Attorney General

Underwood Reflects On AG Role

Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Friday released a farewell video as she departs the office she assumed earlier this year.

But Underwood is not going far: Attorney General-elect Letitia James in November re-appointed Underwood to her previously held post of solicitor general.

Underwood was appointed attorney general in May by the Legislature after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman amid domestic abuse allegations.

During her time in office, Underwood notched a series of accomplishments including advance court challenges to Trump administration policies on immigration and the environment as well as a shutdown of the charity the president founded after its finances came under scrutiny.

Trump Foundation To Dissolve

The charitable organization founded by President Donald Trump and his family will shutdown, Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Tuesday announced.

The dissolution of the Trump Foundation will be supervised by a judge and follows a court decision last month in which Underwood’s lawsuit against the charity was allowed to move forward.

Dissolving the charity will include a distribution of assets to organizations approved by Underwood’s office.

The suit alleged the foundation was essentially a source of funds to advance both Trump’s business and political efforts.

Despite the charity shutting down, the lawsuit by the New York attorney general’s office will continue.

“This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone,” Underwood said. “We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

AG’s Office Settles With Hospitals That Charged Rape Victims For Exams

Seven New York hospitals illegally billed survivors and victims of rape for forensic examinations at least 200 times at seven different hospitals, according to a settlement announced Thursday by Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office.

The hospitals, Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Columbia University, Montefiore Nyack Hospital, New York Presbyterian/Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and St. Barnabas Hospital, will have to put in place written policies to ensure those who have been raped or sexually assaulted do not receive bills for examinations or pay any costs.

“Survivors of sexual assault have already gone through unfathomable trauma; to then subject them to illegal bills and collection calls is unconscionable,” Underwood said. “Hospitals have a fundamental responsibility to comply with New York law. My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect survivors and their rights.”

The investigation began after a survivor was billed seven times for a forensic examination that was administered at Brooklyn Hospital’s emergency room, prompting a statewide review of bill practices at other hospitals.

The bills ranged from $46 to $3,000. The investigation found hospitals had failed to inform patients of proper payment options.

“We commend Attorney General Underwood for taking this critical step in ending the unlawful practice of billing rape survivors for their Forensic Rape Examinations,” said Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women – New York. “It is of the utmost importance that survivors are given every tool and support possible to come forward, report the crime if that is what they wish to do, and to lower any barriers to reporting.”

The AG’s office can be contacted regarding billing complaints at 1-800-428-9071.

Underwood Issues Supplementary Guidance For Sanctuary Communities

Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office on Wednesday issued a supplementary legal guidance for local governments that have been designated sanctuary communities for undocumented immigrants.

The guidance comes after this month’s appellate court decision that determined New York law bars state and local law enforcement agents from attest people for civil immigration violations.

The ruling has been consistent with previous guidance offered in 2017 by the attorney general’s office, which had been released as the federal government was expected to shift its policies toward sanctuary communities.

“The Second Department’s decision underscores the fact that New York law does not authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest individuals for civil immigration violations,” Underwood said.

“As our guidance details, the federal government simply does not have the authority to transform state and local police into federal immigration agents. Protecting public safety goes hand in hand with building trust with immigrant communities, and we’ll continue to give New York localities the tools they need to protect vulnerable immigrant communities and help ensure all New Yorkers’ safety.”

The updated guidance van be found here.

Underwood Amicus Brief Challenges Whitaker Appointment

Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Monday filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general by President Donald Trump.

The brief is part of a Maryland case challenging the recess appointment by Trump being brought by a coalition of 15 attorneys general, including Underwood.

“The law is clear – and Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General is illegal, violating long-standing rules,” Underwood said in a statement. “Our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to do what’s necessary to protect the rule of law.”

The brief is in support of a motion that seeks to block Whitaker from exercising authority as the U.S. attorney general or to substitute deputy AG Rod Rosenstein as the defendant in an ongoing case between Maryland and the federal government over the Affordable Care Act.

The brief, along with New York, was backed by attorneys general in Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

AG Report: Professional Fundraisers Pocket A Third Of Donations

Nearly a third of money given to charitable causes and organizations are pocketed by professional fundraisers, according to a report released Monday by Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office.

The annual report, published ahead of Giving Tuesday, assesses New York charities, their spending and how their donation money is spent.

“New Yorkers are generous in their charitable giving – and they should know how their dollars are being spent,” Underwood said. “Too often, a large percentage of charitable dollars are pocketed by outside fundraisers rather than going to the cause itself. I urge all New Yorkers to be careful, and to report suspicious entities to my office.”

New Yorkers in 2017 gave nearly $1.2 billion in charitable gifts to 964 fundraising campaigns that were conducted by professional fundraisers. The charities netted $812 million, while fundraisers who helped raise the money received $372 million.

Professional fundraisers are regulated in New York and must register with the attorney general’s office. They must provide financial reporting breaking down the revenue raised and the expenses generated by a campaign.

The full report can be found here.

James Announces Top Staff

Attorney General-elect Tish James on Tuesday announced a slate of top staff for her office.

James has appointed Ibrahim Khan her chief of staff. Khan comes from James’s public advocate office, having served as deputy PA.

Jennifer Levy of Legal Aid will serve as chief deputy attorney general for social justice.

And Jose Maldonado will serve as chief deputy attorney general for criminal justice.

James previously announced incumbent Attorney General Barbara Underwood will return as the state’s solicitor general.

No Criminal Charges For Schneiderman

Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will not face criminal charges related to allegations of physical abuse by multiple women that ultimately triggered his resignation from office.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, who had been appointed to investigate Schneiderman, interviewed the women as well as members of Schneiderman’s staff.

“Following an exhaustive review, evaluation of the facts, the law, and applicable statutes of limitations,” she said.

“I believe the women who shared their experiences with our investigation team, however legal impediments, including statutes of limitations, preclude criminal prosecution. Our investigation also highlighted deficiencies in New York law for which I have drafted remedial legislation.”

Schneiderman resigned hours after The New Yorker reported the allegations of multiple women that Schneiderman had been physically abusive. He was replaced by Barbara Underwood who is completing the unexpired term. On Tuesday, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James was elected the next attorney general on Tuesday.

“I recognize that District Attorney Singas’ decision not to prosecute does not mean I have done nothing wrong,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “I accept full responsibility for my conduct in my relationships with my accusers, and for the impact it had on them. After spending time in a rehab facility, I am committed to a lifelong path of recovery and making amends to those I have harmed. I apologize for any and all pain that I have caused, and I apologize to the people of the State of New York for disappointing them after they put their trust in me.”

Wofford Endorsed by Construction Group

The Republican candidate for state Attorney General, Keith Wofford, was endorsed by the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors in his campaign to be New York’s next chief legal officer.

“We believe that Keith, unlike his opponent, has a high moral compass and the integrity to do what is right for the people of this state,” said Brian Sampson, President of ABC, Empire State. “Unlike his opponent, he will apply a fair and even hand to the laws and regulations and not let any campaign donors, or the Governor, dictate the positions his office will enforce. Keith Wofford is the only Attorney General candidate that will lead New York to a better future.”

Wofford faces New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who won a four-way Democratic primary in September.

New York’s current Attorney General Barbara Underwood is not seeking a full term.

Wofford Says Senate Must Take Kavanaugh Allegations Seriously

From the Morning Memo:

If Republican state AG candidate Keith Wofford wins in November, he is aware that he would likely deal with cases that ultimately go before the U.S. Supreme Court, which may or may not at this point include a new justice: Brett Kavanaugh.

Traveling the western part of the state this week, Wofford said he did not get to watch the entire testimony from Kavanaugh or his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. However, he said he is not dismissing the allegations against the judge.

“This whole area of sexual abuse and sexual harassment claims needs to be taken very seriously,” Wofford said. “The committee is trying to do that and they need to continue to do that.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be prepared to move forward with a vote today, which could set up a confirmation vote early next week, though the first votes could be taken as early as tomorrow.

Though some – mostly Democrats, and a handful of Republicans – have called for a delay in the vote given the new accusations that are piling up against Kavanaugh, Wofford would not weigh in on the timeline adopted by the committee members during an interview Thursday in Buffalo.

“I’m going to leave it up to them,” he said. “They’re going to have to see based on what they see whether the credibility determination is enough or whether they want more. It’s up to them.”

Wofford said he does not take sexual abuse claims lightly, and would continue investigating claims against the Catholic Church, for instance, if he wins his uphill battle against the Democratic AG candidate, NYC Pubic Advocate Tish James, in the general election.