GREENWICH VILLAGE — A group of New York University Law School students are calling on the school to publicly support two students whose private emails were subpoenaed by a company owned by a law school trustee after the students criticized the company's labor practices.
Leo Gertner and Luke Herrine, the students who were subpoenaed, along with a handful of their classmates, delivered a letter to NYU Law School dean Trevor Morrison on Friday asking him to condemn NYU Law School trustee Daniel Straus for allowing his company to subpoena the students as part of an ongoing labor dispute with a union.
To date, NYU has only financially supported the students through their court battle by retaining lawyers for them. But Morrison and Anthony Welters, chairman of the Law School's board of trustees, have been careful not to take sides in the battle, praising Straus for his contributions to the school even while reassuring students that the school has their best interests at heart in a campuswide email blast last Thursday.
"While we appreciate that NYU Law has provided counsel for the subpoenaed students...we believe that the NYU Law administration should publicly oppose Mr. Straus’s subpoenas and any further use of this legal device by trustees against students," the students said in the letter to Morrison.
The letter adds that Straus' senior healthcare company, CareOne Management, which runs nursing homes, clearly intended to use "subpoenas to stifle free speech on NYU Law’s campus."
"We question Mr. Straus’s ability to keep students’ best interests in mind and to play a responsible role on the Board by fostering, not stifling, dialogue on matters of public concern."
The students said they had not received a response from Morrison as of Monday afternoon.
A representative of NYU Law School declined to comment Monday.
The subpoena from CareOne to the students followed a yearslong legal battle between the private agency and healthcare workers union SEIU 1199 over allegations that the company had violated labor laws. The company accused the union of manipulating NYU students in an effort to have Straus forced out of his role on the school's board of trustees.
A spokeswoman for CareOne defended the subpoenas last week, saying they were necessary to obtain "relevant evidence" in a court fight between CareOne and local labor union SEIU 1199.
Gertner and Herrine said they appreciate NYU's legal assistance, but they still want the school to come out firmly against the subpoenas.
The same group of students also sent a petition to Straus last Wednesday, signed by more than 500 NYU students, faculty and alumni, concerned that the subpoenas would have a "chilling effect" on free speech on campus. The petition demands Straus publicly apologize and tell the attorneys for his company to withdraw the subpoenas.
The students said they have not received a response from Straus.
Gertner and Herrine said their attorney plans to file a formal objection to the subpoena in court this week.