Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday quietly filed his answer in state Supreme Court in Albany to a lawsuit filed last month by Senate Republicans seeking to overturn a state law that would count prisoners in their hometowns and not the places in which they are incarcerated.
Schneiderman asked that the lawsuit be tossed.
On behalf of the state, Schneiderman wrote, “Wherefore, defendant New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision respectfully requests that the relief requested in the Complaint be denied, that the Complaint and this action be dismissed, and that it be awarded costs and disbursements, together with such other relief as may be just.”
It’s an interesting situation for Schneiderman, who sponsored the legislation last year as a state senator. His close involvement in the law prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the former attorney general, to question whether Schneiderman should handle the case. Schneiderman said he would, and Cuomo then agreed.
The Attorney General’s Office had asked the U.S. Department of Justice for an opinion on the case—which is typical when it involves election law—and the Department wrote back that the law to count prisoners in their hometowns is legal, as the Daily News’ Celeste Katz reported Monday. Yet the letter also states that while the Department of Justice doesn’t oppose the change, it “does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the change.”
The law, passed last year by Democrats who controlled the Legislature, would lower the population counts in upstate districts largely controlled by Republicans—and thus likely lower the number of legislative districts upstate. Senate Republicans claim the law is illegal and are seeking to have it overturned.
The legal battle comes as Senate Republicans are also opposed to having an independent redistricting panel to set new legislative district lines in 2012—after they all signed Ed Koch’s pledge last year to support it.
Here’s the answer from Schneiderman and the Department of Justice’s letter.