January 26th, 2023

James Dolan’s War Against Lawyers Is Costing Him

The deeply unpopular James Dolan.

Two months ago I wrote about James Dolan — the CEO of the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden and other venues — and his war against lawyers. He was banning the employees of any firm that sued his company from any venue he could control. It didn’t matter if you were the lawyer working on the case.

Some of that was plainly a violation of the Civil Rights Law, as I covered at that time, insofar as it pertained to events other than sports. Because one could not, under NY Civil Rights Law 40-B, prohibit people coming onto the land for public performances of “legitimate theatres, burlesque theatres, music halls, opera houses, concert halls and circuses.”

This would include Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon, and Madison Square Garden itself for non-sporting activities.

Since that time, the heat has gone up. Dolan was caught using facial recognition technology to find lawyers as they entered the Garden. Even for non-sporting activities. Violating the Civil Rights Law was something he apparently doesn’t care about.

As per the New York Times:

The company says “litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment” and so it is enforcing the list with the help of computer software that can identify hundreds of lawyers via profile photos on their firms’ own websites, using an algorithm to instantaneously pore over images and suggest matches.

I’m sure fans will think this was money well spent, as opposed to spending money on winning championships. The Rangers last won in 1994. And the Knicks last won in 1973.

OK, I digressed, but that was worth it, no?

The bizzarro theory that Dolan gave is that letting lawyers into the sporting arena would allow them unsupervised discovery outside the litigation arena. Right. As I’ve long said, when people make bad arguments it means they don’t have good ones.

Then legislators got in on this, with Senator Brad Hoylman sponsoring legislation to amend the Civil Rights law to include sporting venues.

Then New York Attorney General Letitia James got into the act, contacting Dolan because the use of facial recognition technology “may be plagued with biases and false positives” against people of color and women.

And now, as Dolan desperately tries to defend himself from accusations that he is an [insert favorite bad word], he’s decided to shoot himself in the foot. Claiming that the New York State Liquor Authority is threatening to take action against his liquor license, he’s deciding to take it out on the fans.

In a blowup during a television interview, he threatened to deprive fans of the high margin booze that he profits from selling. Really, you can’t make this stuff up. He hates lawyers so much — OK, not all lawyers, just the ones on the other side — that he is willing to lose money for no greater reason than pissing off people that are already paying him big bucks to go to games and events:

In a rambling and defiant interview on Fox 5 on Thursday, Dolan lashed out at his myriad critics, railed against bail reform, and threatened to withhold booze at a future sporting event if state regulators don’t drop their opposition to his surveillance practice.

This quote is a classic, as he seems to think that the championship-deprived fans that already despise him will take it out on someone other than him:

“So I have a little surprise for ‘em. They’re basically doing this for publicity, so we’re gonna give ‘em some publicity. What we’re gonna do, right, is we’re gonna pick a night, maybe a Rangers game, and we’re gonna shut down all the liquor and alcohol in the building. This isn’t gonna bother me because I’ve been sober 29 years. I don’t need the liquor.”

You can almost hear the “Dolan Sucks” chanting pouring down from the Garden’s rafters as Dolan competes for the title of Most Hated Man in New York.


November 15th, 2022

Dolan’s War Against Lawyers

The deeply unpopular James Dolan.

James Dolan, the CEO of the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden and other venues, hates lawyers. Or, more particularly, he hates lawyers that have the audacity to sue him or his companies.

So he banned them from his venues. Brought a routine trip and fall case against MSG due to a broken step? Banned. Brought a dram shop case because one of its bars over served a patron? Banned. Here’s a sample of those letters, courtesy of Richard Jaffe:

Had season tickets to the Knicks for almost 50 years? Banned. Wait. What? Almost 50 years of loyalty and you get banned?

Attorney Larry Hutcher had sued Dolan’s business, the Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Corp., representing resellers of tickets. Dolan, it seems, didn’t like it that others may make a buck off the resale of tickets and tried to stop the practice. If there were excess profits floating around, he wanted them.

But he didn’t just ban the lawyer, he also banned all 60 lawyers at his firm, most of whom likely have nothing whatsoever to do with the lawsuit. And they were banned from all venues, regardless of whether it was a sporting event or a concert at the Beacon Theatre or Radio City Music Hall.

What does Radio City have to do with a personal injury case at the Garden? Nothing, except one James Dolan, its infamously hypersensitive owner.

So Hutcher sued MSG over the ban, and gained a partial victory this week. While generally an owner can ban whoever the hell they want from their private property — except based on protected classes such as race, religion, sex, etc. But lawyers are not a protected class.

An additional exception to the common law rule that you stop people you don’t like from coming onto your land, however, is NY Civil Rights Law 40-B. An owner can’t prohibit people coming onto the land for public performances of “legitimate theatres, burlesque theatres, music halls, opera houses, concert halls and circuses.”

(And no, this post isn’t about the concept of what is a “legitimate” theatre, which is obviously a First Amendment issue.)

What was the rationale for stopping lawyers from coming in? And by the rationale, I mean the excuse that they gave, not the real reason. The excuse was that coming into the venue might somehow be deemed discovery “outside proper litigation discovery channels.” Please stop laughing.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Lyle E. Frank handed a partial victory this week to Hutcher. While MSG/Dolan can’t be forced to sell him a ticket, he can still attend if he has one. And this also doesn’t pertain to sporting events, because even though I would call much of that theater, it isn’t in the definition of excluded venues.

And as to the excuse offered by MSG? Justice Frank succinctly wrote:

“[T]here appears to be no rational basis for the policy instituted by the defendants except to dissuade attorneys from bringing suit against them. The concern that the defendants could be prejudiced by allowing attorneys who are representing those who have brought action against the defendant to attend events with thousands of other people is unavailing to this Court.”

So what will happen next? More litigation you can be sure! Because somehow, someway, the Dolan family will likely do whatever it can to keep the resale or gifting of tickets who have had the audacity to sue them, out of their hands.

The decision in Hutcher v. MSG Entertainment is here: