An Amherst-based law firm has filed suit in federal court against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James, accusing them of overstepping their powers in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"HoganWillig is choosing not to be silent any longer and to exercise its right to challenge Governor Cuomo’s and Attorney General James’ unconstitutional abuses of power in the face of Covid-19," said Corey J. Hogan, a partner in the firm, in a cover letter accompanying the lawsuit.
Hogan said his firm filed the suit in light of Cuomo's executive orders related to Covid-19 and James' enforcement of those orders. The lawsuit accuses Cuomo and James of a "disturbing and gross abuse of their power."
"Paramount among the reasons this lawsuit is being brought is my concern for what kind of country our children and grandchildren will inherit, as well as an obligation to uphold the principles of our forbearers to keep in place the liberties that many of them gave their lives to secure," Hogan said.
The lawsuit claims Cuomo and James have failed to take into account medical data available since mid April, which the suit contends could have enabled the modification of orders that have restricted or shut businesses.
"The New York state governor’s executive orders have become even more oppressive, in contrast to other states, as many states are now modifying their executive orders based on the scientific data and are lifting restrictions, and the federal government, in an effort to prevent even more damage to the economy, consistent with the scientific data, is encouraging processes that will return workers to their jobs," the lawsuit said.
Representatives for Cuomo and James could not be reached to comment on Sunday. Hogan also could not be reached to comment.
In his letter, Hogan noted that his own firm was granted "essential" status by Empire State Development, which is the state's economic development arm. But he said Empire State Development subsequently issued guidelines for lawyers directing them to perform most work remotely.
HoganWillig has five offices in Western New York.
Just as HoganWillig has filed its suit, several regions of the state are either moving toward reopening or are on the verge of doing so.
Cuomo on Sunday said Western New York has met six of the seven metrics needed to reopen. Its remaining task: bolstering its number of "contract tracers" intended to curb the spread of Covid-19.
County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said it was possible the region could begin its reopening process by the end of the week.