Cuomo Spokesman: Prison Suit Is Up To AG To Decide To Defend

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After suggesting earlier in the day that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman may be unable to defend the state in a lawsuit filed by Senate Republicans over how prisoners are counted in redistricting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to leave it to Schneiderman to decide whether he should remain on the case, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said tonight.

Vlasto said the Democratic governor believes it’s Schneiderman’s call whether there’s any conflict.

The mini-flap arose after Cuomo suggested at a news conference earlier today that the state would have to look at whether Schneiderman would represent the state in the case because the Democratic attorney general and former Manhattan senator was the sponsor and main advocate for the prison redistricting bill that passed the Senate last year.

Schneiderman’s office quickly responded that, “The Census Adjustment Act is the law of New York state, and we will fulfill our constitutional obligation to defend state law as we do in all cases.”

Others, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and good-government groups, then rushed to back Schneiderman’s right to defend the state in the case.

The state has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Albany by a group of upstate Senate Republicans, who are arguing that the law is unconstitutional. They claim that the U.S. Census doesn’t give the state the right to count prisoners in their hometowns rather than in the prison in which they are incarcerated. Moreover, they contend that the law is illegal because it was quietly stuck into budget bills last August, contending that it had nothing to do with the state’s spending plan.

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