Schneiderman has a plan for Trump presidency

State attorney general says his office is confronting an increase in hate crimes

By Bennett Loudon
BridgeTower Media Newswires

ROCHESTER - New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has a plan to address the policies of President Donald Trump that he anticipates may pose a threat to New Yorkers.

"It probably won't come as a huge shock to you that I have some differences of opinion with the new administration in Washington," Schneiderman said.

Schneiderman most famously won a $25 million settlement from Trump in December in a fraud lawsuit over Trump University.

In August 2013, long before he was a presidential candidate, Trump wrote in a tweet: "Lightweight NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to extort me with a civil law suit."

Still, Schneiderman said his disagreements with Trump are not personal.

"I'm sure there are differences of opinion in this room about the direction the new administration is heading, but I'm not here to talk about politics. I am here to talk about what this means, as far as a state attorney general is concerned," he said on Thursday during a speech before about 75 lawyers and judges attending the annual meeting of the Litigation Section of the Monroe County Bar Association.

Fill the void

Schneiderman said that under a Trump presidency the role of state attorneys general will be important in three particular ways.

"First, we have to use our powers, which are substantial under the 10th Amendment, and centuries of case law to protect New Yorkers from immediate harm," he said.

"Second, we're in a position in many cases to fill the void when federal agencies retreat from enforcing federal laws that would protect New Yorkers," he said.

"And finally, at the state level, we are in a position to model smart, effective governance and create models for other states," he said.

Schneiderman envisions states creating new programs or initiatives to address issues that may not be a priority to the new administration.

"I don't anticipate any big homogenizing federal housing programs or civil rights programs or environmental programs coming out in the next few years. And I think we're going to see more innovation at the state level," Schneiderman said.

On a more immediate level, Schneiderman said his office and other attorneys general have been confronting a significant increase in hate crimes.

That led to Schneiderman's office issuing a bulletin clarifying issues surrounding hate crimes in New York and offering guidance for investigating and prosecuting potential hate crimes.

Schneiderman joined with several other attorneys general who issued a statement condemning Trump's Jan. 27 executive order banning immigration from seven countries and temporarily stopping the country's refugee program.

Attorneys general have gone to court in several states to challenge the executive order and Schneiderman described those efforts "as an essential element of this federalist system that was designed to retain a lot of power at the state level in cases of federal overreach."

"I will continue to work with my colleagues, not because we view this as a political matter, but because we view our jobs as standing up for the rule of law and standing up for our Constitutional structure, no matter who's on the other side, whether it's a federal agency or an individual plaintiff," Schneiderman said.

Constitutional toolbox

States served as the laboratories where programs were developed that later became part of the New Deal of the 1930s. It's a model that could see a revival, Schneiderman believes.

If the federal government eases or eliminates enforcement of regulations protecting New Yorkers, "my office has already shown a willingness to fill in where things like this happen," Schneiderman said, referring to a lawsuit filed against Charter Communications and Spectrum Holdings Inc. for allegedly failing to deliver promised connection speeds.

Schneiderman vowed to take similar action if necessary in the areas of environmental protection, consumer affairs, wages and overtime laws.

Because the status of so-called "sanctuary cities" is in question, Schneiderman came up with guidance for cities seeking information. His office informed municipal officials that "simply being in the country without documentation is not, in and of itself, a crime," he said.

And his office provided information about laws that may help local governments "protect immigrants, if they so choose, from overreach by the federal government," Schneiderman said.

"I am committed to using every tool available to me in my legal and constitutional toolbox and to collaborating closely with my colleagues around the country to make sure that we protect the people we represent to ensure that we continue to move forward as a nation on our national trajectory toward greater justice and greater equality with each generation, which really is at the core of the American tradition," Schneiderman said.

Published: Mon, Feb 27, 2017