ALBANY – The chairman of Attorney General-elect Eric Schneiderman’s transition team, Boies Schiller & Flexner partner Harlan Levy, will become Mr. Schneiderman’s chief deputy and Barbara D. Underwood will continue in the post of state solicitor general that she has held since the first days of Andrew M. Cuomo’s term as attorney general in 2007.
Mr. Schneiderman announced a blend of private attorneys and government veterans yesterday for six top posts in his administration. He takes office on Jan. 1.
The officials will replace those who worked for Mr. Cuomo and who are largely going with him in new posts in the executive branch. They include Mr. Cuomo’s latest appointment, of Ellen Nachtigall Biben as the next state inspector general, succeeding former judge Joseph Fisch.
Mr. Schneiderman also announced that Terryl Brown will be counsel to the attorney general; Karla Sanchez will be executive deputy attorney general for economic justice; Nancy Hoppock will be executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice; and Janet Sabel will serve as executive deputy attorney general for social justice.
Mr. Schneiderman, a veteran Democratic state senator from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said his top aides were picked with the help of a 71-member transition team he appointed soon after defeating Republican Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr. for attorney general last month (NYLJ, Nov. 17).
Mr. Schneiderman said yesterday in an interview that he was seeking “legal excellence” from the first appointments he has made to his new office and “diversity” next.
“We were looking for outstanding lawyers,” he said. “I also think it was important to have diversity of viewpoint, of backgrounds. We have people from private practice, prosecutors, defense lawyers.”
Mr. Schneiderman said he was “humbled” that such high-quality legal talent had agreed to work for him.
He said he has more appointments to make to his inner circle.
Yesterday, for instance, he did not name a deputy to handle the all-important post of coordinating the work in the office of defending the state and its agencies against legal claims. Prior attorneys general say the defense portion of the office’s duties consumes two-thirds to three-quarters of the time of the attorneys in the state Department of Law.
The final salary levels of the officials appointed yesterday have not been set, the attorney general-elect said.
Mr. Schneiderman said it will also probably take the new appointees weeks to round out their own staffs.
Mr. Levy, a Columbia Law School graduate, will have the title of first deputy attorney general under Mr. Schneiderman. The two attended Amherst College together as undergraduates in the 1970s.
At Boies Schiller, Mr. Levy concentrated on business litigation and white-collar criminal defense. He was a homicide prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and is a member of the executive committee of the Fund for Modern Courts. He is also chairman of the Council on Criminal Justice of the New York City Bar.
Mr. Levy has written columns for the New York Law Journal on the need to prevent wrongful convictions.
Ms. Underwood was state solicitor general through Mr. Cuomo’s four-year term as attorney general. The solicitor general argues on behalf of the state, its agencies and statutes in appellate cases.
A Georgetown University Law School graduate, Ms. Underwood was acting solicitor general of the United States from January to June 2001 and principal deputy U.S. solicitor general from March 1998 to January 2001. She has argued 19 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
She also was a former chief assistant to the Eastern District U.S. Attorney and a one-time assistant district attorney in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Ms. Brown, the next counsel to the attorney general, has been general counsel at the New York Power Authority for the past two years. She was a one-time counsel to Governors David A. Paterson and Eliot Spitzer.
The University of Pittsburgh Law School graduate also worked in the division of public advocacy, civil rights bureau and litigation bureau in Mr. Spitzer’s attorney general’s office.
Ms. Sanchez is a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler whose areas of practice have included residential mortgage-backed securities, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and consumer products. She graduated from Fordham University School of Law.
Ms. Hoppock comes from the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office, where she has experience in prosecuting a range of crimes, including fraud, organized crime, narcotics, national security and economic crimes. Previously, Ms. Hoppock, a graduate of Seton Hall School of Law, worked for seven years in the trial division of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Ms. Sabel has been an attorney at the Legal Aid Society since 1985 in a variety of staff attorney and supervisory positions. Most recently, the New York University School of Law graduate has been general counsel of the group.
Mr. Schneiderman had three honorary co-chairs to his transition team: Former state attorney general Robert Abrams, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; Zachary W. Carter of Dorsey & Whitney and a former Eastern District U.S. attorney; and Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County district attorney.
Mr. Cuomo, meantime, has appointed Ms. Biben as the next state inspector general. She has been Mr. Cuomo’s special deputy for public integrity and has been involved in several high-profile investigations of public corruption.
They included the investigation that former chief judge Judith S. Kaye led at Mr. Cuomo’s behest of whether Mr. Paterson and top members of his administration exerted undue influence on the girlfriend of a senior gubernatorial aide who claimed the aide had assaulted her.
Ms. Biben also worked on Mr. Cuomo’s report about the connection between top aides to Mr. Spitzer and the leaking of damaging materials about Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s use of state aircraft to an Albany newspaper in 2007.
Ms. Biben, also a veteran of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, will replace former state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Fisch as inspector general.
In addition, Mr. Cuomo has announced that Linda A. Lacewell will serve as a special assistant to the governor. She is currently special counsel to the attorney general and head of the attorney general’s Healthcare Industry Taskforce.
Ms. Lacewell aided Ms. Biben in the 2007 report on the Spitzer administration’s actions against Mr. Bruno.
Ms. Lacewell spent nine years prior as an Eastern District assistant U.S. attorney.
@|Joel Stashenko can be contacted at email@example.com.