The New York State Assembly has launched its impeachment investigation into the numerous scandals facing Governor Andrew Cuomo, but the process itself is already drawing criticism.
On the one hand, you have lawmakers who want to start right away on an impeachment trial and say the investigation is a stall tactic.
On the other hand, you have lawmakers and the governor himself talking about due process and the need for a thorough investigation to “find out all the facts.”
But what is due process and does it apply to the governor in an impeachment trial?
Unlike a criminal proceeding, an impeachment trial is a political process.
For example, if impeachment articles were to head to the Senate, many of the senators that will have to act as jurors and decide whether to convict Cuomo have already called for his resignation.
Not to mention, the seven Court of Appeals judges, all Cuomo appointees, would also be serving as jurors in a possible impeachment trial.
“There is not going to be what we would call in a criminal trial, a voir dire, where you have the judge and then you have the two attorneys questioning the jury to make sure they are not biased,” Vincent Bonventre a professor at Albany Law School explained. “If you had that on the trial on impeachment in the Senate my word how many senators would be left?”
Bonventre said in his opinion, that is why it is important to have these investigations, especially from the Attorney General’s Office, so that some of these issues and allegations can be looked at from slightly outside a political lens.
To top it off, only one governor, William Sulzer, has been impeached in New York’s history and that was over 100 years ago.
So when you talk about due process, you have to know what the process is as it relates to New York’s constitution.
Governor Cuomo has numerous times tried to lay out what shape he feels the process should take, first trying to appoint Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to investigate these allegations and now, according to a Times Union report, is also conducting his own investigation.
Attorney Hermes Fernandez, a partner at Bond Schoeneck & King, explained that when it comes to due process and how it fits in with the state’s constitution, an investigation before a possible impeachment trial does seem to make the most sense.
“The Assembly, if there is an impeachment trial, they actually have to go forward and present a case with the Senate and Court of Appeals judges sitting as a jury,” Fernandez explained. “They can’t do that simply having read some very interesting stories and some reports.”
There are currently three investigations being conducted looking into Cuomo and his administration.
One with the Assembly Judiciary committee, which will look at the sexual harassment allegations, the administration’s handling of nursing homes, and concerns raised about the safety of the Mario Cuomo bridge.
Also, the Department of Justice is conducting a federal investigation into the state’s handling of nursing homes and nursing home death data.
And another investigation is being conducted through the Attorney General’s Office looking into allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by Cuomo.