Within hours of a New Yorker investigation reporting on the stories of several women who accused him of assault, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned. “Women’s issues had been a focal point for Mr. Schneiderman.” In particular, among other domestic violence laws, Schneiderman had backed the toughening of penalties for choking and interference with a victim’s breathing. [Danny Hakim and Vivian Wang, New York Times] My City Journal piece three years ago detailed how Schneiderman had become one of the nation’s most powerful and consequential progressive politicos. We previously covered disgraced former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s involvement as a law enforcer with laws he was later to trip over.
“Never apologize, never explain” is not a maxim to recommend for a state’s top law enforcer, and that goes for New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the subject of my recent City Journal piece. Early this year Schneiderman charged that herbal supplements on sale at GNC, Walmart and other major retailers, when subjected to special tests arranged by his office, were found to lack DNA associated with the advertised herbs. Within days close observers and experts in the field had deduced why Schneiderman’s tests had produced such remarkable results: he had relied on testing methods badly unsuited to identifying active ingredients in substances that, like most of the supplements, had undergone extensive processing [see, e.g., Nicola Twilley, New Yorker; Live Science; Bill Hammond, New York Daily News]
Other officials might have beat a timely retreat. Schneiderman’s office instead dug in, refusing to apologize, back down or even publicly disclose key facts about its testing methods. I’ve done a Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown about the whole episode, including what is perhaps the most ominous aspect: such is the legal leverage of a New York attorney general that the targets chose to settle anyway. City Journal piece, again, here.
A New York appellate court has upheld an order that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pay counsel fees to the Competitive Enterprise Institute for having resisted required disclosure of the “AGs United for Clean Energy” secrecy agreement [Anna St. John, CEI; Chris White, Daily Caller]
At least since 1958’s NAACP v. Alabama, it has been thought settled that state demands for the disclosure of private organizations’ membership and donor lists poses very real risks of First Amendment infringement to which courts must be sensitive. Recent years, however, have seen concerted efforts to strip anonymity from donors to at least some non-profit groups with a policy emphasis. One danger — or feature, from the standpoint of some groups doing the campaigning — is that if target groups can be made to divulge such information, their supporters can be exposed to pressure, shaming, and public and private retaliation.
Kamala Harris, then Attorney General of California and now Senator from that state, did not fare well in court in such a campaign while in state office, but New York’s left-leaning Attorney General Eric Schneiderman seems to be enjoying better luck in a similar push. A Second Circuit panel has ruled in favor of his demands for the donor lists of Citizens United, the conservative group whose role in a landmark First Amendment case at the Supreme Court has made it, along with that case, “the Emmanuel Goldstein of the American left.” It will not be surprising if the Supreme Court is soon asked to reaffirm the protections of NAACP v. Alabama. [Trevor Burrus and Reilly Stephens, Cato, and thanks for mention; see also my April 2016 Cato piece]
“After a month-long investigation, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is sending cease-and-desist letters to DraftKings and FanDuel — essentially banning the two sites from operating in New York. Schneiderman feels that they are illegal gambling sites, rather than offering games of skill as both companies argue.” [Neal Ungerleider/Fast Company, David Marcus/Federalist, earlier]
More: “I challenge you to a fantasy football duel, Eric Schneiderman” [Paul McPolin, New York Post]
Because you thought he was some kind of big privacy advocate or something? “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed the data as part of an investigation into the website stemming from a 2010 law that makes it illegal to use such sites to rent out your own apartment.” He says he’s after the 15,000 or so customers who used the service to let guests stay on their premises for a fee. Next: Craigslist? [New York Daily News, Matt Welch/Reason]
Some politicians just want there to be random shortages [WSJ editorial]:
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed the Craigslist website for the identities of people who advertised gas for sale at high prices. Mr. Schneiderman is doing this in the name of a New York law that forbids charging an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption in the market.”
In a move likely to be welcome to his Left base, the president is naming New York’s business-bashing attorney general to head up a probe into banks’ mortgage misconduct. Capital New York’s headline says it all: “Obama elevates Eric Schneiderman, Who Was Too Liberal for Andrew Cuomo.” Another view: Felix Salmon (& Roger Donway, Atlas Business Rights Center).
- I was part of an informative panel discussion of “Climate Change Litigation and Public Nuisance Lawsuits” organized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund [watch here] Podcast and transcript of an October update on state and municipal climate litigation with Boyden Gray [Federalist Society] And because it’s still relevant, my 2007 WSJ piece (paywalled) on how contingency fees for representing public-sector plaintiffs are an ethical travesty;
- New York securities case against ExxonMobil goes to trial [Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline; earlier] At last minute, NY Attorney General Letitia James, successor to Eric Schneiderman, drops the two counts requiring proof of intent, which the state had earlier deployed to accuse Exxon of deliberate misrepresentation. Still in play is the state’s unique Martin Act, which allows finding fraud without proof of intent [Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News]
- Ninth Circuit panel hears “children’s” climate case, Juliana v. U.S. [Federalist Society podcast with James May, Damien Schiff, and Jonathan Adler; related commentary, James Coleman]
- Bernie Sanders doesn’t really need legal arguments for retroactive criminal prosecutions if he’s got Jacobin on his side, right?
- “Lawyers are unleashing a flurry of lawsuits to step up the fight against climate change” [Darlene Ricker, ABA Journal]
- Who’s backing Extinction Rebellion, the lawbreaking group that blocked intersections in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere this fall? “The answer, in part, is the scions of some of America’s most famous families, including the Kennedys and the Gettys.” [John Schwartz, New York Times]
- Since political belief has not been made a protected class under New York public accommodations law, it’s no surprise — various memes notwithstanding — that a judge would find taverns entitled by law to deny service to a candidate’s supporters [Julia Marsh, New York Post]
- Florida: “Attorney faces federal prison after admitting role in $23M auto insurance fraud” [Paula McMahon/Sun-Sentinel, more]
- Pardons, double jeopardy, and now-departed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “Historically, New York was proud of providing greater constitutional protections than the feds offered, but that was before Trump.” [Scott Greenfield]
- Megan McArdle follows up on her Alfie Evans column (and thanks for mention) [Washington Post, earlier]
- Not your conventional presidential lawyer: two reports look at the legal practice of attorney Michael Cohen [Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein/WNYC, Seth Hettena/Rolling Stone]
- Harshing the mellow: Regulation, taxes driving some cannabis culture back underground in California [David Boaz, Cato]