Professor Michel Rosenfeld, co-organizer of the upcoming colloquium "Citizenship, Religion, Identity"
December 4, 2017 - Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged Cardozo law students to be part of the next great transformational movement in American politics. New York state’s top lawyer was the speaker at Cardozo’s first Learning from the Masters lecture series sponsored by The Benedict Morelli Trial Team Program, on December 4, 2017.
The Attorney General argues that states have the power to impact social change and to protect individual rights when the federal government fails to do so. He said that in the current political environment lawyers must play a critical role in defending the rule of law. Mr. Schneiderman gave examples form his tenure as AG, which began with his election in 2010. He detailed his role in New York’s lawsuit against Donald Trump over the fraudulent Trump University, in which the President paid $25 million to settle the case. “I learned this president’s style then and it is the same now,” he said. “First, he puts on his charm offensive, followed by a bully offensive, followed by a settlement.” As attorney general, Schneiderman also won the biggest settlement in history against major banks and financial institutions for their role in mortgage-backed finances that caused the Great Recession. He successfully secured nearly $30 million in restitution for workers in low-wage jobs, from a variety of employers in the fast food, home health and construction industries; and has defended the right of sanctuary cities around the state to determine their own law enforcement priorities and resist President Trump’s travel bans.
The Attorney General spoke to students, faculty and alumni about his role and his belief in the power of state government and the idea of progressive federalism; and the responsibility of lawyers to uphold the rule of law during a challenging political climate.
Schneiderman emphasized that states need to actively engage in movements and policy changes to affect the national scale. “With Washington gridlocked,” said Schneiderman, “it falls to progressive states to build models.” He claimed that public official rarely lead on social change, and it’s activists and lawyers dedicated to the rule of law on the state level, who procure major social justice change on issues from civil rights to gay marriage.
He urged Cardozo students to continue the traditions of their predecessors. “Lawyers have played a key role in all of the transformational American movements. It's up to us to stand up for the next great American political movement.”
Benedict Morelli introduced the attorney general, whom he has known for many years and first met when Morelli was the past president of the NY State Trial Lawyers Association. Morelli, a highly successful trial lawyer, is the founding partner of Morelli Law Firm and a major sponsor of Cardozo School of Law and its trial advocacy programs.