A New York judge ruled on Monday that Madison Square Garden Entertainment is limited in its ability ban lawyers representing clients who are suing the organization from attending events in its venues. Despite Monday’s ruling, MSG indicated its plans to continue to ban lawyers engaged in litigation against them to the allowable extent, while planning on appealing the order.
Judge Lyle E. Frank issued the ruling related to MSG’s policy, writing that “there appears to be no rational basis for the policy instituted by the defendants except to dissuade attorneys from bringing suit against them.”
MSG’s policy drew headlines in October after the organization barred longtime Knicks season ticket holder Larry Hutcher and other attorneys working at the firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP from attending events at the Garden, Hulu Theater, Beacon Theatre, and Radio City Music Hall because they are representing a group of ticket resellers that are suing the organization over what they say is an unlawful cancellation of season ticket accounts.
“Anybody who looked at that policy saw that it wasn’t a real policy, it was an attempt to intimidate and chill potential litigation,” Hutcher told TicketNews on Monday afternoon. “We didn’t have a fight with [MSG CEO James] Dolan. People have legitimate claims, they hire a lawyer to exercise their rights, and for [MSG] try to make a policy like this to prevent that – that’s not how we do things in this country.”
The ruling goes beyond just the Davidoff Hutcher & Citron attorneys – applying to attorneys at scores of other law firms who have been impacted by the ban due to other litigation against MSG.
“It really has a tremendous impact in addition to our firm,” Hutcher says. “They now are aware of a policy that they cannot enforce. It really was Ebeneezer Scrooge seeing people that they were gonna bar from the Christmas shows and all the other events that now can’t be enforced. The big bad bully got kicked in the shins.”
In a statement, MSG Entertainment threw cold water on any thoughts of that nature, focusing on the limited nature of the injunction, and the organization’s continued ability to refuse to sell tickets to lawyers engaged in litigation against them, or revoke tickets already sold to them, save for the specific circumstances set out in the ruling.
“Let’s be clear, today, the Court again affirmed our absolute right to both deny the sale of tickets to Mr. Hutcher and other attorneys engaged in active litigation against the company and to revoke any tickets that they obtain,” the statement reads. “We will vigorously defend this policy and our right to enforce it, including immediately appealing what the judge himself called a ‘small carve out’.”
In essence, blanket banning lawyers representing clients in cases brought against MSG from concerts and theatrical performances isn’t OK related to the civil rights law in question. If they hold a valid ticket at the time an event is starting, the venues have to honor it. But if the organization sees a lawyer it doesn’t want in the building buying a ticket for a future event, they can refuse to sell it, or cancel it up until the doors open.
“It is not unreasonable that while in active litigation, we would want to preserve our right to protect ourselves against improper disclosure and discovery,” the MSG statement says. “That is why we instituted this policy and we have repeatedly made clear that once litigation is resolved, impacted attorneys will be allowed back in our venues.”
Monday’s ruling also does not have any impact on the ongoing lawsuit involving Hutcher’s clients and MSG. In that lawsuit, a group of 24 ticket resellers allege that MSG and its component organizations are violating New York’s Arts & Culture laws regulating ticket resale broken the law by voiding season ticket accounts or tickets it had deemed held by resellers.
New York’s Arts and Cultural Affairs laws protect consumers from event operators stripping their rights to attend events over them having sold tickets legally purchased for events in the state. It was renewed – against strong opposition from organizations like Live Nation and MSG – earlier this year. Hutcher’s firm represented ticket resellers in a similar lawsuit against the New York Yankees in 2019, earning a settlement from the organization that restored the tickets to his clients.
It was just days after that action was filed that Hutcher and other attorneys in his practice were informed they were banned from all MSG venues, which spurred further legal action that led to this ruling.
Last Updated on November 14, 2022