Yesterday we found out that the well-connected opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane are refusing to accept the decision from Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Bert Bunyan rejecting their lawsuit. A caveat to the journalists who might pick up the remnants of this story: Quotes from the opponents’ attorney, Gibson Dunn partner Jim Walden, often need vigorous fact-checking.
We’ve written a few posts about the ways Walden and NBBL cherry-picked data about the PPW redesign to suit their conclusions. But it turns out that Walden gave misleading statements about even more basic information — like whom he’s represented as part of his “pro bono” work to eradicate the Prospect Park West bike lane.
In March, soon after the lawsuit was filed, Walden was interviewed by Brian Lehrer on WNYC. At one point Lehrer asked why Walden took the case “pro bono,” given the privileged social status of NBBL members, and whether the group’s political connections played a role:
Lehrer: People say you’re trying to suck up to Senator Schumer and get a job with him because his wife is part of this group.
Walden: Right. Well, she’s not part of the group.
When the lawsuit was at its apex in the news cycle, Walden was trying to distance Schumer from it and deny former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall’s connection to the anti-bike lane group.
But Walden and Weinshall are happy to reveal their attorney-client relationship — when it suits them.
Streetsblog recently reached a settlement with the City University of New York, stemming from a freedom of information request that CUNY initially contested, to disclose Weinshall’s correspondence regarding the PPW bike lane and her efforts to have it removed. The arrangement stipulates that CUNY does not have to disclose emails that are subject to attorney-client privilege. If Iris Weinshall indeed was not Gibson Dunn’s client, then no emails she sent or received would be shielded from disclosure based on their relationship.
However, in a log of all email correspondence protected from disclosure [PDF], Weinshall claims more than 200 messages between herself, members of NBBL, and Gibson Dunn lawyers should remain confidential due to attorney-client privilege. The shielded documents included messages written six weeks before Walden went on the air saying Weinshall is “not part of the group” suing the city. The log describes many of these messages as “emails between clients and counsel reflecting legal advice and litigation strategy.”
To recap: In March, trying to portray the lawsuit as an exercise in “good government” litigation, Walden goes on the air and tells NPR listeners that Iris Weinshall is not suing the city. Then this summer, when Streetsblog requests Iris Weinshall’s emails via freedom of information law, hundreds of them are off-limits because Weinshall is a Gibson Dunn client.