An interim replacement has been named following the resignation of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after an article in The New Yorker accused him of physically abusing four women.
State Solicitor General Barbara Underwood will be acting AG, according to a tweet from AG press secretary Amy Spitalnick. “She’s argued 20 cases before SCOTUS, clerked for Thurgood Marshall & much more. The work continues,” she wrote.
This morning, I’m grateful to work with the best colleagues in the business – including Barbara Underwood, who will be acting NY AG. She’s argued 20 cases before SCOTUS, clerked for Thurgood Marshall, & much more. The work continues.
— Amy Spitalnick (@amyspitalnick) May 8, 2018
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Underwood said, “I am honored to serve the people of New York as acting Attorney General. The work of this office is critically important. Our office has never been stronger, and this extraordinarily talented, dedicated and tireless team of public servants will ensure that our work continues without interruption.”
Underwood was appointed solicitor general in January 2007, after previously serving as counsel and chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, holding executive positions in the Queens and Brooklyn District Attorneys’ offices and a trial attorney for their Manhattan counterpart. She was also a law professor at Yale Law School, New York University School of Law and Brooklyn Law School, and graduated first in her classs from Georgetown University Law Center.
Hours after The New Yorker article broke, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the AG to step down.
“No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” Cuomo said. “I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General, and for the good of the office, he should resign.”
Statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pic.twitter.com/yiN2T7dIUx
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 8, 2018
Schneiderman said in a statement that he “strongly” contests the “serious allegations and “while these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time.”
Schneiderman, who has been AG since 2011, said his resignation be effective at the close of business on Tuesday.
Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, two of the four women who accused Schneiderman, told The New Yorker that he “repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent” and that it was “assault.” Another woman said she was slapped violently and a fourth said she had similar experiences.
The former AG, who had become a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and sought legal action following the sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, said in a statement that he “never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Schneiderman further commented that he has “engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone.”
NYC politicians react to Schneiderman’s resignation
Many New York City politicians have released statements regarding Schneiderman’s resignation.
“New Yorkers deserve and expect more from their Attorney General, who as the state’s chief law enforcement officer has an obligation to uphold the law,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Comptroller Scott Stringer said he was “shocked and deeply disturbed,” adding, “There is no place for this type of conduct in our society. With the Attorney General’s resignation behind us, we can move forward to ensure that our justice system continues to serve the people of New York.”
Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who wrote a series of tweets on the accusations, called Schneiderman’s accusers “heroines” and said that the “investigation should continue. We need to get to the bottom of the enormous culture of silence that protects those in power,” she wrote. “We must continue to end this national epidemic.”
The investigation should continue. We need to get to the bottom of the enormous culture of silence that protects those in power. We must continue to work to end this national epidemic.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) May 8, 2018
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said it has “opened an investigation” into the allegations against Schneiderman.
So, who’s the next AG?
Acting AG Barbara Underwood will serve until a joint ballot by the State Assembly and State Senate chooses Schneiderman’s successor. A list of potential permanent replacements began making the rounds immediately after Schneiderman announced his resignation, which went into effect at the close of business on Tuesday.
Among the names circling are Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Gov. Cuomo’s chief counsel Alphonso David; Fordham Law School professor and former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout; New York City Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James; state Sen. Todd Kaminsky; state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who is also chief political strategist for the Democratic conference; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney; U.S. rep and former Schneiderman AG opponent Kathleen Rice; former federal prosecutor Carrie H. Cohen and Benjamin Lawsky, the state’s first superintendent of financial services.
Teachout tweeted that she is “seriously considering running” as is Gianaris, according to NY1 reporter Grace Rauh.
I am seriously considering running for Attorney General. It is a major decision & will take real thought. For today, I’m grateful for the women who dared speak up against one of the most powerful men in the US & for Barbara Underwood, the brilliant woman who will be acting NY AG.
— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) May 8, 2018
.@SenGianaris on possible run for Attorney General: “I’m getting a lot encouragement from a lot of important people, which is flattering. And I am actively considering it.”
— Grace Rauh (@gracerauh) May 8, 2018
Rauh, citing a source, also reported that attorney and Deputy New York City Mayor Alicia Glen is also considering throwing her hat in the AG ring.
Another name to add to the list of potential AG candidates: Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. Source tells me she is thinking about running. Glen is an attorney.
— Grace Rauh (@gracerauh) May 8, 2018