuit challenges the practice of promoting only women who agree to engage in intimate personal relationships with their supervisors. See links for complaint filed.
ABUSE OF POLITICAL PROCESS AND RETALIATION AGAINST UNION WORKERS FOR THEIR POLITICAL POSITIONS: In 2013, Bonnie Brennan, Esq. ran for public office in Orange County, to the New Windsor Town Board. The Republican establishment had other ideas, The local and now disgraced chair of the Town Republican Committee had the Sheriff's Department send a booking photo which was to have been sealed and the local committee used that photo in a series of disgusting ads intended to assist the re-election campaign of Bonnie's opponents. Please see this link for our response and related briefs.
VOTING RIGHTS AND THE INTEGRITY OF ELECTIONS: In 2014, residents from the Town of Monroe sought to work as election inspectors in the village of Kiryas Joel. However, their efforts were blocked by the County Board of Elections, apparently advised by the Orange County Attorney's office. The local citizens found back,arguing that their religious affiliation could not be used against them as they sought to fill the public role as election inspectors. We took up their case and gained an agreement from the County, as memorialized in the linked judicial decision insuring that religious background could not be used as a litmus test for the exclusion of non-Hasidic election inspectors from Kiryas Joel.See links to complaint and recent deposition of County Executive Neuhaus who denies that his administration fostered the exclusion of Non-Hasidic election inspectors from Kiryas Joel.
In 2015, the leadership of the Rockland County Sheriff's union supported Richard Vasquez against the incumbent Sheriff. In response, the incumbent Sheriff retaliated against the union leaders. We are fighting back against such retaliation and political control and have filed suit on behalf of the Vice President of the Union. See Link [Vasquez]. Likewise, in June 2015, we filed suit for Kim Martin, a courageous employee who blew the whistle on corruption and illegality in the administration of social service benefits in Sullivan County. See Link.
VINDICATING THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT OF INTIMATE ASSOCIATION: In recent years, we have also filed lawsuits seeking to protect the right to associate of government workers: no longer should a probationary employee be terminated for having a personal relationship with a peer. See link to Johnson.
POLICE MISCONDUCT AND ABUSE: For many years, we have litigated against police misconduct and and the abuse of detainees. Those efforts continue throughout the region. See link to D’Aloia and Barrett.
Finally, on occasion, government regulation chokes off people trying to engage in their occupations or professions. Again, we have successfully litigated such cases. See link to Clavin.
If you have a challenging legal problem involving the intersection between government and individuals, we are here and prepared to evaluate and take your case if we think we can help. And, consistent with nearly 40 years of practice, we make the legal system as accessible as possible for those in need.