300 Jay Street
Namm Hall, Room N-322
Brooklyn, NY 11201
The attorney-client privilege is a legal doctrine that preserves the confidentiality of communications, whether written, oral, or electronic, between an attorney and the attorney's client. In the case of the College Counsel at City Tech, the College itself (rather than the College's employees) is the client. However, since the College can only function through its employees, communications between College employees and the College Counsel for the purpose of requesting or receiving legal advice relating to College business are generally protected by the attorney-client privilege. Most often, College Counsel will speak to employees to obtain information necessary for the College or University to respond to a lawsuit or administrative complaint, or to provide advice on issues that might result in litigation.
The attorney-client privilege does not apply unless the employee keeps the communication confidential. If the content of an attorney-client communication is disclosed to persons outside the College, or even to persons within the College who do not have a “need to know,” the privilege may be waived. Therefore, communications with the College Counsel should never be discussed with anyone outside the College, including family members or friends. Within the College, communications should be discussed only with other employees who have been involved in discussions with the attorney about the particular matter.
All dealings with outside attorneys relating to College matters should be conducted by the College Counsel. If you are contacted by an attorney other than one from University's Office of the General Counsel on a matter involving the College, please refer the attorney to the College Counsel.
Certain kinds of legal documents, such as a summons notifying the College that a lawsuit has been commenced against it, or a subpoena requiring the production of documents to a party or a court, must legally be delivered to the College in person. If a "process server" attempts to hand you an official legal document that is directed to the College, you should inform the process server that you do not have authority to accept service of the document on behalf of the College, and that the document should be taken instead to the College Counsel, Namm Hall 322, who will determine whether it can be accepted by City Tech.
This does not apply to documents served on an employee relating to a non-College matter, which may generally be served on the employee at their place of business.
In addition, if an employee comes into possession of any document that looks like an official legal document, by mail, email or otherwise, they should immediately hand deliver the document to the College Counsel.
When the College is named in a lawsuit or becomes aware of a potential lawsuit, the College has the duty to preserve all evidence within its custody and control that is related to the subject matter of that lawsuit or potential lawsuit. The College and employees are prohibited from altering, deleting or otherwise modifying any such information or data. This requirement necessarily includes both paper documents and information created and preserved electronically.
In order to comply with this legal requirement, when litigation is commenced against the College, or the College becomes aware of potential litigation, all employees identified as having paper and/or electronic records relevant to that matter will receive a “litigation hold” letter from the University Office of General Counsel. The employee will be directed to preserve, and not to destroy, all hard copy and electronic documents under their control relating to that matter.
The employee will be asked to certify to the University Office of the General Counsel that they are preserving the required records. Such records must be preserved until the hold is lifted by the University Office of the General Counsel.
Please contact the College Counsel if you have any questions regarding a litigation hold.
Federal law requires that special procedures be followed when the College receives a subpoena or other request for educational records concerning individual students or former students. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") provides that, with certain exceptions, educational records of students may not be disclosed to persons outside the College without the student's consent. Likewise, there are state and federal laws limiting when an individual's health records can be disclosed.
If a subpoena or request for educational or health records is received, the subpoena or request should be immediately forwarded to the College Counsel, who will either handle the matter directly, direct it to the appropriate office, or provide guidance on how the request should be handled.
Contracts for the purchase of goods and services for City Tech can only be signed by the University's General Counsel, or by the President or Vice President of Administration of City Tech (or in some cases their designees), depending on the amount of the contract.
Most other contacts on behalf of City Tech must be reviewed and approved by the University Office of the General Counsel, or be on a University-approved form, even if the contract does not involve the expenditure of funds. These include, among other things, facilities use agreements, performance agreements, affiliation agreements and memorandums of agreement with other educational institutions. College Counsel prepares and/or reviews these agreements and forwards them to the University Office of the General Counsel as required.
Faculty members and other employees who are asked to sign an agreement binding the College, or who are engaged in an activity requiring an agreement with an outside party, should contact the College Counsel and forward any proposed agreement. The College Counsel will work with the faculty member or employee on the contract and obtain any necessary approvals.
Pursuant to Section 17 of the New York State Public Officers Law, employees of the CUNY senior colleges, including City Tech, are entitled to legal representation by the New York State Attorney General's Office when they are sued in a civil action in federal and state court that arises out of any “alleged act or omission to act which occurred or is alleged to have occurred while the employee was acting within the scope of his or her public employment or duties.”
If you are served with legal papers naming you as a defendant in a civil action arising out of your duties at City Tech, which may be by mail, you should immediately hand deliver these papers to the College Counsel who will work with the University General Counsel's office to request representation on your behalf. Due to the tight deadlines in responding to court cases, you cannot delay in providing College Counsel with these legal papers.
In addition, under Section 17 of the Public Officers Law, the cost of any judgment or settlement in a civil lawsuit against an employee of City Tech will be paid by the State of New York, so long as the employee was acting within the scope of their employment and did not engage in any intentional wrongdoing.
City Tech faculty and staff should feel free to call on the College Counsel for help with a question. The College Counsel will assist you and/or reach out to an attorney in the University's Office of the General Counsel who is knowledgeable about the appropriate area of the law.