It’s been a busy year for Pennsylvania and New York Attorneys General Josh Shapiro and Letitia James, to say the least.
Both Democrats, they kicked off the year by leading the charge to oppose the weakening of employee protections. “The National Labor Relations Board is entrusted with protecting workers, not putting them in harm’s way,” said James back in January. “These proposed rules would limit legal protections for workers, compromise collective bargaining, and allow companies to potentially evade justice for labor violations. We must be doing all we can to protect workers’ rights, not deny them […].”
In March, they filed a suit against President Trump’s Title X gag rule. “Pennsylvania is joining this suit to stop an unacceptable attempt by the Trump Administration to get between women and their doctors,” said Shapiro at the time of the filing. “Women deserve and depend on Title X clinics for essential healthcare services like contraception, preventive care and cancer screenings, and they are entitled to accurate information about their reproductive choices. I denounced this move by HHS when it was announced two weeks ago, and today we are taking action to prevent the federal government from jeopardizing the healthcare of Pennsylvania women.”
All of this, on top of their individual headline-making efforts: Shapiro’s staggering investigation into the Catholic church, as well as his arrest of 60 allegedly corrupt Pennsylvania politicians; James’s suit against electronic cigarette company JUUL Labs and ongoing NRA investigation, which triggered the Twitter-ire of Trump and led James’s office to Tweet back: “Attorney General Letitia James is focused on enforcing the rule of law. In any case we pursue, we will follow the facts wherever they may lead. We wish the President would share our respect for the law.”
Both have blazed new paths: James is the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York and the first woman to be elected Attorney General. Prior to her current post, she served as the Public Advocate for the City of New York, the second highest elected official in New York City and the first woman of color to hold citywide office there.
She served on New York City Council, was head of the Brooklyn Regional Office of the New York Attorney General’s Office, and spent many years as a lawyer in the New York State Legislature. She began her career as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society, working to protect vulnerable communities and tackle corruption.
Shapiro, who lives in Abington, was, early in his career, the youngest chief of staff on Capitol Hill. He was sworn in as the state’s 50th AG in 2017 and, since then, he’s rebuilt the office and prioritized work that helps keep Pennsylvanians safe—addressing the opioid crisis, protecting access to contraceptive care, empowering survivors of sexual abuse and cracking down on unregistered guns and straw purchases. He has been among the AGs to redefine the idea of “states’ rights” in relation to Trump’s federal government, flipping on its head the idea known for the fight for slavery and Jim Crow and turning it into a battle in favor of civil rights and liberties.
Both James and Shapiro represent a powerful facet of the bizarro political climate we’re in, with AGs stepping in, state by state, to be the gatekeepers preserving fairness, justice and the rule of law—a topic James and Shapiro will explore at Tuesday’s second annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival.Header photos courtesy (L-R) Matt Cohen / Flickr and Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr