MSG Entertainment, which owns and operates Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, other venues, and restaurants, took a bold step. It sent a letter to 90 law firms that are in litigation with MSG stating, “Neither you, nor any other attorney employed at your firm, may enter the Company’s venues until final resolution of the litigation.” The purpose of the ban was to prevent said lawyers from collecting evidence “outside proper litigation discovery channels.”
MSG then used facial recognition technology to turn the lawyers away. Lawyers then did what they are trained to do, they sued MSQ. Lawyers are not a protected class, yet. So, anti-discrimination laws do not apply. The NBA does not prohibit the use of facial recognition.
So, the lawyers relied on a 1941 New York law that prohibits entertainment venues from denying admission unless the patron has become abusive. The law was drafted by an ACLU attorney for a theater critic who had been banished from 30 theaters. Tough to pan a play when you haven’t seen it.
A court has granted a temporary injunction against MSG’s ban until things can be sorted out, well, in litigation over litigation. MSG has appealed. The lawyers are making the litigation about the dangers of using facial recognition technology.
Facial recognition is the tool for implementing the ban. The issue is whether business owners can decide who gets to enter their establishments. As the attorney for MSG pointed out to the judge in one of the cases, “Lawyers sometimes alienate people.” He added that when he was a prosecutor cracking down on the mafia, “There are some Italian restaurants I couldn’t get a reservation at. I didn’t sue them.”
It seems lawyers have hit an occupational hazard that affects their social lives. Hell hath no fury like a slip-and-fall lawyer banished from Knicks games and Phish concerts.
Kashmir Hill, “Arena Ban on Lawyers Fails to Stick,” New York Times, January 17, 2023, p. B1.