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ECBAWM Represents Avaaz in Motion to Quash Monsanto Subpoena

On behalf of the Avaaz Foundation (“Avaaz”), a global civic movement, ECBAWM has filed a motion in New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking to quash a sweeping document subpoena from Monsanto Company, the multinational agrochemical and biotech company.  The subpoena seeks documents reflecting Avaaz’s multi-year effort to persuade governments worldwide to ban the chemical agent glyphosate, which is believed to be the world’s most widely-used herbicide.  Glyphosate is the active agent in Roundup®, a Monsanto product.  In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a public evaluation concluding that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic in humans.” Avaaz, with over 46 million members and staff in 23 countries, has been described by The Guardian as “the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network,” and the campaign against glyphosate is just one of Avaaz’s many member-driven campaigns.

The Monsanto subpoena – which was issued in January 2018 as part of a personal-injury case in which agricultural workers are suing Monsanto over claims that they contracted cancer after exposure to Roundup® — seeks to compel the production of virtually every document in Avaaz’s possession concerning its political activities around glyphosate and Monsanto.  If enforced, the subpoena would require the turnover of Avaaz’s confidential internal communications and deliberations, campaign plans, research and source material, and even member and donor information.  ECBAWM’s filing, which can be found here, argues that the subpoena violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and New York’s Reporter’s Shield law; calls for the production of documents that are irrelevant to the underlying personal-injury case; and imposes an undue burden on Avaaz.  The GuardianEco Watch, and other media outlets, have reported on the case.

Avaaz is represented in this matter by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Douglas E. Lieb.

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ECBAWM Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in First Amendment Case

On November 16, 2016, ECBAWM submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Asian Americans Advancing Justice ǀ AAJC and other civil rights and advocacy groups in Lee v. Tam, a first-amendment and trademark case pending before the Supreme Court.

Tam, the Respondent, is the leader of a band called, “The Slants”—a racially derisive term referring to Asian Americans. Tam has stated that his use of “The Slants” is an effort to reclaim that term. Nevertheless, his trademark application for the name was rejected under a section of the trademark law that prohibits registration of derogatory marks. The Supreme Court will consider whether that section is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Though not submitted in support of either the Respondent or the Petitioner, the amicus curiae brief represents the interests of a coalition of groups whose constituents are harmed by the dissemination of racial slurs. The brief sheds light on the complicated nature of the inquiry before the Court, the free speech interests on both sides, and the power and difficulties of reclamation efforts. ECBAWM attorneys Daniel Kornstein and Alanna Small worked on the brief. You can read the brief here.

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