Schneiderman resignation leaves replacement attorney general up to New York legislature

Just hours after an explosive report accused him of physically and sexually assaulting multiple women, New York Attorney Gen. Eric Schneiderman announced his resignation.

A vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and liberal foil to President Trump, Schneiderman, 63, was accused in a May 7 bombshell New Yorker report of hitting and choking women, abusing alcohol and prescription drugs and verbally accosting women he dated. Schneiderman, a Democrat, said he “strongly contest[s]” the allegations against him.

Nevertheless, Schneiderman said he would resign by close of business on May 8.

“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 said in a statement.

An ally of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Schneiderman was seeking a third term as attorney general in a fall election. He was also seen as a potential eventual replacement for Cuomo.

New York law mandates the state Senate and Assembly come together in a joint session to appoint a new attorney general if a vacancy occurs. There will not be a special election.

However, because the Assembly is made up of 150 members compared to 63 in the state Senate, it’s the Assembly that has most of the power in this process, Richard Briffault, a Columbia Law School professor who is an expert in state government and ethics, told Fox News.


Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie met with Democrats on May 8, but he told reporters that a decision on a replacement has not yet been made, The Observer reported.

Historically, because the state legislature does have some experience filling positions abruptly left open, it picks one of their own members, Briffault said.

Robert Abrams resigned as attorney general after 15 years to take a job with a Manhattan law firm in 1993, The New York Times reported at the time. Assemblyman Oliver Koppell was appointed to finish out the term, and he would eventually lose the Democratic primary to keep the seat the following year.

Additionally, state comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned his position in 2006 when he pleaded guilty to a felony fraud charge. Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli was picked by the legislature in 2007 to replace Hevesi, and he’s served in the position ever since.

Solicitor General Barbara Underwood has been named acting attorney general until a new one is appointed.

Underwood clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and argued 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to her biography. She was appointed as solicitor general in 2007.


Briffault said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the state legislature letting Underwood continue to serve as attorney general until the November election since it’s not far away.

Manhattan attorney Manny Alicandro announced his bid as a Republican for the attorney general seat. He said he wants to know “who else knew” about the allegations prior to the New Yorker piece, telling WNYM radio that there must have been “enablers” who kept quiet about the alleged abuse.

State Republicans and Democrats are expected to select their attorney general nominees at their respective conventions in May, with September primaries if needed.

Whoever is picked by the state legislature to finish out Schneiderman’s term doesn’t get a huge boost if he or she decides to run for the seat, Nassau County Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs told the New York Daily News.

"The legislature will pick an interim, but that person won't be able to get traction of any grand consequence before the September primary," he said. "It's not like you have a year. You have a few months, most of which will be over the summer when no one is paying attention."

Jacobs continued, "In other words, I don't think it's a great prize. Everyone would take it if given. It's an advantage, but not that big an advantage."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.