Students speak out against Yale-affiliated lawyers for role in Sandy Hook trial
Zoe Berg, Photo Editor
Yale students have called on the University to sever ties with Day Pitney LLP, a law firm that represents both Yale and Remington, a gun manufacturer sued by parents of students killed in the Sandy Hook shooting and a drew criticism for practices including the academic subpoena of the first-graders who were killed.
Day Pitney, a national law firm with an office in New Haven, has served as the University’s external legal counsel on a number of matters, from libel lawsuits to real estate litigation. However, while benefiting from its association with the University, the firm represented Remington in a way that drew criticism from the judge in the Sandy Hook case and the Washington Post Editorial Board. Day Pitney’s practices include sending over 30,000 allegedly irrelevant documents, memes and cartoons in connection with the discovery and subpoena of the murdered children’s attendance and school records, as well as records jobs for teachers killed in the shooting.
âYou don’t really have to have been involved in gun violence prevention, advocacy, or even politics to find what Day Pitney is doing here that is so disturbing,â said Matt Post ’22, co-author of the open letter. âThe reason I felt so compelled to get involved is the idea that my tuition is being used indirectly for bullying. [and] the harassment of the families of these victimsâ¦ disgusted me.
According to vice president of communications Nathaniel Nickerson, Day Pitney has represented the University on matters relating to real estate, zoning work and bond offerings. He added that Day Pitney has also served as a local defense attorney for Yale in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Students for Fair Admissions.
Nickerson said that “when Yale learned of this action on Sunday, [University General Counsel Alexander] Dreier expressed his point of view to Day Pitney’s management in the strongest terms. “
âYale is waiting to hear what Day Pitney intends to do to remedy this situation as we consider Yale’s continued relationship with the company,â said Nickerson.
Elizabeth Sher, general counsel and partner of Day Pitney, told the News that the firm has a “long-standing relationship” with Yale and has the “privilege” of representing the University in a number of legal matters. âWe have a lot of respect for the institution, its employees and its students,â Sher wrote in an email to News.
Sher declined to comment on Sandy Hook’s lawsuit because litigation is ongoing.
Post pointed out that Day Pitney was not sticking to “the values ââthat Yale claims to hold” and said the firm should therefore not be able to profit from its business with the University or “pay its lawyers with it. [studentsâ] tuition dollars.
The Sandy Hook families sued Remington Arms in 2014, alleging that the gun maker was dangerously marketing a military-style weapon – the AR-15 – to the public, particularly targeting young men prone to violence in its marketing.
Adam Lanza, who was 20 at the time of the shooting, used an AR-15 when he killed his mother, 20 school children and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
âPersonally, I find the decision to subpoena the cases of these young children to be completely irrelevant, and as a practicing lawyer, I would never take such a step and I would not allow any lawyer to do so. do as part of representing Yale, âDreier wrote in an email to News.
In a September 9 editorial, the Washington Post editorial board also wrote that the attorney’s decision to subpoena the documents is “beyond comprehension.”
In early September, Josh Koskoff, the victim’s family lawyer, filed a petition to protect the information revealed by Day Pitney’s subpoena for the Sandy Hook victims’ cases.
In Koskoff’s petition, he questioned the motives behind the demands of Remington’s attorneys – the Day Pitney employees. Koskoff declined to comment for this story.
âThere is no conceivable way that these children’s application and admission documents, attendance records, transcripts, report cards, [and] disciplinary records, to name just some of the things sought by the subpoena, will help Remington in his defense, and plaintiffs fail to understand why Remington would invade families’ privacy with such a request, âthe petition states.
Post described Day Pitney’s rationale for requiring these “spine-chilling” recordings.
Thaddeus Talbot LAW ’22, the other co-author of the open letter, said the University’s decision to keep Day Pitney as legal counsel despite his well-documented ethical issues in this case contradicts ethical and professional rules and guidelines that he is learning at Yale Law School
âIt’s very clear to me that Day Pitney is pushing the boundaries of ethical rules in order to intimidate these families,â said Talbot. “Yale shouldn’t be dealing with a law firm that is willing to stoop that low.”
In 2020, Remington filed for bankruptcy in a move that plaintiffs in the case say would prevent the company from paying damages and accepting responsibility for its actions. In July 2021, Remington also offered the plaintiffs a settlement of $ 33 million, or roughly $ 3.6 million per family, which the families of the victims have yet to reject or accept.
Talbot said that due to the fact that the settlement was not immediately accepted, Remington was trying to prolong the process long enough for the families to drop their case. He said Remington was also trying to use bullying tactics to get families to drop their cases, with those efforts being led by lawyers for Day Pitney.
Some, however, argue that there should be no restriction on who a lawyer represents. In 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union sentenced Harvard students who have successfully protested that a faculty member lose his post in a residential house over his decision to join Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team.
Yet 103 people signed the open letter. Post told The News about what he sees as the University’s obligations in this matter.
âSo everyone absolutely deserves legal representation,â Post told The News. “But when that legal representation crosses the line of intimidating the families of murdered first gradersâ¦ I think [that] is inadmissible.
He added that this is not a question of right or wrong, as these practices have been widely condemned. The essential question, in his view, is why the University, while fully aware of Day Pitney’s practices, chooses to maintain them as legal counsel.
“If the harassment of the families of the killed children and the Sandy Hook shooting fit with Day Pitney’s values, so be it,” Post said. âBut as a student here at this university, I certainly don’t think that matches that at Yale. I think the people who profit by the name of Yale, who profit from doing business with Yale, who profit from our tuition fees should be held to a certain standard of respectable behavior.
Day Pitney’s New Haven office is located at 195 Church St.