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Sat, 10.18.1958

Letitia James, Attorney, and Activist born

Letitia James

*Letitia James was born on this date in 1958.  She is a Black lawyer, activist, and politician.  

Letitia Ann "Tish" James was born in Brooklyn. She is one of eight children born to Nellie James in Martinsville, Virginia, and Robert James. She attended New York City public schools and received her B.A. from the City University of New York's Lehman College in 1981.  She received her J.D. degree from Howard University School of and was admitted to practice law in New York in 1989.  

James served as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society and established the Urban Network, a coalition of African American professional organizations to provide scholarships for young people. In 1994, she promoted the Primary Health Care Development Bill in the City Council, which expanded daycare resources for working families nationwide. 1996 James negotiated the Welfare Reform Act for the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.  

She served on former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary. She served as counsel for Albert Vann, Chief of Staff for Roger L. Green in the New York State Assembly, and in the administration of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. She was appointed the first Assistant Attorney General in the Brooklyn regional office 1999.

While working in that position, James worked in many capacities but notably focused on consumer complaints involving predatory lending and other unlawful business practices.  James' first run for the 35th Council District was in November 2001, but she lost to James E. Davis, who was assassinated by a former political rival. Following Davis's death, his brother Geoffrey ran for his vacant Council seat but lost by a large margin to James as the Working Families Party nominee. 

In that 2003 race, James officially became a member of the Working Families Party and was the first citywide officeholder to run solely on the WFP line. She represented the 35th Council District, which includes the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, parts of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. In 2013, she attended Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs for a Master of Public Administration.   In 2017, James won the Democratic primary for her position with 77% of the vote. 

In May 2018, James declared her candidacy for Attorney General of New York and won the Democratic primary on September 13, 2018.  On November 6, 2018, she was elected attorney general, defeating Republican Keith Wofford and succeeding Barbara Underwood, who was first appointed after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman. She is the first black woman to be elected to the position.  

On August 6, 2020, James announced a state civil lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court against the National Rifle Association (NRA), with four NRA department heads named co-defendants. The NRA filed a countersuit against James, citing her statements during her 2018 campaign.  She is a member of the Democratic Party, lives in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, and is a member of the Emmanuel Baptist Church. She has never been married.   

In February, 2024, James won two cases of significance. A jury in Manhattan finalized a ruling in another case brought by James, ordering former President Donald Trump to pay a total of $454 million in penalties linked to fraud allegations. He has 30 days to appeal.

Also top executives of the National Rifle Association liable after a six-week corruption lawsuit that she brought against the men.  Two of the NRA's leaders, Wayne LaPierre and Wilson Phillips, have been ordered to repay roughly $6.4 million dollars between them.

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