Constitutional Law

Law firm told to reduce on-site employees sues for alleged 'disturbing and gross abuse' of power

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A law firm that continued limited operation during the COVID-19 pandemic sued New York’s governor and attorney general this week after receiving a cease-and-desist letter telling it to reduce on-site employees.

HoganWillig alleges several constitutional violations in a May 13 lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James.

“Defendants have engaged upon scare tactics, deceptively justifying ‘emergency powers’ that are no longer reasonably necessary to protect the public.,” the suit says.

Law360 has coverage.

The lawsuit quotes Founding Fathers John Adams and Benjamin Franklin on the importance of liberty.

The suit claims that Cuomo and James are violating the commerce clause by burdening interstate commerce, violating the contracts clause by impairing the law firm’s contractual obligations, violating the due process clause by arbitrary actions, violating the equal protection clause by discriminating against identically situated businesses, and violating the takings clause by forcing loss of the economic benefits of its property. The suit also alleges state law violations.

“Defendants, in a disturbing and gross abuse of their power, have seized the COVID-19 pandemic to expand their authority by unprecedented lengths, without any proper constitutional, statutory or common law basis therefor,” the suit says.

HoganWillig received a cease-and-desist letter from the attorney general’s office April 20 that demanded that the firm take immediate steps to reduce the number of employees working at its Getzville, New York, office.

HoganWillig explained the actions that it has taken to reduce its employees at the office and protect their safety while there, the suit says. An assistant attorney general responded with a demand that the law firm take additional steps.

In conversations, the assistant attorney general “made it clear that plaintiff was being watched and monitored and was conducting car counts in the parking lot and underground garage,” the suit says.

HoganWillig says it applied for and received a designation as an essential business with respect to its provision of legal services for essential industries. An email explaining the designation says the only employees who can work on-site must support essential business activities.

HoganWillig provides a wide range of legal services, including personal injury, family law, estate planning, real estate, business law and criminal defense, according to its website.

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