Op-Ed: Fighting For Justice For All New Yorkers

Op-Ed Published on The Huffington Post

By Eric T. Schneiderman

Since taking office as attorney general nearly four years ago, I have made it my priority to ensure that the law applies equally to everyone, not just the rich and powerful. 

That is the definition of equal justice under law: everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. This guiding principle has helped my office protect all New York families and hold accountable those who engage in public corruption.

That is why we have prosecuted consumer fraud across the state. We stopped more than 250 home contractorsfrom cheating homeowners, cracked down on companies that were scamming soldiersat Fort Drum, and launched a statewide program to protect seniorsfrom financial scams.

We have cracked down people who steal public funds.  After creating the first Taxpayer Protection Unit, we have recovered more than $30 million in taxpayer dollars from both small-time tax cheatsand big corporations.  In just three years, we have also recovered more than $813 million in money stolen from New York’s Medicaid program – more than any other three year period in our state’s history.  

As New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I have taken a hard line against those in state government who abuse the law they have sworn to uphold. Anyone who believes in the essential role government can play in improving people’s lives must also be the toughest critics of those who abuse the public trust. Throughout my career, I have made rooting out public corruption a top priority. As Attorney General, I have brought cases against more than 40 politicians, government employeesand leaders of nonprofit organizationsfor corruption – including state legislators, town supervisors, and a member of the New York City Council.

We have protected workers by going after unscrupulous employers who try to steal their hard earned wages, and secured back pay for fast-food workers, construction workersand car wash workers– even getting jail timefor some of the offenders.

We have made New York State a safer place by cracking down on drug kingpinsand closing the gun show loopholethat allowed dangerous people to buy firearms without undergoing a background check. Working with gun show operators, we came up with Attorney General Model Protocols to make sure that no one can bring a firearm out of a gun show unless he or she can show that a background check was conducted. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, called these procedures a model for the rest of the country.

We are fighting to protect the middle class by going after fraudulent financial practices by major banksand using the money we won to help New York familiesstay in their homes.

We have taken on 21st century dangers posed by advances in technology, keeping sexual predators awayfrom kids online, encouraging Facebook and Instagramto block illegal gun sales on their platforms, and combatting identity theft by forcing companies to protect consumer data.

We have taken an all-levers approach to halting the heroin epidemic that is plaguing our state. Investigators from my office have partnered with the state police and other law enforcement agencies to bust up drug ringsand put traffickers behind bars. Using money confiscated from drug dealers and other felons, my office is paying to supply every police officerin the state with naloxone, a proven antidote to heroin overdose that instantly saves lives.

To stop the flood of prescription pain killers that too often lead to heroin addiction, my office pushed to create the I-STOP program– the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing – which requires doctors and pharmacists to check a real-time database before dispensing these powerful pills.

In addition to cleaning up our streets, I am fighting to clean up our environment.  Every child has a right to clean air to breath and safe water to drink. That is why I have fought to force polluters to clean up the state’s waterways, pressured the federal government to improve air quality standardsand helped to win a Supreme Court case to stop polluted airfrom coming into New York from other states.

I am proud of this record but there is more work to be done.  Serving as attorney general, I will continue to work every day to uphold the principle of equal justice under law and to improve the quality of life for every New Yorker.

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