NY Governor puts liberal Manhattan DA "on notice"

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In terms of blue-on-blue rhetorical violence, this was one food fight that I didn’t see coming. We’ve written here previously about radical far-left Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his “empty the jails” philosophy of prosecuting crime in New York City. Immediately upon taking office, Bragg issued a memo to his prosecutors forbidding them from seeking jail time for all the most serious of crimes and mandating other “progressive” reforms. Since that time, Bragg has come under fire from numerous city officials and been widely dragged in the media. He seemed to finally have gotten the message recently when he appeared to revise his policies slightly. But that clearly wasn’t enough of a course correction for the state’s Democratic Governor, Kathy Hochul. This week she told the editorial board of the New York Post that she was scheduling a meeting with Bragg and warned that she might remove him from office if he won’t enforce the law.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has warned embattled Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg she’s prepared to use her powers to force him to reverse his soft-on-crime policies, she told The Post on Wednesday.

“I have options, but I will be monitoring the situation very closely,” she said, during a meeting with The Post’s Editorial Board.

Hochul stopped short of calling for Bragg’s removal from office, but said, “I know full well the powers that the governor has — I’ll be having a conversation very shortly to convey, to let him tell me what his plans are and make sure that we’re all in alignment.”

I’ve brought this up here before, but all of the calls for Bragg to either mend his ways or resign have been lacking in teeth. Neither the Police Chief nor the prosecutors in the district have the power to override the DA or force his removal from office. Also, the state constitution doesn’t include a provision for recall elections by referendum, so there didn’t seem to be much that could be done. (There has been a bill pending in the New York legislature for years that would amend the constitution to allow for recall elections, but it’s never gone anywhere.)

But there is another provision in the state constitution that grants such power to the governor. It has only rarely been used in the history of New York, but Section 13 allows the Governor to remove elected officials under specific conditions and circumstances.

The state constitution provides a governor the power to remove a public official from office only after a public hearing. There is also a specific provision that allows a governor to remove a district attorney if he or she refuses to prosecute specific violations of the constitution.

Section 13 of the state constitution states, “The governor may remove any elective sheriff, county clerk, district attorney or register within the term for which he or she shall have been elected; but before so doing the governor shall give to such officer a copy of the charges against him or her and an opportunity of being heard in his or her defense.”

It seems clear that Hochul already has more than adequate grounds to demonstrate that Bragg is “refusing to prosecute specific violations.” She has his own departmental memo to use as evidence. But if she wants to take him out and call for a special election to replace him, she will first have to provide him with advance notification and schedule a public hearing where he can speak in his own defense.

It doesn’t sound as if the meeting she’s calling for would serve as the required notification because she’s only saying that she wants to ask him some questions. But if she doesn’t like the answers she hears or if he goes back on his word and continues to release armed robbers with nothing more than shoplifting charges, the door would be open for her to give Bragg the boot. That would be a politically risky move for Hochul, however, particularly in a state as woke as New York. For a white Governor to summarily boot out a Black District Attorney who had been elected by a solid margin of the votes would probably result in accusations of racism. And Hochul has her own election to worry about this November, so it would be surprising indeed for her to make such a move.