Levine is suing the Met for 53,407 emails

Levine is suing the Met for 53,407 emails


norman lebrecht

January 10, 2019

Two non-privileged documents posted at the New York courts website make public the present state of litigation between the conductor James Levine and his former employers, Peter Gelb and the Metrpolitan Opera.

Levine’s lawyers, claiming $6.5 million on his behalf, are demanding access to 53,407 emails.

The Met’s lawyers, who are countersuing for $5.8 million, say that to dig out all of these emails and would add over $400,000 to the spiralling costs of the case.

The judge will have to decide.

Levine is represented by Hughes, Hubbard and Reed, the Met by Proskauer Rose.



  • anon says:

    How old is the Met’s IT system that it’d cost $400,000 to search emails?

    That is the cost of a paralegal charging $100 an hour (it’s a New York law firm, baby), searching for 4,000 hours or 10.9 years (it’s a New York law firm, baby!).

    In other words, it would cost $7.48 per email.

    My yahoo account searches my emails for free.

    • anon says:

      Oh believe it, the Met’s lawyers have already scrubbed thru Levine’s 53,000 emails looking for incriminating evidence, the slightest off color remark, any misplaced comma or evocative emoji.

      They know exactly what’s in those emails, it would not cost them a dime more to reproduce them for Levine.

      They just don’t want to. They’re afraid.

      Because aside from exculpatory emails, they also contain emails damaging to Gelb and the Board, those emails that Gelb and Board members sent to Levine with a wink and a nod that showed that they were far more aware of Levine’s actions and reputations and rumors than they allowed the public to know about.

      Who would be surprised if the Met lawyers said next: oops, we lost the server, or ooops, a temp deleted all of our emails, bad bad temp.

    • Monsoon says:

      I assume it’s the legal cost to review the emails and redact non-pertinent sensitive info and personal information.

      It’s a fishing expedition intended to run up the Met’s legal bills and try to get them to cut their losses and settle.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Yes but if your Yahoo search makes a mistake you are not facing a contempt of court or other sanction from the court. Nothing is at stake for your free search. Litigation is its own world and with its own stringent demands and if you are lucky you’ve never been caught up in it. Finding is the first and easiest task. Reading and evaluating is where those paralegals earn their keep. You have a string of emails and responses. Ah – is EACH iteration of the same email message exactly the same or was it altered, if even just to correct spelling or grammar? Is this particular email responsive or not responsive to the carefully crafted discovery demand? And for tough decisions you go up the line to the four figures per hour lawyers to decide. Those aren’t just New York law firms, they are superb NY law firms, the cream.

      I was just a simple Wisconsin lawyer but find the $400,000 entirely plausible.

    • John Kelly says:

      Yes, e-discovery is expensive and very lucrative for the law firms concerned

    • Ben says:

      Typical hourly rate in NYC area for defending a common Joe is USD $250-$550 an hour.

      To represent a special need kid to get proper education: USD $450-$750 an hour.

      Celebrity defense: $1500 is very low end. Not surprise to see USD $5000 or more an hour.

      No wonder Steven Spielberg named the first mechanical shark “Bruce” in “Jaws” (Bruce is the first name of his then-personal attorney). 🙂

    • recovering paralegal says:

      As a former paralegal at a NY law firm, I was billed out at $260/hour… then there’s managing all the meta-data, de-duping, figuring out which emails are relevant, blah blah blah… $400k still seems high but hey, it’s a New York law firm, baby.

    • Research Tech says:

      Hmm, perhaps the idea is to actually read the emails and evaluate their contents? Just an idea I had after thinking for about 5 seconds.

    • V.Lind says:

      And if you enter a key word (the only way to search, I imagine!) they all pop up in about a second. Over 53,000 is more than I have on any particular email account, so that might take a but longer — maybe even a minute!

      Probably a bit more complicated than that, but the Met claim lacks credibility — even with a New York law firm. But the request smells of nuisance.

      Whatever his talent — a debatable entity especially later in his tenure — Levine is setting up as a first-class PITA.

    • fflambeau says:

      They are “demanding access” to the emails. Translation: they want them. It doesn’t mean searching them. In my opinion, and I am a lawyer, Levine had better hope that it is not a jury trial. In my opinion, most judges would also not be partial to his position. The Met should easily prevail.

    • Me! says:

      Presumably they would need to read and review each email before handing it over and redact privileged or sensitive info unrelated to the case and that takes time and money and some skill and training

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Yes, Levine would not be allowed, for instance, to hear about something (such as a disciplinary hearing, illness, compensation, or even reasons for special leave) between the Met and another employee. Every single e-mail would need to be read and redacted.

  • Ben says:

    That’s the essence of the American legal system: It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about who has enough money to endure or bully.

  • Edgar says:

    Whichever way the case moves, the ones taking home the most money will be the lawyers…

  • Mark says:

    He isn’t suing them for the emails, this is simply part of discovery (and a pressure tactic). Levine’s lawyers will subpoena everything and everyone that is even remotely relevant.
    This is very common in civil litigation – the lawyers subpoena all records and communications for the last X years, these masses of documents are then reviewed by teams of junior attorneys (frequently temps hired just for this project), and then any relevant information gleaned is submitted to the litigation team.

  • Mark London says:

    That’s the way James ! Sue the ass off Met, liars and cheats

  • david hilton says:

    It seems as if Levine’s lawyers are only asking for access to the emails, not that the Met (and it’s high priced lawyers) search them out. I’m sure Levine (and his high priced lawyers) will be happy to do that at the maestro’s expense.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Er…the e-mails may contain confidential information not relevant to Levine. The Met has a legal duty-of-care not to provide such information.

  • Sharon says:

    If you read the documents the Met is also requesting access to Levine’s emails.

    Isn’t part of the cost the IT cost retrieving emails that were already deleted?

    According to the original calendar depositions were supposed to have ended by the end of November and a settlement, if one can be reached, by the end of March.

    I am surprised that a request for access to emails was not made at the beginning of the court proceedings.

    It appears that they have not even agreed upon whom to depose, that is, question, and may want to have access to the emails to determine whom to depose! According to the original calendar whom to depose should have been determined by the end of August.

    Whether or not there is a settlement or if this ultimately goes to trial it will probably drag on for years. What a shame!

  • Caravaggio says:

    Why don’t Levine’s lawyers go through Gergiev, Putin and Assange to get hold of and release them emails? Oh wait, Gelb, Gergiev and Putin’s regime darling, AN, rules at the Met these days so it won’t be happening, I guess.

  • Nick says:

    The dogs get fed!