Attorney General Letitia James will not represent Governor Kathy Hochul

Source NY Times:

The role of the attorney general is crucial in representing the state’s interests and ensuring justice is served. However, in a recent development, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James has declined to represent Governor Kathy Hochul in legal proceedings regarding the care of asylum seekers. This decision has sparked debates about the attorney general’s responsibilities.

The New York Times reported James did not immediately disclose her reasoning — a person familiar with her thinking stated that she had fundamental policy disagreements with the governor regarding the state’s role in managing the crisis. This disagreement reached a critical point as a State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan began urging the state government to take more responsibility in assisting the city in meeting a long-standing mandate to provide shelter to anyone who seeks it.

The right-to-shelter mandate dates back to the late 1970s but resurfaced last week when hundreds of migrants slept on the sidewalk outside the city’s main intake center. Judge Edwards ordered the city to submit a proposal identifying the state’s resources and facilities to continue providing shelter for all who seek it.

As the state’s chief legal officer, the attorney general is expected to act impartially and without political influence. By declining to represent Governor Hochul, James may be asserting her independence and avoiding any perception of bias in the legal proceedings. This ensures that the attorney general’s office remains a neutral entity, focused solely on upholding the law.

Another factor that may have influenced James’ decision is the potential conflict of interest. As the attorney general, James is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of misconduct or negligence. If she were to represent Governor Hochul in legal proceedings related to the care of asylum seekers, it could create a conflict of interest, compromising the attorney general’s ability to investigate any potential wrongdoing. By declining to represent the governor, James can maintain objectivity and fulfill her duties as the state’s attorney general.

According to reports, a private law firm will handle the case to determine the state’s obligations to help care for people stemming from New York City’s right-to-shelter law.

Letitia James’ decision may be rooted in principles of independence and avoiding conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, it raises concerns about the care of asylum seekers in New York State. Legal proceedings involving the care of asylum seekers are complex and require expertise in immigration law. The absence of the attorney general’s representation may hinder the state’s ability to navigate these proceedings and ensure that asylum seekers receive the necessary support and protection.

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