Who Is Letitia James? (Record & Background)

Meet the New York Attorney General who has taken on corruption in New York and the President of the United States.
Letitia James (Photo: Official NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Letitia James (Photo: Official NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Who Is Letitia James?

Letitia James is the Attorney General for the state of New York. A member of the Democratic party, James is the first woman and the first African-American elected to the office.

James grew up in Brooklyn, NY and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the City University of New York. She earned a J.D. Degree from Howard University School of Law.

She began her career as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society. James was promoted in 1994 and subsequently served on Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary. In 1999, James was appointed Assistant Attorney General for Brooklyn’s Regional Office of the AG.

In 2003, James was elected City Council representative for New York’s 35th District. She served on the panel for a decade. In 2013, she was elected New York City Public Advocate. Uncontested, she enjoyed 83% of the vote. James was elected Attorney General in 2018, defeating Republican Keith Wofford.

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Letitia James Record as NY Attorney General

In January 2020, James initiated an investigation into the NYPD’s fare evasion tactics. The probe focused on racial bias. Data from the department shows that 73% of those who receive tickets for subway fare evasion, and 90% of those arrested are Hispanic or African American.

In November 2020, James and Democratic attorneys general from around the country stood against the Trump administration before the Supreme Court of the United States. James argued that the Trump administration wrongfully terminated DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program). After the proceedings, James said, “This will have a critical impact on our economy, on the lives of families and our policies as it relates to immigration. To end this program without reason, without any rational basis, is arbitrary and capricious and as a result of that I am confident that the Supreme Court will do the right thing.”

In September 2019, James said that “Google, LLC and YouTube, LLC have agreed to pay a record $170 million in a national settlement, $34 million of which will go to New York State, for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by specifically tracking and serving targeted advertisements to users watching videos directed to children under the age of 13 on YouTube.” The AG’s office discovered that Google and YouTube illegally tracked and targeted ads directed at children under 13 years of age.

In December 2019, James lost a climate change case to Exxon Mobile. In front of a New York Supreme Court justice, she argued that “Exxon Mobile violated the Martin Act by fraudulently mis-accounting for the financial impact of climate change.” Judge Barry Ostrager determined that the state failed to meet its burden of proof. The state was unable to convince Ostrager that Exxon Mobil lied or misled investors.

In the same month, the AG forced the US president to pay $2 million to eight charities unrelated to his family or business. James’ predecessor sued Trump a year earlier alleging that he and his adult children misused funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Accused of paying business debts and funding his 2016 election campaign with foundation dollars, Trump’s attorneys agreed to a settlement. Court documents show that Trump admitted to the scheme and that some of the misappropriated funds were used to purchase a portrait of himself. James said, “Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law.”

Also in December, James’ office prosecuted attorney Richard Sherwood for stealing over $9 million from family trusts. Recommending a prison sentence of 3 to 10 years, James said, “New Yorkers deserve the peace of mind in knowing that their lawyers act with their clients interests at heart, and not in the interest of lining their own pockets.” Sherwood and an accomplice raided family trusts. In one of several instances, they created a firm, Empire Capital Trust to benefit themselves. They funded the operation with over $1 million in stolen money.

In March 2018, James subpoenaed Investors Bank and Deutsche Bank for documents related to Donald Trump’s 2014 bid to purchase the Buffalo Bills. Trump allegedly submitted documentation to the banks, fraudulently inflating his net worth by $4 billion. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen said, “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes.” According to the New York Post, the AG’s “subpoena seeks loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other records of financial transactions in connection to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Trump National Doral in South Florida and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.”

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When is Letitia James Up For Re-election?

New York attorneys general are chosen in midterm elections. James is up for re-election in November 2023.

In the 2018 general election, James defeated Republican Keith Wofford with 62.4% of the vote. In the preceding Democratic primary, she toppled four competitors, including current US congressman Sean Maloney.

According to her website, “James considers herself an advocate for the City’s most vulnerable communities.” Throughout her career as a public servant she “took on the gun industry”, “forced landlords to improve living conditions”, “resolved hundreds of consumer complaints” and “cracked down on firms engaged in deceptive business practices.” Her advocacy efforts may cement an early legacy as a compassionate crime fighter. It will also certainly guarantee an electoral challenge in the next cycle.

Personal Details & Contact Information

  • Age: 61
  • Birthday: October 18, 1958
  • Hometown: New York, NY
  • Education:
    • City University of New York, Lehman (BA)
    • Howard University (JD)
    • Columbia University (MPA)
  • Spouse: Couldn’t find anything
  • Twitter: @NewYorkStateAG
  • Professional contact details:

The Rantt Rundown

Letitia James is the first woman and the first African American to serve as New York’s Attorney General. A former public defender, James’ efforts as AG focuses on pubic welfare as well criminal prosecution and civil litigation. James hasn’t shied away from national efforts to address corruption in the nation’s capital. She will face a Republican challenger in the 2023 midterm election cycle.

Rantt 101 // New York / State Government