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NY AG’s office calls on Madison Square Garden to explain use of facial recognition to bar lawyers from venues

New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office wants Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan to explain reports that he is using facial recognition software at MSG and other venues he owns to identify and bar entry of attorneys who work at law firms representing anyone in litigation against him.

In a letter sent to MSGE lawyers on Wednesday, Kyle S. Rapiñan of the AG’s office’s Civil Rights Bureau cited reports of the company’s practice of denying admission to venues including Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, affecting thousands of lawyers in roughly 90 law firms.

“We write to raise concerns that the Policy may violate the New York Civil Rights Law and other city, state, and federal laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity. Such practices certainly run counter to the spirit and purpose of such laws, and laws promoting equal access to the courts,” the letter said.

Rapiñan explained that not allowing lawyers to enter MSGE venues if they have connections to litigation against the company, could “dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination claims.” He also said that trying to dissuade people from bringing discrimination claims or encouraging people to drop existing lawsuits so they can enter the venues for entertainment events could be in violation of city or state laws against retaliation.

JUDGE SLAMS JAMES DOLAN FOR ‘TOTALLY CRAZY’ FACIAL RECOGNITION BAN ON LEGAL FOES FROM VENUES

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 05: An exterior view of Madison Square Garden prior to the game between the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues on December 05, 2022 in New York City.  ((Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

The letter also raised issues with the facial recognition technology itself.

NY LEADERS CALL ON MADISON SQUARE GARDEN TO STOP USING FACIAL RECOGNITION TECH: ‘SETS A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT’

James Dolan Executive Chairman and CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, speaks at a news conference from the stage at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., May 17, 2021. (REUTERS/Mike Segar) (Reuters / Reuters Photos)

[R]esearch suggests that the Company’s use of facial recognition software may be plagued with biases and false positives against people of color and women,” Rapiñan wrote.

The letter gave MSGE until February 13 “to state the justifications for the Company’s Policy and identify all efforts you are undertaking to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and that the Company’s use of facial recognition technology will not lead to discrimination.”

New York City, NY, USA – November 4, 2016: Radio City Music Hall long exposure on 6th Avenue. (iStock / iStock)

A spokesperson for MSGE rejected the idea that the company was doing anything illegal.

“To be clear, our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues and it is not our intent to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Fox Business. “We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation. Most importantly, to even suggest anyone is being excluded based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous. Our policy has never applied to attorneys representing plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment or employment discrimination.”

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The New York Post reported that in November a judge branded MSGE CEO James Dolan’s use of facial recognition as “totally crazy.”

Dolan, the 67-year-old billionaire who is also executive chairman of MSG Sports, sent a letter last June to lawyers at 90 firms involved in lawsuits against his business ventures to stay away from his venues to avoid “improper disclosures.” At a Delaware Chancery Court hearing, Judge Kathaleen McCormick reportedly called the ban “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” 

Fox Business’ Eric Revell contributed to this report.

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