Law Firm Cites Founding Fathers in Suit Against Governor Cuomo and Attorney General

by: Allan Zhang
23 May 2020

While most businesses have complied in some form or manner with the spirit of the above meme,  a Buffalo, NY law firm, HoganWillig, PLLC, has continued in office operations during the shutdown period.  It has now filed a lawsuit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James, claiming abuse of power in ordering business shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of Hogan’s many allegations is that the shutdown constitutes a regulatory taking as the shutdown caused the loss of all economically beneficial uses of the property.

The complaint, signed by partner and founder Corey Hogan,  was filed in response to a “cease and desist” order sent to the firm for not following the State’s “work from home” orders. Governor Cuomo’s March 7, 18, and 20 Executive Orders implemented work from home procedures for non-essential businesses. Hogan relies on principles of founding fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to support his complaint citing: “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever” and “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Hogan’s complaint also relies on specific language from the latter two Orders which directed that essential businesses were exempt from the statewide “work from home” orders and that any entity that provides essential services to an essential business was also excluded. New York’s Department of Economic Development (“ESD”) set forth guidelines as to which industries were deemed “essential.” Law firms were excluded from this list, however, ESD updated its guidance on April 9 to provide:

Any in-person work presence shall be limited to work only in support of essential businesses or services; however, even work in support of an essential business or service should be conducted as remotely as possible.”

The complaint further alleges the firm’s compliance with the Executive Orders citing an email from ESD which designates the firm as “an essential business and/or supports an essential business and is not subject to the required 100% workforce reduction pursuant to the revised Executive Order…” However, Hogan claims that despite this designation and the firm’s actions to reduce in-office workforce, Attorney General James and her office have repeatedly contacted Hogan’s firm requesting information as to its essential business designation. The complaint adds unreasonable demands have been made concerning the firm’s ongoing operations and threatening fines and penalties.

Hogan’s complaint requests the court determine that Governor Cuomo and Attorney General James are abusing their power in violation of various New York State laws as well as the 5th, 9th, 10th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, and also demands that the State pay for the firm’s attorney’s fees and costs.

Hogan’s full complaint can be found here.