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Appeals Court Limits Artists Rights and Issues New Precedent Severely Limiting Every Americans Right to Depose

Government Officials Today, 9/25/13, the 2nd circuit Federal Appeals Court issued a significant ruling which does serious damage to every U.S. citizens civil and due process rights. The ruling was issued in Lederman et al v Parks Department and can be read in its entirety here: After ruling in favor of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Parks Departments rules severely limiting the freedom of First Amendment protected street artists (rules which directly contradicted the 2nd circuits own previous rulings in favor of street artists rights) the court went further and issued what they described as, a precedential decision severely limiting the right to depose government officials in civil or criminal court cases. EXCERPT from pg 9 of the ruling: We have not previously addressed this issue in a precedential decision. We now hold that, to depose a high-ranking government official, a party must demonstrate exceptional circumstances justifying the deposition -- for example, that the official has unique first-hand knowledge related to the litigated claims or that the necessary information cannot be obtained through other, less burdensome or intrusive means. Bogan v. City of Boston, 489 F.3d 417, 423 (1st Cir. 2007); In re United States (Holder), 197 F.3d 310, 316 (8th Cir. 1999). High-ranking government officials are generally shielded from depositions because they have "greater duties and time constraints than other witnesses." In re United States (Kessler), 985 F.2d 510, 512 (11th Cir. 1993). If courts did not limit these depositions, such officials would spend "an inordinate amount of time tending to pending litigation." Bogan, 489 F.3d at 423. What the ruling does not mention is that the artist plaintiffs had in fact submitted exceptional evidence in this lawsuit demonstrating that Mayor Bloomberg had been very personally and directly involved in eliminating street artists from NYC Parks for the entire 12 years of his administration. The court literally ignored every single piece of evidence in the case.

The evidence (which was over 1,000 pages long) included a tape recording of the Mayor telling ARTIST president Robert Lederman that there were too many street artists near his home across from Central Park and that they sold junk. In the same recording the Mayor bizarrely told an NYPD officer stationed at the entrance to City Hall that Lederman was, crazy and wanted to kill him. In the same recording the Mayor stated that the police were unwilling to enforce the previously existing vending laws against artists and that, tax paying businesses, were complaining to him, despite there not being a single business or store in the location the Mayor was referring to near the Met Museum. The plaintiffs also submitted emails from Mayor Bloomberg to Lederman, in one of which the Mayor wrote, all is not forgiven, a reference to Lederman fighting to stop 12 years of the Mayors efforts to destroy artists rights. Also included in evidence were emails from Park Commissioner Benepe to Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris, in which the Commissioner discussed ways to trick a number of well-known NYC newspaper reporters so as to get them to write damaging articles about street artists. Also submitted was a tape of the Mayors WOR radio show, in which he went on air the day this lawsuit was filed in 2010, claiming that the Citys victory was a sure thing and detailing the history of the artist plaintiffs previous successful lawsuits. ARTIST President Robert Lederman issued the following statement: This ruling is a tragedy for every artist in the United States. It gives municipalities the right to severely limit where and how artists can express themselves, despite them being unquestionably First Amendment protected. The ruling goes much further however, making it virtually impossible to obtain a deposition from any government official. Imagine a lawsuit in which a police official was accused of ordering the officers under him to violate civil rights, falsely arrest or beat up non violent protestors, illegally tap phones or to

target political opponents of a sitting government official. If allowed to stand, this ruling would protect police officials, mayors, agency commissioners, governors, senators or even the US President from ever having to face a sworn deposition. Even the lowest level government officials would be able to cite this ruling in order to avoid giving a sworn deposition. We intend to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court at the earliest possible date, and feel confident that the many errors in both the appeals court ruling and the lower court ruling will be overturned. We call on all interested parties to lend their expertise to overturning this ruling, which is an assault on civil rights and due process. Contact: Robert Lederman, President of ARTIST 201 896-1686 Attorney for the plaintiffs Julie Milner 646 733-8658 AP article on the ruling: