Letitia “Tish” James, the 67th attorney general for the State of New York, will deliver the Commencement address at SUNY Buffalo State College’s 150th Commencement celebration on Saturday, May 21.
An experienced attorney and public servant with decades of legal work and a long record of accomplishments, James is the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York and the first woman to be elected attorney general in New York State.
“We are delighted and honored to host Attorney General Letitia James as our Commencement speaker,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “The attorney general’s distinguished career as a public servant and work as a champion for social justice in New York State are admirable. I look forward to hearing more about her inspirational story and her advice for our graduates as we celebrate our 150th Commencement at Buffalo State.”
In 2013, James was elected public advocate for the City of New York and became the first woman of color to hold citywide office. As public advocate, she served as a watchdog over New York City government agencies and as an advocate for the city’s most vulnerable communities. She transformed the public advocate’s office into a formidable engine for change.
Her office handled over 32,000 constituent complaints and passed more legislation than all previous public advocates combined, including a groundbreaking law that banned questions about salary history from the employment process to address the pervasive gender wage gap. James successfully took on the gun industry by pushing New York City’s largest pension fund to divest from gun and ammunition retailers. She fought on behalf of children and families on issues including children in foster care, children with disabilities, and tenant protection. New Yorkers overwhelmingly elected James to a second term as public advocate in November 2017.
Before serving as public advocate, James represented the 35th Council District in Brooklyn in the New York City Council for 10 years. As a council member, she helped pass the Safe Housing Act, legislation that forced landlords to improve living conditions for tenants in New York City’s worst buildings. She helped uncover the corruption behind the Office of Payroll Administration’s CityTime contract, a scheme that cost New York City over $600 million. She also pushed through a revolutionary recycling package that included expanding plastic recycling as well as a new clothing and textile recycling program, and she increased access to recycling in public spaces.
Before her election to the City Council, James served as head of the Brooklyn Regional Office of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where she resolved hundreds of consumer complaints and investigated predatory lenders who preyed on first-time homebuyers. She assisted the Civil Rights Bureau in its investigation of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and cracked down on firms engaged in deceptive business practices, including violations of human rights, environmental laws, and scams targeting immigrants.
James began her career as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society. A proud Brooklynite, she is a graduate of Lehman College and Howard University School of Law.