MSG Under Fire for Use of Facial Recognition in Ban of Lawyers MSG Under Fire for Use of Facial Recognition in Ban of Lawyers
Madison Square Garden’s crusade against any lawyer representing someone in proceedings against it has landed the entertainment company in the headlines again, this time... MSG Under Fire for Use of Facial Recognition in Ban of Lawyers

Madison Square Garden’s crusade against any lawyer representing someone in proceedings against it has landed the entertainment company in the headlines again, this time for its usage of facial recognition software to kick a lawyer out of a venue – while she was there with a Girl Scout troop.

Kelly Conlon, a lawyer from New Jersey, was in New York with her 9-year-old daughter and other members of her troop to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, but she never made it in to the show. Instead, she was pulled aside by security at the entrance, who showed her a sheet that identified her as someone on an “attorney exclusion list” put out by MSG Entertainment, denying her entry.

“They told me that they knew I was Kelly Conlon and that I was an attorney,” she told the New York Times. “They knew the name of my law firm.”

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Unable to leave because she was giving multiple children rides to and from the city, Ms. Conlon waited out the show in her car.

MSG began blocking attorneys at firms representing clients suing the company earlier this year, and the ban has drawn major headlines and legal challenges. Larry Hutcher, whose firm is representing clients suing MSG Entertainment alleging they are violating New York state law by cancelling season ticket accounts over some tickets being resold, won a partial victory against the practice with a judge’s ruling in November, though the venue continues to keep opposing lawyers out as best as it can in spite of that.

“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 at the time of the ruling that limited MSGs ability to ban. “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.”

Another lawyer filed a lawsuit in December over being ejected from a Mariah Carey performance at MSG in spite of showing up with a valid ticket, which falls within the boundaries of what the ruling related to Hutcher’s claim made clear – the venue has no right to bar lawyers from entry if they show up with a valid ticket.

“By continuing to impose bans against adverse attorneys, despite this court’s recent order in the Hutcher matter, MSG makes clear that it intends to intimidate adverse litigants by any means necessary,” Landi’s lawsuit states.

In Conlon’s case, her firm is intending to pursue action against MSG Entertainment’s liquor license in the wake of her incident.

“The liquor license that MSG got requires them to admit members of public, unless there are people who would be disruptive, who constitute a security threat,” says Sam Davis, a senior partner at Davis, Saperstein & Solomon, the firm at which Conlon is an associate. “This whole scheme is a pretext for doing collective punishment on adversaries who would dare sue MSG in their multibillion-dollar network.”

MSG continues to defend its actions and insist that all lawyers are banned from any event at any time, regardless of the legal rulings that have been made of late.

“You and all Affected Attorneys are hereby put on notice that any tickets to MSG Venues that they previously acquired or acquire in the future – whether purchased directly by an Affected Attorney, purchased through a reseller, or acquired through a third party – are hereby revoked and deemed revoked, void and invalid with respect to the Affected Attorneys, and the company will not permit any Affected Attorneys to be admitted into the venue,” reads a letter that MSG sent to Hutcher’s office in the wake of the November ruling.

“Please be on notice that [MSG] will take appropriate steps to enforce this policy, should you or any other Affected Attorneys attempt to gain entry to any of the MSG Venues with revoked tickets, as these tickets have been revoked and the Affected Attorneys now know in advance they will not be admitted.”

The usage of facial recognition software adds yet another layer to the issues at hand, given that many consumers have been overwhelming in their rejection of companies using such systems as an invasion of privacy. Consumer privacy and artist groups have come out strongly against facial recognition technology in multiple instances, such as when Ticketmaster implied that it might be rolling out the usage of such technology at events, drawing swift rebuke. Live Nation and AEG subsequently backed off of those plans in 2019, but many organizations continue to use them in the background, such as to screen for potential security threats, like opposing lawyers.

Last Updated on December 23, 2022 by Dave Clark