Contrary to Statement on WNYC, Gibson Dunn Now Claims Weinshall as Client

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.

Photo: ## Dunn##

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.

  • Wpcps

    What is CUNY’s position on an employee using her office email address to send hundreds of emails about non-work-related issues?  Additionally, how does CUNY feel about a taxpayer-funded-salary being used, in part, to fund time spent lobbying and planning strategy to wage a campaign against political opponents and the community?

    In addition to Weinshall’s emails, there are hundreds from Dean Louise Hainline, who in an email that was disclosed wrote to her fellow NBBLers, “Now to do the work I didn’t get done today because of the above…”

    Both Iris Weinshall and Louise Hainline should have a lot of explaining to do to the CUNY board and taxpayers if they want to keep their salaries and pensions.

  • MRB

    I’m no lawyer,
    but in Law & Order, the inclusion of a 3rd-Party [such as members of NBBL] would void Attourney-Client Privilege.

  • dporpentine

    Ben: As your phrasing makes clear you already recognize, Wienshall may very well be the client of Gibson Dunn attorney/lawyer Jim Walden but that’s not necessarily the same as being a part of the group he’s representing.

    It stinks to high heaven, of course, but either of them can quash this pretty quickly by denying (again) that that she was involved *in the group at that time* and that they’re not obligated to discuss publicly the reason she wrote to him in his capacity as a lawyer.

    But keep at it with the SEO-baiting headlines.

  • There’s nothing to quash. Jim Walden gave an incredibly misleading statement on the air. Brian Lehrer asked him point-blank about the Schumer-Weinshall connection, and Walden failed to admit that Chuck Schumer’s wife was his client. Instead he answered in a way that would lead any ordinary listener to believe that Weinshall had no ties to him or the lawsuit.

  • Mike

    So why’d you agree to the settlement?

  • @2a15ea2c09af9bca9fa0232039062265:disqus  The terms of the settlement gave us access to non-privileged documents and allow us to challenge claims of privilege that we think won’t hold up in court.

  • dporpentine

    But nothing in your report proves that she was part of that group or part of that suit. She could’ve gone to him to ask his help fighting a traffic ticket.

  • @c661ddb94bcffdc2c6124e349eafdc77:disqus  Open the privilege log and you’ll see all the messages about PPW described as “emails between clients and counsel re: litigation strategy,” which Iris either sent or received.

  • Nicely Dunn!

  • Larry Littlefield

    Here’s the irony.  The plaintiffs in this suit believe government is about connections,  privileges, and deals the formal participation presented for the serfs is nothing but a facade.

    And I have sadly come to agree with them.

    But the PPW bike lane is brought to you by seemingly naive people who think differently. Who petitioned, did studies, lobbied the community board and Transportation Department, and got the elected Mayor and City Council member to agree with them, went through all those democratic processes that I see as nothing but a shadow play.  And went about it for years.

    This will be an interesting morality play no matter how it turns out.

  • dporpentine

    @BenFried:disqus You’re absolutely right–in there clear as day. I now think you’re underplaying how firm your evidence is in your report.

  • dporpentine

    @BenFried:disqus You’re absolutely right–in there clear as day. I now think you’re underplaying how firm your evidence is in your report.

  • Anonymous

    Also the terms of the settlement make it clear Iris Wienshall’s involvement with NBBL and Gibson Dunn.

  • Daphna

    CUNY students should be made aware of this. They might want to protest Iris Weinshall’s employment at their school.  She is working to make the streets unsafe, working against what the community needs, had her lawyer lie and say she was not a client, is trying to have her will followed rather that the will of the community, has a lawyer doing pro-bono work when it does not meet the qualifications for pro-bono, etc.  I think CUNY students would be very disturbed.  It would be excellent if they were informed fully on this and then they chose to demonstrate against Iris Weinhall’s employment at their school.

    Also, as Wpcps wrote, the school trustees should also be disturbed that Iris Weinhall is using CUNY resources for non-work issues, and is stealing time from CUNY by advocating against a safe street redesign during the hours when she is being paid to be working for CUNY.

  • Community Member

    mistermarkdavis, you are right but I think the point is not to show that Weinshall was or is Walden’s client, but to show that Walden, when asked about it directly, did not tell the truth.  You can not believe anything that comes out of this guy’s mouth, yet this is the guy who might take the bike lane away based on lies.

  • Guest

    He was for bike lanes before he was against them

  • Come Clean, Chuck

    U.S. Senators exempted themselves from Freedom of Information laws.

    Regardless, consider this an official request that Chuck Schumer release all his correspondence containing any reference to the redesign of Prospect Park West.

    Given that the Senator is an avowed devotee of cycling, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Right?

  • CUNY/Weinshall may try to claim that Weinshall withdrew from NBBL in preparation for the lawsuit because it is unseemly for Weinshall to be suing her successor in office.  But in fact Weinshall was plotting litigation against her successor for months, and breaking all sorts of CUNY rules in the process.  Will a judge uphold Weinshall’s right to shield that process from public disclosure?  I guess we’ll get to see.  But even if the claim of privilege is upheld–in fact, especially if it is upheld–this play by Weinshall and her pro bono lawyer lays bare the sleaze factor behind the anti-PPW campaign like nothing else.

  • Anonymous

    Wpcps: I’ve written CUNY and Brooklyn College about Weinshall and Hainline a few times. They’ve told me what they said to Ben Fried repeatedly: they will stonewall and hide behind those emails being “privileged communication” that took place on each professor’s private time. If this is to go anywhere, it would have to start from the top. Bad publicity or someone influential like a key Brooklyn College donor would have to put a bee in Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s bonnet about the impropriety. Then Goldstein would have to be willing to tackle Senator Schmucky Chucky. I’m not confident of those odds, but if you know any influential BC donors, fire away……

  • Wet Cycling Guest

    Two questions for Bicycle Only:

    1. Can you elaborate on following? Is there litigation filed raising this question? “Will a judge uphold Weinshall’s right to shield that process from public disclosure?  I guess we’ll get to see?”

    2. Has Streetsblog listed Weinshall “breaking all sorts of CUNY rules in the process.”

  • Foreclosure Expert

    Can they be morally bankrupt if they didn’t have any to start with?

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  • bj

    Jim Walden’s pro bono focus is on protecting people from the power of
    government. He filed a class action against the Social Security
    Administration, alleging a systematic failure to fairly adjudicate
    disability claims. He brought an action against the National Park
    Service for illegally removing two Civil War-era historic landmarks. He
    challenged the federal government’s practice of deporting aliens after
    two unrelated drug possessions. He sued the government to restore food
    stamp benefits to more than 11,000 disabled New Yorkers; represented a
    transgendered man suing a state-funded drug treatment center; challenged
    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on changes to term limits; and sued New York
    City to remove a bike lane in Brooklyn.

    Read more:


NBBL Lawyer Jim Walden on Brian Lehrer This Morning

Update 4: Second caller is Michael Freedman-Schnapp from Brad Lander’s office, and the third caller is a mother of three, Megan, who feels safer crossing PPW now that it’s not a three-lane speedway. And that’s it for the callers. Lehrer pops a “pro bono” question. Walden says he took the case pro bono because it’s […]

Chuck Schumer’s Office Has No Comment on Prospect Park West

Streetsblog has contacted Senator Chuck Schumer’s press office twice asking for comment on the Prospect Park West bike lane and received no reply. Reports have recently surfaced personally tying Schumer to efforts to reverse the Prospect Park West redesign, which enjoys broad popular support according to a web survey of nearly 3,000 Brooklynites. Schumer’s wife, […]