Attorney General

James Releases Criminal Justice Reform Plan

The attorney general’s role as special prosecutor when it comes to civilians dying during interactions with police or being injured or sexually assaulted should be codified in state law, according to a criminal justice platform released Wednesday by Letitia James.

James, the New York City public advocate, is one of four Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for attorney general in a Sept. 13 primary.

The platform includes a push for the state to fund body cameras for cops and allow for more open discovery rules statewide.

And James is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that would create a prosecutorial misconduct commission for locally elected district attorneys.

Cuomo, who has endorsed James, has not given an indication whether he would sign the bill, which is opposed by the state’s district attorneys.

“When too many feel the scales of justice are tilted against them, we must change the system. As the State’s top law enforcement official, I will bring accountability and transparency to outdated systems in dire need of reform,” James said in a statement.

James faces Leecia Eve, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Zephyr Teachout in the primary.

The full platform can be found here.

NYC Councilwomen Endorse James for AG

From the Morning Memo:

A group of female New York City Council members endorsed Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James for AG, adding their names to a growing list of Democratic elected officials throwing their support behind her candidacy.

Taking up the torch for James were: Adrienne Adams, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Diana Ayala, Margaret Chin, Laurie Cumbo, Vanessa Gibson, Karen Koslowitz, Carlina Rivera, Deborah Rose, and Helen Rosenthal.

The women, all Democrats, were united in their praise of James’ record, particularly her stance on women’s rights.

“Throughout her career, Tish James has been a strong voice for women’s reproductive rights and access to healthcare options,” Gibson said. “At a time when these rights are under attack by the Trump Administration, it is critical that New York elects an Attorney General who will never back down from protecting these most basic rights. Tish James is the Attorney General New York needs in order to ensure that women’s rights and access to basic healthcare are protected.”

James released a series of proposals last week that were aimed at easing access to medical care and abortion services for New York women, as well as eliminating workplace discrimination during pregnancies.

Like the governor, who is backing her candidacy to fill the vacancy left by the abrupt departure of former AG Eric Schneiderman, James has been vocal in her support of the Reproductive Health Act, adding her voice to those calling on the GOP-lead state Senate to return to Albany to pass it.

Before serving as public advocate, James was herself a Council member. She was elected on the Working Families Party line – the party’s first candidate to land a citywide office – but has since distanced herself from the WFP, which is at war with the governor and backing his primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon.

James was endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo before the Democratic state convention in May, and since then has been embraced by party members statewide. Last week she traveled to Puerto Rico with Cuomo along with SUNY and CUNY students volunteering on the recovering island for class credit.

James faces three fellow Democrats in the upcoming September primary: NY-18 Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, ex-Cuomo aide and Buffalo native Leecia Eve and Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachour, who ran an unsuccessful primary challenge against Cuomo in 2014.

Underwood Sues To Block Distribution Of 3-D Gun Materials

Attorney General Barbara Underwood has filed a lawsuit that would seek to bar the distribution of materials used to print and manufacturer a firearm through a 3-D printer.

The lawsuit was filed with New York’s attorney general office as well as state attorneys general in Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia.

“It is, simply, crazy to give criminals the tools to build untraceable, undetectable 3-D printed guns at the touch of a button. Yet that’s exactly what the Trump administration is allowing,” Underwood said. “We won’t stand by as New Yorkers’ safety is jeopardized by this abrupt about-face by the federal government.”

The suit stems from Defense Distributed, a consortium that distributes open-source materials that could be downloaded to print 3-D guns, which filed a legal challenge in 2015 after the federal government forced the removal of the instruction manual from the internet.

President Donald Trump’s administration last month sought to settle the case, allowing the downloading of materials to construct the firearms.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, a state lawmaker from Manhattan, introduced legislation this week that would regulate printable guns.

“Thanks to the Trump administration, anyone in America or across the world–be it a teenager, felon, or terrorist–can evade a background check and manufacture a dangerous weapon with a click of a button. This is an existential threat to gun control as we know it,” Hoylman said. “It is unconscionable to put the lives of New Yorkers and Americans at risk just to satisfy the demands of the gun lobby. It’s now up to New York to close this deadly loophole that will allow dangerous individuals to access a gun on demand, and I’m proud to take those initial steps today.”

James As AG Would Seek To Protect Abortion Rights

Democratic attorney general candidate Letitia James on Friday released a platform that would seek to bolster abortion and reproductive rights in the state, using her office to investigate and pursue legal action against pregnancy crisis centers deemed to be committing “fraud” against women as well as pursue companies that deny birth control coverage.

“New York’s women need an Attorney General who not only supports their right to reproductive freedom, but one who understands the critical issues personally,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, in a statement. “I have every confidence that Tish James understands the multi-faceted aspect of women’s healthcare needs and the threats they face everyday in accessing quality care.”

The platform includes a plan to investigate pregnancy crisis centers that supporters of abortion rights say draw women into believing they are being counseled for an abortion procedure, but are actually dissuaded.

She would also take legal action against companies that bar the coverage of birth control coverage for reasons other than religious or moral concerns.

At the same time, James said she would investigate cases of workplace discrimination toward pregnant women.

And James said she would push for the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure meant to strengthen the state’s abortion laws and has become a flashpoint in the race for governor.

James, the New York City public advocate, is running in a four-way race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, facing Leecia Eve, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Zephyr Teachout.

Republican Keith Wofford is the presumptive GOP nominee for attorney general.

Democrat Eric Schneiderman resigned in May amid domestic violence charges and Barbara Underwood, appointed by the Legislature in May, will not seek a full term.

For Now, AG Candidates Have Some Parity On Fundraising

It’s still early, but the unexpected resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman following domestic violence allegations set off a scramble to replace him — and raise money to mount a competitive bid.

With five candidates — four Democrats and one Republican — in the mix, the fundraising for now has shown some parity when it comes to total amounts raised over the last two months, at least for now.

Take Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is set to report having raised $1.1 million. He will report $4.1 million in cash on hand.

It’s not clear how much of that will have been transferred from another account. But Maloney’s campaign points to 1,500 individual donations and 90 percent of the contributions coming in at $200 or less.

Republican Keith Wofford, meanwhile, also raised $1 million and has $1 million in cash on hand.

He’s received support from the New York Republican Committee, including $150,000 transfer and a personal loan of $100,000. Republican Chairman Ed Cox gave Wofford’s bid $44,000.

Schneiderman Filed For Retirement In June

Disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed for retirement on June 5 and will earn a nearly $64,000 pension.

Schneiderman resigned in May amid allegations of domestic abuse leveled by multiple women who spoke to The New Yorker.

Schneiderman last month received a pro-rated pension payment of $4,618 and will receive monthly payments of $5,329.

The former attorney general has not yet been criminally charged based on the accusations.

His resignation triggered a Democratic primary for the office Schneiderman had held since 2011. Currently, there are four Democrats vying for the nomination: Leecia Eve, Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and New York City Public Advocate Tish James.

Republican Keith Wofford is the presumptive GOP nominee for attorney general.

NY Bernie Backers Stick With Teachout

The New York-based organization People for Bernie has continued its track record of backing Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout, announcing over th weekend its endorsement of her state attorney general bid.

The co-founders of The People for Bernie – Kat Brezler Charles Lenchner Winnie Wong and Moumita Ahmed – worked on Zephyr’s unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2014, in which she turned in a stronger-than-expected performance against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The organization also backed Teachout in 2016, when she ran unsuccessfully for an open House seat, (vacated by former Republican Rep. Chris Gibson), against Republican John Faso. Sanders himself endorsed and campaigned with Teachout in that campaign, but she lost the general election to Faso in November.

“Zephyr Teachout literally wrote the book about corruption,” Brezler said. “We need her tenacity to fight back against corporate power.”

In true Sanders style, People for Bernie announced its support of Teachout in a tweet, saying it will focus on helping her petition her way onto the ballot after she failed to make the cut at the state Democratic Party convention in May.

NYC Public Advocate Tish James, who is supported by Cuomo, was selected by the party rank-and-file at the convention to be the official Democratic nominee.

Also seeking to petition onto the September ballot is Leecia Eve, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton and Cuomo who is on leave from her job as a lobbyist and top government affairs official for Verizon; and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who ran unsuccessfully for AG in 2006 – the year Cuomo won the four-way Democratic primary for that office, and went on to beat Republican Jeanine Pirro in the November election.

Throughout all of her political campaigns to date, Teachout has focused on campaign finance reform. That focus continued today, when she highlighted the fact that she is the only Democratic AG candidate to reject exploiting the LLC loophole to maximize her fundraising capability.

Teachout also took a swipe at James for being the beneficiary of a fundraiser big money fundraiser being headlined next week by Cuomo, who has raised $16.5 million since 2011 from LLCs alone.

“I accept no corporate PAC money, and no LLC money,” Teachout said. “This is not complicated: No attorney general should take money from corporations she is charged with overseeing and investigating and whose law breaking she may prosecute. When law enforcement candidates takes corporate money, it undermines trust in the law itself, and people get shut out.”

Though not getting the Democratic nod at the convention complicated things for Teachout, forcing her to expend time and resources to get onto the ballot, it also freed her, in a sense, to take positions far to the left of what the governor, (who basically runs the party), is comfortable with. That could prove problematic in a general election, but might help her eke out a victory in the primary.

Underwood Knocks Travel Ban Ruling

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Tuesday criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries.

The ban, which applies to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, also applies to North Korea and some Venezuelan officials, is the third attempt by the Trump administration to block travel from counties deemed to be a security risk to the United States.

“​President Trump’s travel bans are a stain on American history that were rooted in deep anti-Muslim animus and unleashed chaos on families, businesses, institutions, and communities throughout New York,” Underwood said. “Despite today’s ruling, New York will continue to serve as a beacon to the world, welcoming people of all faiths, races, nationalities, and backgrounds.”

The New York attorney general’s office had joined efforts to block the ban from taking effect. The 5-4 ruling at the Supreme Court is one of the first major victories in the court for the Trump administration.

“I’m proud of our work to successfully beat back President Trump’s first two discriminatory bans,” Underwood said. “My office won’t hesitate to act to protect New York’s families and ensure that we live up to the values on which this state and this nation were built.”​

Underwood Sues Trump Foundation, Alleging Illegalities

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the charity founded by President Donald Trump and his family, arguing that there is a “pattern of persistent illegal conduct” that stretches back more than 10 years including efforts to boost his presidential prospects.

The suit alleges Trump used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to fund his legal bills and market his business efforts, including Trump-branded hotels, and to purchase personal items.

At the same time, the suit claims Trump used the foundation to illicitly provide support for his successful bid for the presidency in 2016. The suit points to the Trump Foundation’s name being used to raise money and promote his candidacy in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”

The foundation raised more than $2.8 million in order to influence the election, the suit alleges, including funds from a nationally televised fnudraiser that were used instead of Trump’s participation in a Republican presidential primary debate.

In addition to naming Trump, the suit also names his children, who are the directors of the foundation, Donald J. Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump.

Trump lashed out at the suit in a series of tweets, inferring incorrectly that Eric Schneiderman is still the attorney general. Schneiderman resigned last month after he was accused by multiple women of physical abuse.

Underwood was appointed by the Legislature in May to fill out the remainder of Schneiderman’s term. Schneiderman’s office did sue Trump’s for-profit college, Trump University, which ultimately resulted in a settlement.

“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” Trump posted. “I won’t settle this case!…”

But in a follow up tweet, Trump acknowledged Schneiderman was no longer in office.

“….Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.”

Maloney Announces Bid For AG

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney formally announced Wednesday he will run for attorney general – a campaign he will conduct in tandem with a bid to keep his congressional seat.

“When you’ve got crooks in the White House, crooks in Albany, and crooks in corporate suites, you need a leader with the passion to fight and the experience to win,” Maloney said. “That’s why I’m running for attorney general.”

Maloney is expected to run for the Democratic nomination in a September primary against Leecia Eve, Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout. If he’s unsuccessful, Maloney will run for re-election to his current post in a Hudson Valley congressional district that has been in the past a battleground district.

“I’ve successfully defended the Constitution and our progressive values against the Trump Administration’s attacks down in Washington – but now it’s time to go on offense,” Maloney said.

“I’ve been proud to fight for New Yorkers of all stripes throughout my career – from my experience as a young attorney fighting for immigrants and tenants – to my time working in a Democratic White House on behalf of hate crime survivors, and looking out for workers while creating jobs in the tech sector.”

Maloney has run for attorney general before, last seeking the nomination in 2006, losing in a crowded primary to Andrew Cuomo.