The Legal Beat
Yale Deeply Concerned That (People Noticed) Its Law Firm Subpoenaed Murdered Kids
Posted on Tuesday October 19, 2021
What is it with Yale these days? Whenever controversy arrives at their doorstep, the school seems prepared to slough it off in the most mealy mouthed, bureaucratically vapid manner possible. Still reeling from their attempt to bury a racist FedSoc event with a boilerplate apology to “do better” — which is quickly becoming the “thoughts and prayers” of racism — the school has decided to bring its unique brand of being “deeply concerned” to the Sandy Hook murders. Achievement unlocked!
Day Pitney, representing arms manufacturer Remington, recently subpoenaed the families of Sandy Hook victims for school attendance records to figure out exactly how responsible a bunch of first-graders were for their own deaths. The subpoenas flabbergasted opposing counsel who said there was “no explanation” for Day Pitney’s request. The most generous interpretation of the move would be that the firm is setting up to argue that a 6-year-old’s future earnings were suspect because he was out with strep throat too often, but aside from this being tenuous to the point of laughable, the toxic cultural setting of the Sandy Hook killings is replete with allegations that the victims weren’t even at school that morning or even real. This makes the document requests much more disturbing as the firm leaned into the fever dreams of the most reprehensible conspiracy theorists.
It wasn’t even the first time the firm faced questions over its tactics in the case. Back in July, the firm sent thousands of cartoons in response to a targeted document request from the plaintiffs. “Unwilling to have this case decided by a jury on the merits with a full record, Remington has sought delay and obfuscation at every turn,” the plaintiffs said in a filing.
One of Day Pitney’s highest profile clients is Yale University, and some think the powerful client needs to take some responsibility for its business relationships.
In an open letter, Yale faculty, students, and student organizations have called upon the school to conduct “a review of whether an ongoing business relationship is appropriate or acceptable.” Which is actually a bit of a checked swing when talking about one of the most prominent institutions of higher learning in the world. Yale could walk down the street and grab another top-notch law firm in a minute, so it’s not one of those situations where the client is in too deep to realistically make a change — go ahead and ask them to fire Day Pitney outright for associating the school — which is in Connecticut — with the firm’s increasingly unhinged legal shenanigans surrounding the most significant tragedy to ever happen in the state.
So far the school’s response has tracked what we’d expect based on the recent FedSoc debacle:
[Vice President for Communications Nathaniel] Nickerson said that “when Yale learned of this action on Sunday, [University General Counsel Alexander] Dreier expressed his views to the management of Day Pitney in the strongest terms.”
“Yale is waiting to hear what Day Pitney intends to do to address this situation while we consider Yale’s ongoing relationship with the firm,” Nickerson said.
Superficially this tracks the request from the open letter: the school is considering its relationship. But “superficial” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. “Learned of this action on Sunday [October 10]” means “learned that people were upset about it” on Sunday. The fact that Day Pitney asked for attendance records for murdered children was news since the beginning of September. And even if Yale’s in-house lawyers aren’t reading Above the Law closely enough to see our September 3 story — and they really should be — the Washington Post was on this by September 9. Yale can’t plausibly claim that they were in the dark for a month.
And we could use a lot more color as to what “strongest terms” even means. Because to me, “strongest terms” would be “withdraw that motion and apologize or you leave us no choice but to seek new outside counsel,” and yet I’m not optimistic that this would describe the exchange.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.