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An attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union claims that city lawyers are seeking to depose him in an attempt to derail a lawsuit over how the police will handle protests during the Republican National Convention this summer. The attorney, Christopher Dunn, received a notice from the Corporation Counsel’s Office in mid-April, scheduling a deposition for next week. When Dunn inquired about the basis of the deposition, he received a letter noting that his organization was a plaintiff in the suit and that he had witnessed the policing techniques at issue during numerous past political demonstrations. The letter said the deposition was needed to “determine whether there are any potential conflicts by virtue of [Dunn's] various kinds of involvement in these actions and the underlying facts.” Dunn, who said he is the only plaintiffs attorney working on the case, last week submitted a brief to Southern District of New York Judge Robert W. Sweet seeking a protective order that would bar his deposition. “We’re concerned that they are seeking to disqualify me from participating in the case,” Dunn said in an interview. “If that were to happen, it would derail the case — at the very least, it would substantially delay any preliminary injunction proceeding. We do not have the luxury of finding new lawyers before the convention.” Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo, said the city would not comment on the dispute. The NYCLU filed its lawsuit in November over police tactics used at large demonstrations, alleging that the police disrupt protests and unconstitutionally prevent people from participating. The suit claims the Police Department denies access to demonstrations with barricades, uses pens to confine demonstrators, dangerously uses horses to disperse peaceful demonstrators and unjustifiably searches people who want to attend demonstrations. It seeks to bar the police from using the tactics during the convention and seeks money damages for three individuals, one of whom claims he was permanently injured when he was knocked down as a police officer rode a horse into a crowd. Many of the complaints against the police arose during a February 2003 protest against the war in Iraq. The protest’s organizer, United for Peace and Justice, complained that the police prevented thousands of people from participating and more than 200 people were arrested. In March, however, a protest led by the same group resulted in few arrests, and protesters generally complimented the way police handled, rather than hampered, the crowds. Dunn attended both events and several others dating back to the Million Youth March in 1998. He said he was there as counsel to the NYCLU and has no particular knowledge of police tactics not available to city attorneys. The purpose of the suit, he said, is to ensure that the convention protests are handled more like the anti-war protests in March. At a brief conference last week in federal court, Judge Sweet said the city could not depose Dunn simply because the NYCLU was a plaintiff in the suit. He did not decide whether a deposition was warranted over conversations Dunn had with three high-level police officials at the February 2003 protest. In his brief to the judge, Dunn said he has no recollection of particular statements from those conversations. He also said that he was not aware of any complaints about how police handled the protest until after he left. Dunn said he knows of no conflict that would prevent him from litigating the case and said city attorneys have not responded to further questions about what specific conflicts they believe might exist.

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