Andrew Cuomo sues Letitia James for documents from her harassment probe

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has filed a complaint against the office of state Attorney General Letitia James, seeking about 180 undisclosed interview memos from her 2021 investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday, asserts that the public has a right to the documents, and that Cuomo needs the records to defend himself in two sexual harassment lawsuits that stemmed from James’ investigation.

Cuomo’s complaint seeks an order forcing James’ office to respond to Freedom of Information Law requests that it says the former governor made for a “narrow universe” of materials related to James’ investigation.

The 26-page lawsuit asserts that the “public has both a right and interest” in knowing about the work of the investigation, and that witness statements are “critical” to Cuomo’s defense in the two harassment complaints.

Cuomo, a Democrat and one-time state attorney general, announced his resignation from the governorship a week after James published the probe, which found he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.

His allies have described the findings of the inquiry as politically motivated, though a separate 2021 report from the Democratic-controlled state Assembly found that the evidence of Cuomo’s sexual misconduct was “overwhelming.”

Cuomo’s new lawsuit described James’ 2021 report as a “one-sided, deeply flawed ambush of Governor Cuomo, who denies having sexually harassed anyone.”

After leaving office, Cuomo, 66, has claimed to have been “ vindicated” by the decisions of five New York district attorneys not to bring charges against conducting reviews. Some of the prosecutors said they nonetheless found allegations against him credible.

The complaint adds to a dizzying array of expensive, taypayer-funded court battles — including a fight over pandemic memoir earnings— that have followed Cuomo out of office.

James did not immediately respond publicly to Cuomo’s complaint.

Responding to a request for comment, James’ spokeswoman Delaney Kempner pointed to a July order in federal court turning back Cuomo’s efforts to obtain tens of thousands of documents.

The order, by Judge Taryn Merkl, said Cuomo’s efforts to obtain records including witness memos and unredacted transcripts placed a “significant undue burden” on James’ office. Merkl cited the “broad scope” of documents sought by Cuomo at the time.

A spokesman for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, issued a statement Friday saying that James has “done everything she can to hide” documents from New Yorkers. Azzopardi added that it is “sad that the courts are needed to step in and order the state’s top lawyer to stop violating the law.”

The Daily News Editorial Board said it has also filed a FOIL request for roughly 180 witness statements from James’ inquiry. The board has said its requests have been rejected.

In a November editorial, the board wrote that “with very limited exceptions” all New York state government records are “legally available to anyone who requests them” under state FOIL law.

“Witness statements made to investigators in a long-closed civil matter are not on that short list of exceptions,” said the editorial.

Cory Morris, a Long Island lawyer who has sued James on freedom of information grounds in the past, said he thought Cuomo’s lawsuit followed a familiar story in New York: A public official trying to flout the state’s freedom of information laws.

“This is as regular as rain,” Morris said, adding that even when courts side with litigants seeking records, they have not effectively enforced the freedom of information law as it is written by covering attorneys’ fees. “Freedom of Information law has become a right without a remedy.”