NYU law students hit with subpoenas after criticizing labor practices of school trustee
Posted May 1, 2014 10:26 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Updated: A New York University law school trustee who donates more than $1 million a year to an institute at the school has subpoenaed two law students who opposed his labor practices as the owner of two elder-care companies.
The trustee, Daniel Straus, owns a company that is seeking emails, texts, online posts and other documents related to the students’ support for the union, the New York Times reports. Straus’ company has filed a civil racketeering suit that claims the union has conspired with students to embarrass, shame and publicly denigrate him.
The two students, Leo Gertner and Luke Herrine, had voiced their complaints in a letter to the law dean. Straus is seeking to cut benefits for nursing home workers in Connecticut and is fighting worker unionization in New Jersey, the Times says. The National Labor Relations Board has found more than three dozen labor law violations, findings that are now on appeal, the Times says.
Herrine told the Times he has reservations about Straus’ service as a trustee. “Someone involved in violating labor laws and sending out subpoenas to check student speech is not someone who should be making policy for a public-spirited law school,” he said.
The school is paying for the students’ lawyers. In a statement, the school says it has a “fundamental concern” for the students’ right to engage in protest, but it is not getting involved in the litigation. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has filed an amicus brief supporting the students’ motion to quash, DNA Info says. NYU law professor Burt Neuborne provided input for the ACLU brief.
A spokeswoman for Straus, Deborah Maxson, told DNA Info that Straus had nothing to do with the subpoenas, which were issued by his home health-aide company, CareOne Management. “As law students know, discovery is a fundamental tenet of our judicial mission," she said.
On Thursday, after publication of the Times story, the school announced that Straus is resigning as trustee, the New York Times reports.
Updated on May 2 to report that Straus is resigning.