NYU Law community lends support to students subpoenaed by trustee’s company
April 18, 2014
The School of Law made public its support for two law students who have been subpoenaed by CareOne, a health care company owned by law trustee Daniel Straus.
The subpoena is part of a controversy surrounding CareOne and its labor practices that erupted in 2012. Employees at CareOne and HealthBridge Management, another health care company owned by Straus, claimed Straus violated labor laws and refused to negotiate a new contract. As a result of the dispute, CareOne has been involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union.
The students, second-year Luke Herrine and first-year Leo Gertner, were subpoenaed by CareOne on March 20 after they circulated a petition against Straus’ labor practices. The petition also asked for Trevor Morrison, dean of the law school, to meet with the students to discuss a code of conduct for trustees.
“The National Labor Relations Board has charged [Straus’] companies … with violating federal labor law no fewer than 38 times,” the petition read.
Morrison and Anthony Welters, the chair of the Board of Trustees, sent a letter on April 17 to the law community detailing the situation.
“The subpoenas requested information regarding any contact the students may have had with SEIU and any activity they may have engaged in, such as protests or meetings, relating to Mr. Straus or CareOne,” Morrison and Welters said in the letter.
The school has agreed to cover any legal expenses the students may face. The administration contacted law alumnus John Cuti to provide legal counsel to the students, and Cuti Hecker Wang is now representing Herrine and Gertner. However, the law school remains uninvolved in the litigation between CareOne and SEIU.
CareOne spokesperson Deborah Maxson said the deadline for the requested information is April 25.
“Straus is not a party to the lawsuit and is not managing the litigation,” Maxson said.
A group of about nine students responded to the subpoenas by drafting another petition, this time calling for Straus to withdraw the subpoenas. The petition argued that CareOne’s actions could limit free speech on campus, appealing to the law school’s commitment to public interest. In a joint email, Herrine and Gertner said the issue concerns free speech and transparency in higher education. After collecting 500 signatures, the students sent the petition to Straus on April 16.
The law school’s letter said the school vigorously supports its students’ right to participate in lawful demonstrations and protests. Although the university is providing resources for Herrine and Gertner, it did not make any statements against Straus.
“The NYU Law Board of Trustees, of which Mr. Straus has been a dedicated member for many years, provides indispensable guidance and support to the Law School,” the letter said.
In a separate statement sent to WSN, the law school acknowledged CareOne’s right to gather evidence in support of its case.
Second-year law student Maggie Maron, who helped draft the petition against the subpoenas, said she was thankful for the dean’s support but also felt Straus should no longer sit on the board.
“As members of an institution receiving Straus’ $1.25 million in donations a year, we are indirectly benefiting from his fortune made, in part, off the exploitation of workers,” Maron said.
Michael Domanico is managing editor. Email him at [email protected].