Sitting on my deck early Saturday morning with a coffee and the days edition of the The New York Times I, eventually, made my way to the “New York” section and an article entitled As Emails Reveal His Grievances and Grudges, de Blasio Doubles Down.
The article discusses the release of more than 4,200 pages of emails, after a long court battle. The release includedemail between members of the administration and the Mayor and a consulting firm. The email, many profane, express frustration with various news outlets, including The New York Times and, according to the article, in many cases, are unfiltered.
According to another NYT article Mayor de Blasio’s Emails, Uncensored and Unforgiving among the trove of email was one where it was written:
“I need a scorecard tmrw re: who was a friend and who was cheap,” the mayor wrote, detailing his conversations with union leaders and supportive words from elected officials, and attacks from police union heads Edward Mullins and Patrick J. Lynch. “I know this too shall pass, but let’s deal with these bastards.”
And things sort of go from there.
The point I want to make, and the one I’ve made countless times before, is that email communication (and text messages, or whatever “App flavour of the day” is used to communicate) can be tremendously dangerous in the workplace. Of course email is convenient and a necessary business tool. That said, I can’t tell you the number of cases I’ve worked on where a poor choice of word or a flippant comment made in the moment has come back to change the optics of the case and colour and impact the outcome and the willingness to settle.
Everything comes out in litigation. Disclosure obligations are broad and expansive. In civil litigation, the parties must disclose all documents in the parties possession (save for privileged documents – a limited exception) that are relevant to any matter in issue in an action. In administrative proceedings, the test applied (in many cases) is “arguable relevance”.
Email communication and text messages are all fair game. Making an angry comment in frustration can be the death knell to an otherwise solid case or at least create a unnecessary complication and an uncomfortable cross-examination for the author. Again, the words used might change the appetite to settle a case before it goes too far down the track.
Chose your words carefully, and consider just walking down the hall for (gasp) an actual face-to-face conversation, rather than dashing off an email or text in the heat of the moment.