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Law firm selected to head Governor Cuomo's impeachment investigation

Cuomo
Posted at 8:51 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 17:25:14-04

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — A global law firm with offices in New York City will head the impeachment investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Speaker Carl Heastie and Judiciary Committee Chair Charles D. Lavine announced Wednesday that the Assembly retained the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to lead an impeachment investigation into allegations against the governor.

Seven women have accused Cuomo of harassment.

“Since Thursday, Chairman Lavine led a vigorous search for a top-flight firm to assist with the investigation. I have the utmost faith that Assemblymember Lavine and our Judiciary Committee will conduct a full and fair investigation,” Speaker Heastie said in a statement. “Hiring Davis Polk will give the Committee the experience, independence and resources needed to handle this important investigation in a thorough and expeditious manner.”

“The addition of Davis Polk will allow my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and me to fully and fairly investigate the allegations,” Assemblyman Lavine said. “These are serious allegations, and they will be treated with fairness, due process and discretion.”

But, some critics question whether the selection poses a conflict of interest.

Former firm partner, Dennis Glazer is married to State Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. DiFiore was appointed to the bench by Cuomo.

“We are alarmed to learn that Speaker Heastie has hired Davis Polk to assist with the investigation, given the connection between Dennis Glazer, who spent more than 30 years as a partner at Davis Polk, and the governor. This is an unacceptable conflict of interest.” said attorney Debra Katz who represents Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo’s accusers.

We asked Republican Assemblyman Michael Montesano of Nassau County, who is also a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, for insight on the selection process.

REPORTER ALI TOUHEY: AS A REPUBLICAN MEMBER OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, WHAT ROLE DID YOU HAVE IN THE SELECTION PROCESS?
MONTESANO: The selection process was done by the majority, by the Speaker and the Chair of the committee.
ALI: SO, YOU DIDN’T GET TO HAVE A SAY AT ALL?
MONTESANO: No.
ALI: WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT?
MONTESANO: Well, you know, it doesn’t surprise me. They’re the majority. They’re the ones controlling the operations of this investigation.

University at Buffalo Political Science Professor Jacob Neiheisel said unlike the federal process, there is no “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard in New York. The governor could be impeached for any reason lawmakers deem necessary. “The lack of specificity certainly helps the legislature here,” he said.

There’s no telling how long the process could take because the state Constitution doesn’t provide any language on timing and there’s little precedent. The last impeachment was in 1913.