Letitia Ann "Tish" James (born October 18, 1958) is an American lawyer, activist, and politician. She is a member of the Democratic Party and the current attorney general of New York, having won the 2018 election to succeed appointed attorney general Barbara Underwood. She is the first African-American and the first woman to be elected to the position.
|67th Attorney General of New York|
|Assumed office |
January 1, 2019
|Preceded by||Barbara Underwood|
|4th New York City Public Advocate|
January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2018
|Preceded by||Bill de Blasio|
|Succeeded by||Corey Johnson (acting)|
|Member of the New York City Council|
from the 35th district
January 1, 2004 – December 31, 2013
|Preceded by||James E. Davis|
|Succeeded by||Laurie Cumbo|
|Born||October 18, 1958|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Working Families Party|
|Education||Lehman College (BA)|
Howard University (JD)
Columbia University (MPA)
Born and raised in Brooklyn, James obtained her J.D. degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C., after graduating from Lehman College in The Bronx. She worked as a public defender, then on staff in the New York State Assembly, and later as an Assistant Attorney General.
James served as a member of the New York City Council from 2004 to 2013. She represented the 35th Council District, which includes the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, parts of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. James chaired the Economic Development and Sanitation Committees, and served on several other committees. She was later the New York City Public Advocate from 2013 to 2018.
Early life and educationEdit
Letitia Ann James was born on October 18, 1958, in Brooklyn, New York. She is one of eight children born to Nellie James, born in Martinsville, Virginia, in 1919, and Robert James. She attended New York City public schools. Raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn, she attended Fort Hamilton High School. She received her B.A. from the City University of New York's Lehman College in 1981, after majoring in liberal arts with an emphasis on social work.
She received her J.D. degree from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and was admitted to practice law in New York State in 1989. In 2013, James attended the Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs for a degree in Master of Public Administration.
James served as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society and established the Urban Network, a coalition of African American professional organizations aimed at providing scholarships for young people. In 1994, she promoted the Primary Health Care Development Bill in the City Council, which expanded day care resources for working families across the city. In 1996, James negotiated the Welfare Reform Act on behalf of the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
She served on former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary. She served as counsel for Albert Vann, Chief of Staff for Roger L. Green in the New York State Assembly, and in the administration of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. She was appointed the first Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Brooklyn regional office in 1999. While working in that position, James worked in many capacities but notably focused on consumer complaints involving predatory lending and other unlawful business practices.
2001 and 2003 City Council racesEdit
James' first run for the 35th Council District was in November 2001. In a close race, James received 42% of the vote on the Working Families Party line but lost to James E. Davis, a Democrat. In July 2003, just months before the next election, Davis was assassinated by Othniel Askew, a former political rival. Following Davis's death, his brother Geoffrey ran for his vacant Council seat on the Democratic Party ticket, but on election day, November 4, 2003, Geoffrey A. Davis lost by a large margin to James as the Working Families Party nominee. In that 2003 race James officially became a member of the Working Families Party, and was the first citywide office-holder to run solely on the WFP line.
City Council tenureEdit
James is the first member of the Working Families Party to win office in New York State, and the first third-party member to be elected to the city council since 1977. She has since changed back to the Democratic party. In 2005, James became involved in advocating against the proposed Brooklyn Nets Arena in her district, a case that put her against her Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner. James opposed the use of eminent domain to evict her constituents, selling the MTA's Atlantic Yards property below its market value, and keeping the planning of the project away from the New York City Council.
James again won the Working Families and the Democratic parties' nominations by a large margin over Samuel Eric Blackwell, an urban planner at Long Island University and pro-stadium advocate. She was re-elected on the Democratic line on November 8, 2005, with 88.11% of the vote, compared to 6.80% for Republican Anthony Herbert, and 5.08% for Independence Party candidate Charles B. Billups.
On October 10, 2006, there was a devastating fire at the Broken Angel House, an architectural icon in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The fire attracted attention from the New York City Department of Buildings, which resulted in the citation of numerous building code violations. James represented Broken Angel's owner, Arthur Wood, pro bono in his negotiations to keep his home. The agency decided to allow Wood to re-occupy Broken Angel provided the upper levels were taken down and the central stairwell reconstructed.
James was the sponsor of New York law 2007/29, which addressed the Alternative Enforcement Program by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and violations of the housing maintenance code and multiple dwelling law; and 2008/004, which addressed the availability of Child Health Plus laws in day cares.
She was the first to question cost overruns and irregularities in the subcontracting work of the new CityTime payroll system much touted by Bloomberg which eventually led to several indictments, Bloomberg asking a tech giant for $600 million back, and two consultants fleeing the country in 2011.
James originally advocated for the demolition of the Second Empire houses on Admiral's Row in order to build a parking lot for a proposed supermarket to serve residents in nearby housing developments, but later supported preserving some of the historic housing. In 2008, James, with Bill de Blasio, advocated against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempts to seek a third term without a voter referendum.
James won the Democratic primary in September 2009 against her opponents, community organizer Delia Hunley-Adossa, who received more than $200,000 from Forest City Ratner and Medhanie Estiphanos, a financial consultant. James went on to win re-election for a second term.
With New York State Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and NY city councilman Jumaane Williams, James called upon Mayor Bloomberg to investigate systemic corruption in the NYPD in November 2011. She was also one of four councilmembers to sue the NYPD over its treatment of protesters at Occupy Wall Street.
In May 2013, with a group that included construction unions, community groups and other elected officials, she was a part of an Article 78 lawsuit against the Bloomberg administration and Acadia Realty Trust seeking the shut-down of the City Point real estate project and a reassessment of its environmental impact.
In June 2016, James attempted to pressure six financial institutions, including BB&T, Berkshire Bank, Citizens Financial Group, People's United Bank, Regions Financial Corporation and TD Bank, into ending its practice of providing financial services to gun manufacturers. BB&T was specifically requested to drop the accounts of SIG Sauer of New Hampshire, but denied the request.
- Committee on Economic Development (chair)
- Committee on Sanitation (chair)
- Committee on Parks & Recreation
- Committee on Small Business
- Committee on Technology in Government
- Committee on Veteran Affairs
- Committee on Women's Issues
In 2013, James ran for New York City Public Advocate and received 36% of the vote in the first Democratic primary, under the 40% threshold that would have avoided a runoff election. James won the runoff election on October 1, 2013, against Daniel Squadron, 59%–41%, becoming the party's nominee for the city's elected watchdog position in November.
In the 2013 election campaign for Public Advocate, James was endorsed by many of the city's important labor unions, NOW, Planned Parenthood, Democracy for NYC, League of Conservation Voters, Amsterdam News and El Diario. James accomplished her first-place finish in spite of her campaign trailing Daniel Squadron's and Reshma Saujani's, in fundraising. on October 1, 2013, becoming the party's nominee for the city's elected watchdog position in November. She was endorsed by third-place finisher Saujani in September James won the Democratic runoff election. Without a Republican opponent, she won the general election with over 83% of the vote.
In 2017, James won the Democratic primary for her position with 77% of the vote, over closest competitor David Eisenbach's 23%.
New York State Attorney GeneralEdit
In May 2018, James, who initially planned to run for Mayor of New York City in 2021, declared her candidacy for Attorney General of New York and won the Democratic primary on September 13, 2018, with 40.6% of the vote; she defeated Zephyr Teachout (31%) and two other candidates. On November 6, 2018, she was elected attorney general, defeating Republican Keith Wofford.
State civil suit against the NRAEdit
On August 6, 2020, in a televised broadcast, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced a state civil lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court against the National Rifle Association (NRA), with four NRA department heads named as co-defendants. The NRA filed a countersuit against James, citing statements she made during her 2018 campaign.
Investigation into state COVID-19 responseEdit
In early March 2020, the AG's office began to preliminarily "investigate allegations of COVID-19-related neglect of residents in nursing homes." The office solicited and subsequently received 953 complaints from patients' families regarding neglect of patients through November 16. The probe released its first report on both the nursing homes and the state Department of Health (DOH) on January 28, 2021, where it concluded that the DOH's public data under-counted nursing home deaths by up to 50 percent. James said investigations into 20 separate nursing homes "whose reported conduct during the first wave of the pandemic presented particular concern" would continue for the foreseeable future. The report was heralded by some in Albany as a "declaration of independence" from Governor Andrew Cuomo after a two-year alliance in opposition to President Donald Trump.
Three weeks after the AG's report, the Albany Times-Union revealed an ongoing joint investigation by the FBI and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, examining how Governor Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus task-force played a role in nursing homes' COVID-19 response. On March 18, 2021, The City found that the FBI's scope included a last-minute addition to the state's 2020 budget that provided greater immunity to long-term care organizations. The head of the Greater New York Hospital Association said in an August 2020 New York State Senate hearing that the lobbying group had provided a "draft" of "some ideas to be included" to the Governor's office.
Probe into Cuomo sexual harassment allegationsEdit
Following a series of interviews in The New York Times with a junior aide who alleged Governor Cuomo made sexual overtures to her, James opened an independent inquiry into allegations that the governor sexual harassed multiple female employees in the executive branch. Several other women came out to share their own experiences, which James says will be included in the AG's inquiry.
James contracted the investigation out to former acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne L. Clark on March 8. Kim previously played a key role in the U.S. Attorney's investigations of Cuomo's close former ally Joseph Percoco over alleged bribery and bid-rigging related to the Buffalo Billion initiative.
New York City CouncilEdit
|Democratic||James E. Davis||6,691||37.37%|
|Democratic||Abraham E. Wasserman||1,754||9.80%|
|Democratic||William J. Saunders||875||4.89%|
|Democratic||Robert A. Hunter||556||3.10%|
|Democratic||James E. Davis||13,129||55.64%|
|Working Families||Letitia James||9,762||41.37%|
|Working Families||Letitia James||14,166||76.70%|
|Democratic||Geoffrey A. Davis||3,077||16.66%|
|Independence||Geoffrey A. Davis||497||1.71%|
|Total||Geoffrey A. Davis||3,392||18.36%|
|Conservative||Abraham E. Wasserman||363||1.97%|
|Working Families gain from Democratic|
|Democratic||Letitia James (incumbent)||8,667||84.92%|
|Democratic||Samuel Eric Blackwell||1,539||15.08%|
|Working Families||Letitia James||2,275||10.74%|
|Total||Letitia James (incumbent)||18,722||88.35%|
|Independence||Charles B. Billups||979||4.62%|
|Democratic gain from Working Families|
|Democratic||Letitia James (incumbent)||8,027||81.15%|
|Democratic||Delia M. Hunley-Adossa||1,539||13.92%|
|Democratic||Letitia James (incumbent)||19,873||92.29%|
|Republican||Stuart A. Balberg||1,355||6.29%|
|Conservative||Stuart A. Balberg||306||1.42%|
|Total||Stuart A. Balberg||1,661||7.71%|
New York City Public AdvocateEdit
|Working Families||Letitia James||53,821||5.51%|
|Socialist Workers||Deborah O. Liatos||5,114||0.52%|
|War Veterans||Irene Estrada||4,216||0.43%|
|Students First||Mollina G. Fabricant||2,391||0.24%|
|Freedom Party||Michael K. Lloyd||1,799||0.18|
|Democratic||Letitia James (incumbent)||300,301||76.50%|
|Working Families||Letitia James||16,586||6.49%|
|Total||Letitia James (incumbent)||203,502||79.58%|
|Republican||Juan Carlos Polanco||31,206||12.20%|
|Reform||Juan Carlos Polanco||1,704||0.67%|
|Stop De Blasio||Juan Carlos Polanco||988||0.39%|
|Total||Juan Carlos Polanco||33,898||13.26%|
|Conservative||Michael A. O'Reilly||9,868||3.86%|
|Green||James C. Lane||6,160||2.41%|
New York Attorney GeneralEdit
|Democratic||Sean Patrick Maloney||379,099||24.02%|
|Working Families||Letitia James||152,350||2.54%|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Letitia James.|
| Member of the New York City Council
from the 35th district
Bill de Blasio
| Public Advocate of New York City
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Attorney General of New York
| Attorney General of New York