from the service-these-particular-employers-expect dept
The NYPD has long been a stalwart opponent of transparency and accountability. It has spent years trying to rebrand as a national security agency, drafting on former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s unearned reputation as the post-9/11 savior of New York City.
Journalists have noted the NYPD is even more secretive than the CIA and NSA, two agencies whose secrets have only been revealed by leakers. Not even its own oversight can crack this extremely thick blue line that separates the NYPD from everyone else. And its own union has stated the public deserves the silence and opacity it gets because, without it, New York City would become a hellhole overseen by the criminal element.
Rick Pinto, writing for Hell Gate, says at least one member of the thin blue line between transparency, accountability, and (apparently) compliance with court orders has (finally) been kicked to the curb by New York City’s Law Department.
Last week, in an effort to avoid sanctions for failing to turn over evidence, Dara Weiss, the NYPD’s lead lawyer in the cases, was found to have lied to the federal judge and to have forged multiple documents, mocking up fake copies of an email that she had claimed to send, but never had.
Weiss, an 18-year veteran of the New York City Law Department, which represents the City of New York and its agencies in lawsuits, was fired on Friday, according to court documents.
One down, but oh so many to go. Dara Weiss managed to make herself an unavoidable target for removal by brazenly defying court orders and, in the case examined by Pinto, forging emails in an attempt to claim she had actually complied with a court order.
This firing follows months of misconduct by the NY Law Department lawyer. She had been sanctioned five times in recent months by New York courts for refusing to turn over evidence and information requested by plaintiffs in civil rights lawsuits against the NYPD.
The final straw appears to have been an email Weiss forged in response to discovery requests targeting communications sent in response to former Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins’ racist tweets. Weiss was ordered to turn over this information by March 3 by Judge Gabriel Gorenstein. Instead of handing over this information, Weiss apparently chose to forge an email showing she had already released this to the plaintiffs.
Gorenstein threatened the NYPD and its lawyers with sanctions for ignoring this order. Weiss tried to avoid this by sending a letter to the judge on April 26, claiming she had sent the info to the plaintiffs. As proof, she offered a PDF screenshot of an email she claimed to have sent to the plaintiffs disclosing the information the court had ordered her to hand over.
What she didn’t do was provide the original email, which plaintiffs claimed they had never received.
This perplexed the dozens of plaintiffs’ lawyers Weiss was claiming to have sent an email to—none of them had received it. That day, Rickner pressed Weiss in emails for evidence that she had indeed offered to meet. On the morning of the next day, April 27, she responded by sending them a PDF file she claimed was a copy of the email. Presumably confused why Weiss would send a PDF as proof she had sent an email, plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote back, asking her to “forward the actual email, as an attachment, so it has the metadata intact.”
Weiss wrote back that afternoon, this time including what she claimed was the text of the email, though not as an attachment with original metadata. But there were peculiar discrepancies between that email text and the PDF that Weiss said she had generated from the email, according to a letter Rickner later wrote to the court. For one thing, an email address was misspelled in the PDF, but appeared correctly in the second email.
The plaintiffs’ forensic expert pressed Weiss for the original email in order to examine the metadata. Weiss then claimed to have forgotten to send the original email, which explained why the plaintiffs hadn’t seen it. She called this an “error” but still refused to hand over copies of the draft email so the metadata could be examined.
The forensic expert arrived at this conclusion:
“Saying the email had been sent, when it had not been, was almost certainly not an accident.”
If this analysis is correct (and there’s nothing indicating it isn’t), Weiss not only lied to counsel representing those suing the NYPD, but also lied to the federal court itself. After the New York City Law Department’s request to meet with the judge in private to discuss this issue was rebuffed by the court, the Law Department did the next best thing: it fired the lying lawyer.
“This Office takes this matter very seriously and does not tolerate such conduct under any circumstances,” Miller wrote. “As a result, this attorney’s employment has been terminated. We sincerely apologize to the Court and all the parties for the inconvenience this has caused.”
That ends Weiss’s 18-year career at the NYC Law Department, during which she handled more than 80 civil rights cases involving the NYPD. But this isn’t her only misconduct. As mentioned above, she has been sanctioned multiple times by courts, including being sanctioned and fined for withholding documents from a plaintiff who was beaten while being detained on Rikers Island.
The good news is the NYPD has one less liar representing its rank-and-file liars. The downside is the New York City Law Department considers this termination to be the end of the line. It apparently has no interest in examining Weiss’s past efforts to see how often she ignored court orders, hid information from plaintiffs, or otherwise abused her position to give some of the most powerful people in New York City a leg up during civil rights litigation.
Much like other government agencies, the Law Department apparently feels riding to the rescue to do the unavoidable after years of apparent malfeasance is a form of accountability. It really isn’t. It’s nothing more than doing the right thing because doing the wrong thing is no longer an option.