Attorney General

James: Green Light Law Will Withstand Challenges

The controversial Green Light Bill has seen multiple legal challenges since it was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June.

Attorney General Letitia James will be defending that law in court. She is confident the two-month-old law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for and receive driver’s licenses will survive challenges in federal court.

“New York is a sovereign state and two, driver’s licenses are the function of states,” James said. “It’s important to understand 11 states, including the District of Columbia, have driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. They’ve all [withstood] challenges, and I’m confident this law will withstand a challenge.”

The challenges were filed last month by two county clerks who oversee local motor vehicle offices. Several county clerks in New York have said they will refuse to issue licenses to anyone they believe is in the country illegally.

In an exclusive interview with Spectrum News, James said she’s focused on the legal defense when asked if those clerks should be removed from office by the governor.

“The issue is really enforcing the law in the state of New York, and my job is to defend the law in the state of New York,” James said. “I will defend the Green Light law. For me, it’s an issue of safety.”

One of those county clerks challenging the law is Democrat Mickey Kearns of Erie County, who said the measure is unconstitutional. He says several of his fellow county clerks agree.

“Many of them are concerned. They don’t want to violate the law. They want to do their jobs,” Kearns said.

Kearns is seeking a temporary halt to the law being enacted through a preliminary injunction.

“A preliminary injunction would say, ‘let’s take a break,’ ” Kearns said. “Let’s take a break, stop writing the regulations, let’s stop until we can get a ruling on this one way or the other.”

Meanwhile, James is also confident the law won’t be used by the federal government to gather information on undocumented immigrants and that there’s enough safeguards in place to prevent that.

“It only allows individuals who have judicial subpoenas to gather information,” James said. “We are confident that the information of undocumented immigrants as well as New Yorkers as a whole will be protected.”

The Green Light Law is set to take effect by the end of the year.

James: Justice Served If Pantaleo Is Fired

As the New York City public advocate, Letitia James had urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to fire Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who held Eric Garner in a chokehold when he died.

But Pantaleo remains employed by the force, and his status has dogged de Blasio during his presidential campaign.

An NYPD judge on Friday recommended Pantaleo be fired, a move James, now attorney general, hailed.

“If in fact the recommendation is to terminate Mr. Pantaleo, than justice would have been served,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News. “It’s been five years since the death of Eric Garner, and clearly it should have happened a longtime before that.”

De Blasio at a news conference on Friday declined to say whether he believes Pantaleo should be fired and the decision is ultimately up to Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

The New York City PBA in a statement blasted the judge’s decision, calling it “pure political insanity.”

James didn’t criticize de Blasio’s handling of the case.

“The Justice Department obviously took a long time,” she said. “They asked the city of New York to defer its decision.”

AG James Launches Investigation After Capital One Data Breach

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced her office will begin an immediate investigation into the data breach at Capital One, which is believed to have exposed the personal information of 100 million customers.

“It is becoming far too commonplace that financial institutions are susceptible to hacks, begging the questions: Why do these breaches continue to take place? And are companies doing enough to prevent future data breaches?” James said in a statement.

“My office will begin an immediate investigation into Capital One’s breach, and will work to ensure that New Yorkers who were victims of this breach are provided relief. We cannot allow hacks of this nature to become every day occurrences.”

A 33-year-old Seattle woman has been arrested and charged with computer fraud.

The Capital One data breach comes after last week’s settlement with Equifax, the credit bureau whose data breach resulted in the exposure of personal data for more than 147 million people.

James And AGs Blast Clean Water Act Change

More than a dozen attorneys general, including Letitia James of New York, filed a letter on Friday criticizing a guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency they called an attempt to roll back part of the Clean Water Act.

The guidance centers around the role states play in permitting federal projects under a section the clean water measure. James said the guidance weakens the ability and authority of states to protect their water quality.

“The Clean Water Act is a major tool for states to protect against the pollution of our waterways,” James said in a statement.

“For every effort to weaken environmental protections and erode oversight over big polluters, we will respond in kind. New York is committed to fighting to protect our waters and our environment.”

The EPA is implementing the guidance following an executive order by President Donald Trump in April, calling it unlawful and a workaround of the existing law.

All told, 14 attorneys general from around the country signed onto the letter.

AG Says She Will Defend ‘Green Light’ And Trump Tax Return Laws Vigrously

From the Morning Memo:

Attorney General Tish James, D-NY, in Buffalo to announce a $66 million settlement in regards to illegal debt collection scheme, also weighed in on several lawsuits against the state of New York.

That includes two lawsuits brought by the Erie County Clerk and the Rennselaer County Clerk challenging the state’s new Green Light Law which will grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. James said, as AG, it is her duty to defend the law vigorously, but she also believes in its constitutionality and its merit.

“Individuals who, let’s say, have hit and runs, they tend to run as opposed to having insurance, being educated and having the system where they can be taught the rules of the road and that’s what’s critically important for me. This is all about safety,” she said.

It’s been speculated the Trump administration may sue over the Green Light Law as well but it has already challenged another new law. The Legislature passed a bill this session that would allow the chair of congressional tax committees to request public officials state tax returns in New York.

The administration requested an injunction barring the committee from doing so.

“The president unfortunately has been using lawsuits to hide behind the release of his tax returns. It’s really critically important that sunlight be shed on his tax returns,” James said.

The attorney general said, as a candidate, she released her tax returns and Trump should be required to do the same.

James: $66M Settlement Reached For Debt Collection Schemes

Buffalo-based debt collectors have reached a $66 million settlement with New York for money collection efforts that included threats of prosecution, impersonating government officials, claims debtors would have their wages garnished.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday announced the settlement with Douglas MacKinnon and his debt collection companies as well as Mark Gray.

“There is zero tolerance for individuals who use illegal and unconscionable tactics to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money,” James said in a statement.

“Not only did the defendants force consumers to pay more than they owed, but they falsely threatened to have consumers arrested for not complying with these predatory practices. This settlement demonstrates our commitment to protecting consumers and I thank the CFPB for their partnership to stop this exploitative scheme.”

Both Gray and MacKinnon were accused of inflating the debts owed in order to collect more from people that were legally required to pay. Collection offices also used a variety of outlawed tactics and schemes to obtain payments, including threats of arrest.

The settlement requires both men to no longer work in the debt collection industry.

AG James Raises $405K

The re-election campaign of state Attorney General Letitia James in the last six months has raised $405,395, according to a filing on Tuesday made public.

James, who cleared a crowded field of Democrats to win the nomination, defeated Republican Keith Wofford to win her first term.

Her campaign reported spending $117,569 and has $338,919 in cash on hand.

The vast majority of her donors gave less than $1,000 and her largest individual donor was lobbyist Rick Ostroff, who gave $20,000. Labor unions, including those who represent teachers and transport workers, also gave to her re-election campaign: The New York State United Teachers Union’s VOTE COPE gave $10,000, as did the Transport Workers Union Local 100.

DOJ Won’t Charge Officer In Garner Death, James Says Police Reform Push Continues

The push to reduce violent and deadly interactions between police officers and civilians will continue, Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday, after the Department of Justice declined to file charges against the New York City police officer who held Eric Garner in a choke hold before he died.

In a statement, James blasted federal prosecutors for not bringing charges in the case that, along with others, have led a nationwide call for police and criminal justice law changes.

“The entire world saw the same devastating video five years ago, and our eyes did not lie,” James said.

“Today’s inaction reflects a DOJ that has turned its back on its fundamental mission – to seek and serve justice. In times like these, we must remember that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. In memory of Eric Garner and all others who have lost their lives unjustly, we will continue to fight for reforms to a criminal justice system that remains broken.”

James, who took office this year, has pushed for various reforms, including that officers wear body cameras and has called for the creation of a special prosecutor’s office to handle police misconduct cases.

AG James Calls Weekend Immigration Raid ‘Deplorable’

New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement on Thursday blasted the expected enforcement action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials as “deplorable” and pledged to aid undocumented immigrant families who are arrested.

The enforcement effort has been discussed for weeks, postponed earlier in July after President Donald Trump openly discussed the plan for ICE to begin mass arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants.

The New York Times reported this morning the arrests could also include those are not targets, but are swept up by those ICE is seeking to deport.

“The Trump Administration’s insistence on using migrant families as a political bargaining chip with Congressional leaders is as deplorable as it is unAmerican,” James said. “As New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I will do everything in my power to ensure these families’ rights are protected. I will stand up against any threatened incursions on our state’s civil rights because, in America, we value our immigrants.”

Updated: Gov. Andrew Cuomo also issued a statement pledging to fight the deportations.

“This politically motivated directive is despicable and inhumane, and New York will fight it,” he said.

“I have asked the state’s Liberty Defense Project to be on high alert to assist families in need of legal services. I encourage all New Yorkers to be familiar with their rights – especially when confronted by ICE or CBP – and anyone in need of assistance may contact the Liberty Defense Project via the New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 or

James, AGs Back Amicus Brief Opposing Border Facility Conditions

Attorney General Letitia James was among the 19 attorneys general on Wednesday to file an amicus brief opposing the conditions at holding facilities near the U.S. border, conditions that have come under scrutiny by investigators and federal lawmakers.

“Innocent children are suffering,” James said in a statement. “The Trump Administration’s immoral actions have stripped children of basic human needs. This is cruel and inhumane. We are calling on the court to take immediate action to ensure these children receive the basic care they should have been provided from day one.”

The brief, filed in federal court in California, urged relief for the children detained at the facilities, pointing the Flores Settlement Agreement that requires safe and sanitary conditions for detention and release or placement at a licensed facility.

Also signing onto the brief were AGs in California and Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.