Attorney General

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 liberty@dos.ny.gov.

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.

Trump’s Census Change Of Heart Leads To Census Scramble

President Donald Trump’s apparent decision to move forward with a citizenship question on the U.S. Census form has led to a scramble for clarification from those who had led a legal challenge against it.

Trump posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning his administration’s decision to print census forms without the question was “fake” — despite a statement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announcing the question would not be included.

The administration had announced a day earlier the question would not be included after a Supreme Court decision sided with a lower court’s ruling.

The tweet led to calls for a conference from the plaintiffs in the case to determine the status of the case.

“Another day, another attempt to sow chaos and confusion,” said state Attorney General Letitia James. “The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken, and Trump’s own Commerce Department has spoken. It’s time to move forward to ensure every person in the country is counted.”

Court’s Review Of DACA Cheered By James

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case over President Donald Trump’s administration to end a program meant to provide legal protections to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children was cheered on Friday by Attorney General Letitia James.

“Millions of immigrant parents left their homes, risked their lives, and endured years of hardship simply to come to the United States and provide their children with a better life,” James said in a statement. “When those children came out of the shadows to go to college, serve in the armed forces, or just become tax paying members of society, the federal government made a promise that these DACA recipients would be able to live their lives free from the fear of sudden, arbitrary deportation.”

The program, known as the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, allowed those who qualified to stay in the U.S. and work, avoiding deportation. The program was ended by Trump and challenged in lower courts.

“Over the last two years the Trump Administration has attempted to bully, threaten, and use these young immigrants as bargaining chips, but the Supreme Court will now hear their case,” James said. “These young immigrants should know we will never stop fighting to uphold their rights and protect their freedom.”

Cuomo, AG James Cheers SCOTUS Ruling On Census

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday that partially rebuffed President Donald Trump’s administration for a citizenship question on the U.S. Census was hailed by Attorney General Letitia James.

New York, immigration advocacy groups and other states had sued the Department of Commerce over the question. The court in a 5-4 decision upheld a lower court’s decision over the question being barred from the Census.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also praised the ruling.

“This decision will help ensure each and every New Yorker will be counted and provided with the critical services they need and deserve, regardless of their immigration status,” Cuomo said. “Shame on the Trump Administration for its attempt to make the U.S. Census a political pawn in their continued anti-immigrant agenda.”

But the court also returned a split verdict over different aspects of the case.

New York officials, as well as immigrant rights groups, were worried the citizenship question would lead to an under counting of people fearful of deportation. That, in turn, could lead to New York losing representation in Congress.

“This one question could have caused a substantial undercount, particularly of noncitizens and Latinos,” James said.

“Thanks to the Court, the census will remain a tool for delivering on our government’s promise of fairness and equity, and states, like New York, will not be shortchanged out of critical resources or political representation. Our democracy withstood this challenge, but make no mistake, many threats continue to lie ahead from the Trump Administration and we will not stop fighting. Now, more than ever, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and everyday people need us to stand firm in our fight for justice. After all, everyone counts, and therefore, everyone must be counted.”

The New York Immigration Coalition, which was a plaintiff in the case, called the decision “a victory for immigrants, communities of color, and our democracy.”

“We have always known that the Trump administration’s inclusion of the question was designed to deny immigrant rich states access to our fair share of federal funding and political power,” said Executive Director Steven Choi. “But the fight is not over, which is why we’ll continue to fight this administration’s attacks on our immigrant communities in the courts, in the legislature, and in the streets.”