The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


That Time Governor Cuomo Called Me

"Hello, this is Governor Andrew Cuomo."


A few moments ago, I blogged about Governor Cuomo's press conference. His administration will force numerous Jewish schools in Brooklyn and Queens to close. Cuomo promised, several times, to talk to leaders of the Orthodox community to ensure compliance. Cuomo offered a preview of the conversation: "I'm going to say to the orthodox community tomorrow if you don't agree then we will have to close down your religious institutions."

I can relate. I was on the receiving end of such a phone call from Governor Cuomo. Yes. It's true. I wrote about the incident in an article about my 3D-printed gun litigation.

Here is the setup. I had just finished litigating four TROs in five days. The first three TROs were denied, but a federal judge in Seattle granted a nationwide TRO in the fourth case. Here is an excerpt from the article:

I barely had a chance to catch my breath when my phone rang. It was a restricted number. I expected that another Attorney General was threatening to sue Cody [Wilson]. This call would be very different. (The following quotations are paraphrases based on my recollection, written down shortly after the call.) "Hello, this is Governor Andrew Cuomo." At first I thought it was a prank. I said, "hello, Governor." He replied, "are you the lawyer for the gun guy." I said, "yes, I represent Cody Wilson." He replied, "you tell him to stop sending his gun stuff to New York." I asked if the Governor meant the "Ghost Gunner," which is used to manufacture firearms, or the 3D-Printed Gun files. Cuomo had no idea what he was asking "the gun guy" to stop doing. I said "could you have your lawyer send me a letter?" He replied he would have his counsel send something. Then I added, "governor, are you aware that 15 minutes ago, a federal judge in Washington entered a nationwide injunction, barring us from sharing the files online." He had no idea. I said, "your Attorney General sued us." Then the conversation took a turn for the bizarre.

He stated "in New York we have an independent Attorney General." He complained, "[S]he doesn't work for me." (At the time, Barbara Underwood was the acting Attorney General.) I replied, "I know, I'm from New York." He asked, "where are you from?" "Staten Island." "And where are you now?" "Houston, Texas." "Don't you miss New York—greatest place in the world." I said, "I love Texas, but I miss my family." "Are your parents still in New York." "Yes, still in Staten Island." I added, "Today is their anniversary." He beamed, "You tell your parents that Governor Cuomo wished them a happy anniversary."

Then it got weirder. He said, "are you parents going to vote for me?" (Cuomo was up for reelection the following November.) I replied that my parents would. A conversation that began as a vague cease-and-desist order from the Governor of the Empire State turned into a campaign pitch. We were on the phone for nearly 10 minutes! I never did get a letter from New York. After the Governor hung up, I called my parents to wish them a happy anniversary. I had been so busy all day, I hadn't had a chance to call. My parents, both lifelong New York Democrats, were thrilled with the Governor's greeting. Over the next few hours, I fielded many calls from print reporters, and gave the same, stock line: we were disappointed with the court's ruling, and were considering our next options.

Governor Cuomo engages in old-school, Tammany Hall style politics. I regret that I did not think to record this conversation. (Texas is a one-party state). I hope some of the rabbis record their conversations. (New York is also a one-party state).