Self Defense: Volume 1 - Fall 2019
The Ultimate Fighters For You!
If you are a fighter that needs a lawyer, you need Steiner & Fish P.C. – the law firm that caters to fighters. Like you, the firm’s leading partners actually fight. David Fish wrestled throughout college and continued training to become a Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts Black Belt. Dave has competed in MMA bouts and USA Boxing sanctioned events. He has fought in the New York City Golden Gloves and continues to remain active as a master boxer. Norm Steiner received his initial training in the infantry of the Israel Defense Forces and then went on to become an Israeli Certified Krav Maga Instructor. He currently trains at Gleason’s Boxing Gym and also fights regularly in USA Boxing sanctioned events. The fighter’s mentality held by Steiner & Fish P.C. allows it to understand the needs of fighters like you. Steiner & Fish P.C. look forward to providing fighters with the care, attention, and respect their legal needs deserve.
Norm Steiner is a true believer in the inspiring quote: "So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune." -Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For the past 23 years, Norm has devoted his entire legal career to ensuring Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s words ring true to his clients. His clients are often facing the most difficult time in their lives - suffering from catastrophic injuries or seemingly impossible criminal cases. Norm understands and cares about the impediment the client is facing. Turning the circumstances around, providing the finest representation and hopefully assisting the client in putting the circumstances behind them - as they grow from the experience and move forward with their lives - is the greatest good fortune and reward.
Norm’s nearly 25 years in the legal community began as an intern at one of the city’s finest Criminal Defense Firms. He was next hired as a Staff Attorney at The Public Defender’s Office for New York City. Having obtained constant trial and suppression hearing victories Norm was promoted to a Senior Staff Attorney and then Trial Trainer. After surviving his own near fatal catastrophic injury collision, Norm decided to protect the rights of other injured victims and was immediately hired as a trial attorney by the then leading Personal Injury Firm in NYC. At the firm Norm was a trial attorney on Medical Malpractice and Toxic Tort injury cases. Norm remains a highly sought-after trial attorney for many NYC Personal Injury firms. He recently co-founded Steiner & Fish P.C. with Dave Fish and Norm personally heads the Injury and Medical Malpractice Departments.
As is highly respected trial lawyer Norm has the very rare distinction of belonging to the both of the 2 top tier elite trial lawyer clubs: he has, 1) won murder trials and, 2) has achieved verdicts and settlements in excess of One Million Dollars. Most trial attorneys consider it enough to just belong to one of these clubs.
Norm’s represented many fighters, including 3 World Champions, on numerous issues. Norm is an avid amateur boxer. He regularly competes in USA Boxing Sanctioned events. He is also a mentor and contributing leader in Gleason’s Gym Give a Kid a Dream program. Norm is also a Certified Krav Maga Instructor.
David M. Fish, is an experienced civil and criminal trial attorney, with years of experience representing fighters and other professional athletes.
Dave was born in New York City, and is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, and the State University of New York at Albany, where he was a four-year letterman on the University's wrestling team and a 1992 University Greco-Roman Wrestling All-American. Dave received his J.D. from New York Law School, where he is an adjunct professor, and serves as the faculty advisor to the Sports Law Society. He regularly speaks on panels and at symposiums on sports law and contract negotiation. Dave holds the unique distinction of being designated as an expert witness on mixed martial arts business practices and protocol in the case of Ibarra v. Ortiz in Los Angeles, CA.
As someone who has trained and competed in martial arts throughout his life, Dave understands the needs and concerns of a fighter, and is available to best serve you, your business, and your family. No matter the issue that you need resolved, Dave will fight to ensure the best possible outcome.
Self-Defense: What You Should Know
So fellow fighter, you have been training for a solid year and you have seen the results at your gym or dojo. You can spar, you can defend, you can cause harm. You rightfully walk the street with that added confidence you earned. You and your loved ones have an added sense of protection and those feelings are justified. But what does the law say about your new skills. How will the police and the courts react when you claim self-defense when forced to protect yourself or a loved one?
Over 20 years ago, when I first became a criminal defense attorney, it became obvious that the “winner” of the fight gets arrested. How can that be? Aren’t you justified in using self-defense?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Every fight is fact specific. What did you know about the initiator’s reputation? What was the lead-up to the fight? Was your use of force really justified? When you perceived a threat, was that reasonable? Did you have a duty to retreat? The analysis will always be using the same standard that I will explain below but, the facts can always be interpreted differently.
RULE NO. 1:
New York uses what is known as an objective-subjective evaluation. That is a fancy way of the law saying: we look inside the mind of the person claiming self defense (that is the subjective part - what you were thinking) and then, we judge what was going on inside of his head based on what “reasonable people of society” would do in the same situation.
It sounds like a brain tease, but think of it this way: you are walking down the street, and an attacker jumps out of the alley with a bat and you use your well-honed stick defense, it’s a no brainer. You subjectively perceived a threat that any reasonable person would also perceive. But, let’s now say you are in a bar, some hot-head with a few too many is loud and obnoxious, and maybe even bumps against you a little too hard as he passes and stares you down. While you may be hoping that he can be baited into taking a swing at you so you can use a self-defense claim to teach him a lesson, the circumstances will most likely unfold to show your actions were exactly that: you teaching him a lesson. That subjective-objective evaluation will still apply to these more complicated scenarios juries will be inclined to say that you knew you were trained as a fighter, you knew he really posed no threat to you, and there was no need for you to use force.
RULE NO. 2:
The threat of the other person must be a real threat of the “imminent use of force.” In other words, it needs to be a threat that truly needs to be dealt with to prevent physical harm. Interestingly, the law recognizes that the initial aggressor (the person you are defending against) does not have to strike first. However, before you can use force as self-defense, you must be reasonable in believing the initial aggressor was about to use force against you. So, if he or she reaches into their pocket and takes out a knife, and the rest of the circumstances make it reasonably clear you are about to get stabbed, you may not have to wait for the stabbing to begin. You may not even have to wait for him or her to throw a punch if the circumstances reasonably show they were about to. Remember, these are all very fact specific and every situation is different. However the first analysis is always the subjective test: you have to actually believe the initial aggressor was using or was about to use physical force against you (or someone else) and your own use of force was necessary to defend you (or someone else) from it. This second analysis is the objective test, meaning a “reasonable person” in your position, knowing what you knew, would have the same beliefs. Remember, when the objective part of the test is used, the “knowing what you knew” part of it may include your training. If the investigating authorities find out you are a trained martial artist, that may become part of the case against you.
Now to further complicate things, get this: it does not matter if you were mistaken or wrong in your belief that the initial aggressor was using or was about to use physical force against you and your own use of force was necessary to defend you provided that your belief was honestly held and believable.
I have successfully used self-defense for clients as a preliminary defense to get cases resolved and dismissed early on and at trial. Two of these trial cases involved my clients using a knife in self-defense.
In the first one, my client was a waiter on a dinner cruise ship who was attacked by a patron. The jury decided my client was justified in perceiving a threat of physical force from the patron and found my client not guilty.
In the second, the jury found my client was justified in stabbing his aggressor roommate for the first two of multiple stabbings. The jury did find him guilty of the stabbings after the first two, as the threat had been resolved by the first stabbing. In other words, “don’t kick him when he’s down.” With that said, if it is reasonable to think he may get back up and present a threat again, your continued use of force may be justified.
In another case where I successfully used self-defense at trial, the initial aggressor never threw a punch. My client was arrested for assault in a subway station after he defended himself and punched the initial aggressor, sending him tumbling down a flight of stairs. The circumstances reasonably showed my client was correct when he believed the initial aggressor was about to punch him. The jury put themselves in the shoes of my client and concluded that if they were in the same circumstances, it would be reasonable for them to conclude the initial aggressor was about to use force and they needed to use force to protect themselves.
What if someone comes at you with a knife and your Krav Maga defense includes a take away and then use of the knife the other guy just had. There is a struggle for control of the knife and, once it is in your hands, you use it against your attacker. Would you be justified in using the weapon? Under some circumstances, a defendant who has obtained control of an assailant’s weapon can be justified in using it even after the assailant has been disarmed when the assailant continues to struggle for the weapon. But remember, when you truly neutralized the threat, the threat and confrontation is deemed over. The same evaluation as with non-deadly force will apply. Deadly force may be justified if deadly force is being threatened or used against you. However, deadly force may not be used against an initial aggressor who only used ordinary physical force.
You probably realize by now, you should not just rely on the self-defense or “Justification” defense. Remember also, self-defense should never be a staged plan you keep in your back-pocket for a fight. It should just be something you can use to defend your justified use of force as a result of real or reasonably perceived imminent physical harm.
An upcoming Steiner & Fish newsletter will include an article explaining how to deal with a police investigation after you successfully defended yourself in a physical confrontation.
The author, Norman Steiner, a partner at Steiner & Fish P.C., has over 20 years of criminal defense experience and has handled hundreds of assault cases, including murder and other serious felonies.
#MeToo -Protect Your Business & Employees
The professional diversity we see in gyms is fascinating. When we put our business suits, street clothes, work uniforms, or other garments in the locker and put on our work-out clothes, we appear alike and treat each other alike.
Unfortunately, the organically developed respect we treat each other with in the dojo does not always exist at our workplace. We have all seen the reports of improper treatment and harassment of employees. As a result, New York has recently enacted laws requiring certain employers to have a harassment prevention policy in place by December 31, 2019.
If you are an employer and want to implement the now required program to comply with the law and protect your business, contact David Fish. David is experienced and highly regarded in the employment law industry as an attorney who understands your needs. He makes the required training enjoyable, effective, and useful for you and your business.
Norm Steiner, partner at Steiner & Fish P.C. & an ultimate fighter for you, squared off against a Manhattan DA’s office trial bureau chief. These two have faced each other hundreds of times in court, so it only seemed natural for them to settle it in the ring. It all went down on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at The Broad Street Ballroom (41 Broad St.) Norm raised over $3,000.00 for Gleason’s Give A Kid A Dream. How did it come out? Check out the stream of the fight and enjoy! WATCH THE FIGHT