Lawyer Removed from Radio City Music Hall After Facial Recognition Flagged Her As Opposing Counsel
Many of us have endured mixed reactions when we inform someone that we're an attorney. Sometimes it's apprehension, other times, it opens a Pandora's box of information we did not want about an acquaintance.
But how many of us have been asked to leave a public arts venue because of where we work?
That's what Kelly Conlon says happened when she tried to bring her daughter to see a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall this past holiday season.
'They Knew My Name Before I Told Them'
Conlon is a senior associate at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, a personal injury firm in New Jersey. As it turns out, one of the firm's clients is suing a restaurant owned by MSG Entertainment, the same parent company as Radio City.
MSG also owns Madison Square Garden, the Beacon Theater, and the Chicago Theater.
Conlon is not involved in litigation against MSG, but she told NBC New York that she was pulled aside by security when she brought her daughter to Radio City Music Hall as part of a Girl Scout field trip.
"They knew my name before I told them," she said. "They knew the firm I was associated with before I told them. And they told me I was not allowed to be there."
Signs posted at the theater did notify patrons of the venue's use of facial recognition technology for security purposes. But apparently, Conlon did not know they were also using it to carry out a controversial policy banning attorneys involved in litigation against MSG.
No Soup for You
MSG introduced the ban in June, sending out letters to multiple law firms informing them that their attorneys could not enter any MSG venues until litigation is resolved. The company claims the policy protects against improper contact between MSG employees and opposing counsel. But it doesn't just ban attorneys actually working on cases against MSG — it's a blanket ban on the whole firm.
Several firms have sued over the policy. MSG argues that a ticket to one of its venues is a license it can revoke for any reason or no reason at all. But multiple trial judges in New York and Delaware disagree, with one calling the policy "the stupidest thing I've ever read" during oral arguments.
In those same oral arguments, attorney Greg Varallo brought up the possibility of facial recognition being used to eject lawyers from MSG venues.
"It appears that my friends at Madison Square Garden have used facial recognition software to come in and scrape all the web pages of all the firms involved," Varallo said.
That was based on a sworn affidavit from another attorney, Barbara Hart, who says she was removed from Madison Square Garden in October under this policy. Hart was also not involved in her firm's case against MSG and says she was unaware of the ban.
In November, a New York trial judge ruled that MSG could not deny entry to someone possessing a valid ticket, noting that "there appears to be no rational basis for the policy except to dissuade attorneys from bringing suit." But the judge also ruled that MSG can refuse to sell tickets to attorneys from opposing firms or revoke them "up until the time they present such tickets for entry."
So MSG doubled down on the policy, sending out another round of letters stating that tickets attorneys at affected firms obtained to any MSG venue were "hereby revoked."
We doubt any of these attorneys will resort to trenchcoats and fake mustaches, but we kind of wish they would.
Conlon's firm, for its part, is challenging MSG's liquor license, arguing that they are required to admit members of the public unless they cause a disruption.
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