GREENWICH VILLAGE — A New York University Law School trustee who was assailed when his company subpoenaed the personal emails of two students who criticized him will step down, DNAinfo New York has learned.
A one-line memo announcing Daniel Straus would depart at the end of the academic year was emailed to law school students Thursday afternoon from law school Dean Trevor Morrison and Board of Trustees chairman Anthony Welters.
"We write to let you know that, by mutual agreement of Daniel Straus and the Law School, Mr. Straus will be leaving the Law School Board at the end of this academic year (May 22, 2014)," the memo read.
Law School students Leo Gertner and Luke Herrine were served subpoenas after they circulated a letter asking to meet with Morrison to discuss the labor practices of Straus' home health aide and nursing home companies, CareOne Management and Healthbridge.
The subpoenas were issued as part of a RICO lawsuit filed in New Jersey federal court by the companies against their employees' union, SEIU 1199. Gertner and Herrine were told to turn over personal emails, text messages and even paychecks.
Gertner and Herrine's attorney, retained and paid for by the law school, filed a motion to quash the subpoenas on April 25, slamming them as "unreasonable dragnets" for being excessively broad.
The students' attorney also decried the subpoenas as a means to curb First Amendment rights to free speech and political association on campus. That accusation was echoed in an amicus brief filed shortly after by the ACLU of New Jersey and one of the law school's own professors, Burt Neuborne.
Students and alumni have rallied around Gertner and Herrine, alarmed at the "chilling effect" they said such legal action against students could have on campus. A petition signed by more than 500 students, faculty and alumni demanding Straus have the subpoenas withdrawn was delivered to Straus' home and work addresses, and the Law School's Student Bar Association also condemned Straus.
In the first resolution the student group has passed in five years, they blasted "the issuance and refusal to withdraw these subpoenas as a failure by Trustee Daniel Straus to honor the relationships and responsibilities that the Law School community expects from its trustee," the resolution read.
Straus' stepping down does not mean that the subpoenas will be withdrawn. CareOne has to respond to the motion to quash by Monday, though they can request an extension. The judge is expected to rule on the motion on May 19.
In a statement, a representative for CareOne and Straus insisted that the plans for Straus to step down were already in the works.
The health care company said Straus told Morrison last summer that he planned to resign, and Morrison asked Straus to stay on. According to a company representative, Straus decided to do so until the end of this year, when the institute he funds, The Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice, will close.
"Mr. Straus has been honored to serve as a trustee, is gratified by the excellent work carried out by the Institute, and remains a strong supporter of the law school," Deborah Maxson wrote in an email.
A representative for the law school did not immediately confirm whether Maxson's account was accurate.