The legal battle concerning former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s book deal, valued at $5.1 million, commenced on Friday, June 2nd as his lawsuit against the state’s newly formed ethics commission was heard in Albany County Court.
The case focuses on the constitutionality of the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (COELIG), which Cuomo seeks to invalidate to retain his book profits. The former governor’s attorneys contended that the COELIG, which was instituted last year by current Governor Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers, breaches the constitutional division of powers.
The lawsuit was initiated when the commission announced an ethics hearing related to Cuomo’s book titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” It was alleged that Cuomo extensively used his government staff for the book’s writing, leading the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), the predecessor to COELIG, to claim Cuomo had violated its terms of approval. This triggered an effort by JCOPE to recover the earnings from Cuomo’s book as he “used public resources” to write his book.
Cuomo’s attorneys attacked the new commission’s structure in court, particularly criticizing the system that grants its members final approval to deans from 15 law schools in New York. They argued this infringes on the governor’s oversight authority over the executive branch and thus violates constitutional norms. On the other hand, the state attorney general dismissed this allegation, emphasizing that the appointees would be held accountable to the elected official who nominated them.
In August 2021, facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct from various women, Cuomo resigned from his position as New York Governor. His resignation came when the state Assembly was preparing for his impeachment.
Despite being open to Cuomo’s main argument, Justice Thomas Marcelle dismissed Cuomo’s secondary contention asserting that the ethics board’s setup within the New York State Department of State violates Article V of the state’s constitution. Marcelle’s verdict is anticipated before Cuomo’s ethics hearing, which is scheduled in September.