Attorney General

James, Backing Green Light Bill, Says It Contains ‘Ample Protections’

Attorney General Letitia James in a statement on Monday said the bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses “contains ample protections” for those seeking the document.

The statement comes as the Senate is poised to approve the bill and hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised concerns with the legislation’s potential for exposing undocumented immigrants in a “database” to federal immigration enforcement.

His top counsel, Alphonso David, wrote a letter to Solicitor General Barbara Underwood to seek a legal opinion on whether the federal government could gain access to the information.

James is Underwood’s superior in the Department of Law.

“I support the Green Light bill, and the Office of Attorney General has concluded that it is constitutional,” James said. “We will not opine on any actions the federal government may or may not take.
“The legislation is well crafted and contains ample protections for those who apply for driver’s licenses. If this bill is enacted and challenged in court, we will vigorously defend it.”

The statement is a stark one for James, who was enthusiastically backed by Cuomo in the attorney general’s race last year.

AG James Calls For State Police To Wear Body Cameras

A report released Friday by Attorney General Letitia James’s office on the death of a man recommended the use of body-worn cameras by the State Police.

The recommendation was one of the main findings in the report released Friday by James on the 2018 death of Robert Scott, who died after be restrained by state troopers.

The report did not find any criminal culpability in the incident, but determined a more complete picture of the events could have been available had troopers worn body cameras.

“We recognize and acknowledge the costs associated with cameras; not only do the cameras themselves cost money, but there are additional costs associated with data storage policy development, and training officers in cameras use,” the report stated. “However, the OAG believes that the comprehensive benefits far outweigh the costs and it appears that most major law enforcement agencies agree with that assessment.”

Police departments around the state and in the country have in recent years launched body camera pilot programs as the technology has become more affordable. And James’s report also pointed to one study that found cameras can have a cost benefit by reducing complaints and the time spent reviewing complaints against officers.

In a statement, the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association did not rule out supporting the idea, but said any changes should be subject to contract negotiations.

“We are not opposed to the concept,” said the union’s president, Thomas Mungeer. “We believe this issue is subject to collective bargaining and we look forward to discussing it with the leadership of the State Police in the future.”

James Calls For Student Loan Forgiveness For Disabled Vets

Attorney General Letitia James on Friday backed a nationally effort by attorneys general around the country to urge the student loan forgiveness for veterans who have become permanent disabled due to their military service.

Fifty-one attorneys general backed the proposal, urging the Department of Education in a letter to back the loan forgiveness ahead of Memorial Day.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country and we have a duty to protect them in return,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “On Memorial Day, as we honor the lives of all those we lost, we can also honor the service of those still with us by providing them with this financial relief. I strongly urge DOE to discharge these student loans and support the brave men and women who supported us.”

The letter urges the U.S. Department of Education to develop ma process for loan forgiveness, applying to veterans who been determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible. At the same time, AGs urged the DOE to halt debt collection efforts for disabled veterans and clear their credit ratings.

Bill Curbing President’s Pardon Power Heads To Cuomo’s Desk

A bill meant to curb the power and reach of the president’s pardon in New York was granted final approval by the Democratic-led state Assembly on Tuesday and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s for his signature.

The bill would allow New York prosecutors to bring cases against those who have worked in a presidential administration or a member of the president’s family after receiving a pardon.

Lawmakers at a press conference on Tuesday insisted the bill was not aimed at President Donald Trump, who is being investigated by Attorney General Letitia James’s office.

“We try to tread very carefully because we didn’t want to target the president, we wanted to target the abuse,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol at a press conference flanked by James and Sen. Todd Kaminsky.

A former federal prosecutor, Kaminsky said the legislation is in line with what other states have on the books.

“We know the president’s pardon power is sweeping; there’s no debate about that,” he said. “But when we’re confronted with a corrupt or capricious use of that, New York does not have to stand idly by.”

The bill’s passage is a victory for James, who had sought the legislation earlier this year. Her office is reportedly investigating ties between Trump’s businesses and major lenders, such as Deutsche Bank.

“This loophole, which effectively allows the president to pardon state crimes, deserved to be closed,” she said. “It’s really critically important that individuals understand the power of state’s rights.”

The Assembly is expected on Wednesday to approve a bill that would allow congressional Democrats to gain access to the president’s New York tax filings. The bill will include an amendment set to pass in the state Senate that narrows the scope of the tax legislation to elected officials.

Republicans called the focus on Trump at the state Capitol a waste of time that does little to help New Yorkers.

“Bringing politics of Washington into this chamber I think is a complete waste of time,” said Brian Kolb, the Assembly minority leader.

“I think there’s enough grandstanding to go around here as well as in Washington. This is all political grandstanding and it’s using New York state taxpayer money to advance political causes and not do one thing to take people out of poverty.”

With Friends Like These…

Attorney General Letitia James in a live interview with the liberal podcast Pod Save America did not mince words when asked about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s run for the presidency.

“Listen, we need a mayor who is going to be on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said to cheers in front of a live audience.

James, the former public advocate in New York City who had been an ally of de Blasio’s listed a series of policy issues where she believes the mayor has fallen short.

“So I ask the question: Has the crisis in affordable housing been addressed? No,” she said. “Has income inequality been addressed? No. Equal pay for equal work? No. How about cyclists who are unfortunately dying on our streets as the result of crashes? No. So what is the legacy? What are you running on? Has school segregation been addressed? Listen, he can run, he’s the 23rd candidate, I understand that. But the question is why? Por que? Like what’s up?

With a pause and a head tilt, James added, “But he’s a friend.”

The comments made in the interview were similar to what she told NY1 on Thursday as de Blasio launched his campaign.

“Serving as mayor of the City of New York is the second toughest job in our nation and New Yorkers require a mayor who is laser focused on the issues affecting our city,” she said. “I think it’s an issue that he should think about while he’s in Ohio.”

James last year was the victor in a crowded Democratic primary field for attorney general, backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been at odds with the mayor over the years. De Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, endorsed James’s primary rival Zephyr Teachout.

James Pushes Feds To Enforce ACA Provision

Attorney General Letitia James on Monday in a letter co-signed by a dozen attorneys general knocked the federal government for failing to enforce aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

The letter takes issue with the U.S. Department of Labor for not informing consumers about provisions and benefits of the law, known commonly as Obamacare, such as requirements like the Essential Health Benefits Package now apply for those enrolled in small group plans and as well as individuals.

And the attorneys general urged the Department of Labor to clearly tell consumers what is available under the law when it comes to ACA requirements.

“Our federal government should be doing everything in its power to protect and expand access to healthcare, not deny it,” James said. “This new policy is both deceiving and dangerous – it fails to adequately inform policyholders of the true extent of the coverage that they have a legal right to, and that plans should be providing. All Americans deserve access to quality healthcare and we will continue to fight to ensure this basic right.”

The letter also raises the possibility of a legal challenge to the lack of enforcement over the provision.

The attorney general’s office in New York last year filed a lawsuit blocking President Donald Trump’s administration from efforts the office said would gut the law and undo key insurance protections.

James Marks First 100 Days In AG’s Office

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday marked her first 100 days in office, releasing a minute-long video highlighting her efforts to counteract President Donald Trump’s administration, combatting opioid addiction and aiding tenants.

James, the former New York City public advocate, ran in the five-person Democratic primary last year after incumbent Eric Schniederman resigned amid accusations of sexual misconduct.

In addition to the video posted to Twitter, her office released a lengthy list of accomplishment highlighting legal actions that range from the high-profile, like challenging the Trump administration’s funding for a border wall and environmental policies, to money for community land trusts.

AG’s Bill Strengthening Tenant Rights Heads To Cuomo’s Desk

A bill meant to bolster protections for tenants cleared the Democratic-led Senate on Wednesday and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his approval.

The measure is program bill for Attorney General Letitia James and would create new penalties for landlords who seek to induce a tenant to leave their home, expand penalties for landlords who create unhealthy living conditions in order for a renter to leave and creates a felony for repeated offenses.

“Over the years I have heard far too many horror stories from my constituents about the harassment they have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous landlords trying to drive them out of their homes. But as the law stands now, it is nearly impossible for criminal charges to be filed against even the worst offenders,” Sen. Liz Krueger, who sponsored the legislation with Assemblyman Joe Lentol.

“It is high time this law was updated to protect tenants and give them a fighting chance, and to safeguard our dwindling stock of affordable housing. I commend Attorney General James for her leadership on this issue, and I urge the Governor to sign this bill so that rent-regulated New Yorkers can live free of the fear of harassment from their landlords.”

Current law requires prosecutors to prove that when a landlord causes a tenant to leave their homes, they must demonstrate a physical injury due to the landlord’s actions and that the landlord intended to cause that injury.

“For far too long, unscrupulous landlords have gotten away with subjecting rent-regulated tenants to dangerous and horrific conditions in an attempt to force them out of their homes,” James said.

“The landlords behind these serious acts of tenant harassment have been able to evade justice because the standard for proving criminal culpability has been impossibly high – today that begins to change. This bill will go a long way in protecting our most vulnerable tenants by changing the legal standard of harassment and allowing prosecutors to finally pursue these acts that have hurt countless New Yorkers.”

James Files To Block Federal Funds For Border Wall

Attorney General Letitia James signed on to a multi-state effort on Friday to block President Donald Trump’s administration from using $1.6 billion in federal money for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The filing was part of a coalition of 20 states that is being led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“Diverting funds from key initiatives in order to fund an unnecessary and unwarranted wall is fundamentally irresponsible, undermines Congressional power, and will hurt every American across this nation,” James said in a statement. “We will continue to work with other states in order to prevent this blatant abuse of power.”

The motion argues the president is illegally using executive action to spend the money on the wall, a key campaign pledge for Trump, and violates the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers principles.

Ultimately Trump wants to send up to $6.7 billion through the Department of Treasury’s Forfeiture Fund to build the wall.

James has pledged to take an aggressive legal posture toward the Trump administration’s policies and has launched an investigation into the president’s failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills.

James Moves To Sue Sackler Family

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday moved to file a lawsuit against the Sackler family, the controlling owners of Purdue Pharma, a company that has been blamed for the proliferation of the prescription painkiller OxyContin and the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit is one of the first major legal cases James has brought outside of her office’s legal challenges to the policies of President Donlad Trump’s administration.

“The opioid epidemic has ravaged families and communities across New York,” James said.

“We found that pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors engaged in years of deceptive marketing about the risks of opioids and failed to exercise their basic duty to report suspicious behavior, leading to the crisis we are living with today. As the Sackler Family and the other defendants grew richer, New Yorkers’ health grew poorer and our state was left to foot the bill. The manufacturers and distributors of opioids are to blame for this crisis and it is past time they take responsibility.”

The complaint alleges the opioid epidemic was allowed to spread due to fraud and misconduct from both manufacturers and distributors to sell to individual pharmacies. James’s office pointed to “systemic failures” that led to shipments of painkillers to New York pharmacies despite red flags such as those prescriptions paid for in cash or written by a small number of providers.