Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
ALBANY � Twenty-four hours before a key appellate argument, Richard L. Brodsky is bunkered down in his state Assembly office with a team of lawyers, cramming for the Socratic exchange he eagerly anticipates with the Third Department justices. Combative to the core and often feisty to a fault, the Democratic lawmaker/candidate for attorney general/barrister-for-hire matches wits with savvy counsel in what amounts to a moot court session. The law of the case, he knows. But he wants to debate it anyhow, and he wants to know about the Third Department judges who will sit on his case � who’s strong on the law and who isn’t? Who’s got an affinity for the little guy? Who’s got ties to the politicians and lobbyists with an interest in how his case, a technical election matter, plays out? With one foot in the courtroom, one foot in the Assembly chamber and two fists in the political arena, Mr. Brodsky, with a Harvard Law School degree, nimbly dances between rock-’em-sock-’em politics and substantive law, and back again. He talks passionately of his pending Third Department case. The matter � which centers on whether state election law can bar a candidate in a general election from campaigning if he or she is a candidate in an unresolved primary � seems tailor made for a man like Mr. Brodsky, with its mix of Madisonian constitutional principle and Machiavellian politics. Mr. Brodsky, one of six Democrats and eight candidates in all attempting to succeed Eliot Spitzer as attorney general, suggests the recent legal cram session in his Albany office, and the oral arguments that followed the next day, depict a scene one will rarely if ever see with his political adversaries � that of a real lawyer preparing a real case for an actual courtroom appearance. That, Mr. Brodsky says, is what separates him from the pack. This is the third in a series of profiles on the attorney general candidates’ vision for the office. See Campaign 2006 for full coverage. “I have a history of litigating and winning, and I think those are extraordinarily important assets in the context of a race for attorney general,” said Mr. Brodsky, who has served in the Assembly since 1983. “I am the only person in the race who litigates against the attorney general’s office and wins, which happens on a fairly regular basis.” The others Democrats seeking party support are former HUD secretary Andrew M. Cuomo, former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, former Western District U.S Attorney Denise O’Donnell, housing advocate and former lieutenant governor candidate Charles King and former Clinton administrative aide Sean Patrick Maloney. On the Republican side, former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro is seeking the nomination, and Chauncey G. Parker, commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, is also mulling a run. Experienced Practitioner Mr. Brodsky, a 59-year-old Westchester assemblyman, dismisses his main competitors as ambitious ladder climbers looking to the attorney general’s office as a stepping stone, and embittered perennial candidates willing to “settle” for the Department of Law only because they could not get the job they really wanted. He insists that only he has the ongoing experience of a practicing lawyer versed in the constitutional, civil and administrative law that is central to the job of attorney general. “I am not running because I didn’t get to be governor last time [a reference to Mr. Cuomo] and I am not running because I didn’t get to be mayor [a reference to Mr. Green] and I haven’t spent the last several years beating up on Democrats [a reference to Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Green],” Mr. Brodsky said. “I’ve spent the last several years beating up on [former Republican Senator] Al D’Amato and [Republican Governor] George Pataki, and winning.” To Mr. Brodsky’s way of thinking only he and Ms. O’Donnell, a career prosecutor who is now a partner at Hodgson Russ in Buffalo, are qualified for the job. But he said Ms. O’Donnell is not the Democrats’ best choice because the leading Republican, Ms. Pirro, is running on an aggressive, prosecutorial platform for attorney general. Ms. Pirro entered the attorney general’s race after an abortive attempt to run for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton. “You can’t out-Jeanine Jeanine,” he said, offering why-fight-fire-with-fire? logic. Mr. Brodsky was born in Brooklyn in 1946; his family moved to Westchester in 1955. He earned a bachelor’s degree in politics from Brandeis University in 1968 and received his law degree from Harvard in 1971. After serving as an aide to Representative Bella Abzug and counsel to Westchester County Executive Alfred DelBello in the early 1970s, Mr. Brodsky was first elected to public office in 1975 as a member of the Westchester County Board of Supervisors. Mr. Brodsky has been in the Assembly since 1982. Over the last several years, he has maintained a regular law practice. It consists largely of trial and appellate advocacy � courtroom work. Often, it is other lawyers who bring him into their cases to handle the oral arguments, he said. Now Mr. Brodsky is making a case that he should represent his party at the polls in November. “Why have we lost twice to George Bush, three times to George Pataki, twice to Mike Bloomberg and twice to Rudy Giuliani?” Mr. Brodsky asked. “Can we as Democrats do the same thing again and win? That’s called circular insanity. You cannot tread out the same old war horses and the same old politics and expect a different result. We have been losing races because we have been making the wrong calculus about our candidates and our positions.” Truth be known, Mr. Brodsky brings political baggage of his own to this race. Twice he ran for Westchester County executive, coming up short each time. So his contention that Messrs. Cuomo and Green and Ms. Pirro are after the attorney general’s job only as a consolation prize has boomerang ramifications. “Since Mr. Brodsky twice lost for Westchester County executive among voters who know him best, he should probably avoid talking about ‘concession’ offices,” said Mr. Green’s policy director, attorney Gregory Krakower. “By the way, Mark has prosecuted hundreds of predatory businesses as New York City’s consumer affairs commissioner.” Ms. Pirro also takes exception to Mr. Brodsky’s campaign talk. He has accused her, as district attorney, of going easy on sexual predators. Ms. Pirro suggested that Mr. Brodsky, who has no criminal prosecution experience, simply fails to understand that plea-bargaining is a critical and normal part of the process. The former Westchester district attorney said she consistently sought convictions on the highest charge she could sustain. Mr. Brodsky was recently trounced in a straw poll of rural Democratic leaders. Mr. Cuomo racked up a daunting 79 votes. Mr. Brodsky got four. Ms. O’Donnell and Mr. King got 30 and 18, respectively. Even Mr. Maloney, a little-known outsider who now practices with Willkie, Farr & Gallagher in Manhattan, got twice as many votes as Mr. Brodsky. “If money were enough, Steve Forbes would be president,” Mr. Brodsky scoffed. “And if name recognition were enough, George Pataki would be running for coroner of Orange County and Mario Cuomo would be the governor. Now, it is better to have better name recognition and more money. But it is not what wins races.” In the Public’s Interest Mr. Brodsky vowed to continue the Spitzer model of the attorney general’s office as a public interest law firm. In addition to starting a new privacy bureau and placing increased emphasis on Internet and computer related crimes, Mr. Brodsky said he would pursue consumer and environmental protection matters. He also said he would play a larger role in monitoring state government, even while obligated to defend the state in most cases. However, he rejected the criminal prosecution focus articulated by Ms. Pirro, and practiced by the last Republican attorney general, Dennis C. Vacco. “There is a place for advocacy in this job, but one must be able to make judgments about the law, the application of the law,” Mr. Brodsky said, vowing to creatively use existing laws to protect the citizenry, and to push for new legislation that would shield New Yorkers from both government and corporate bullying. “It is not a policy making position. It is essentially about using the laws of the state for the interests of the people of the state. I think you have to be a practicing lawyer to do that. I think you have to know how to go to court. I think you have to know how to make litigation judgment. I think you need experience in that area. I do that regularly.” Mr. Brodsky said he has managed to raise about $2 million, more than enough to see him through the primary. He also has substantial police union support and has been endorsed by at least 30 of his legislative colleagues, men and women from every region of state. “Richard stands up for average New Yorkers as a lawyer all the time,” said Assemblyman Adam T. Bradley, a Democrat from Westchester and practicing attorney in Scarsdale. “He has successfully brought cases to close Indian Point [nuclear power plant], argued them himself, and won.” Record on Reform Assemblyman Ronald Canestrari, an Albany County Democrat and lawyer, adds: “No one has done more to investigate and reform state government than Richard. He fought the Pataki/D’Amato clique and broke their hold on the state authorities.” In a town where it is difficult to get anything done, the persistent Mr. Brodsky has successfully enacted scores of big-impact bills in Albany. As chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation throughout the 1990s, he initiated the Environmental Protection Fund, the Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act and the Clean Air Compliance Act. As chairman of the Committee on Corporations, he has relentlessly pursued public authorities, and last year succeeded in enacting important reform legislation. “I tend to benefit from low expectations,” Mr. Brodsky said. “My record over the years is the most outspoken and successful reformer of state government.” Mr. Brodsky’s legislative success has been attributed to knowing which buttons to push, when to push them, and then to push them with a sledgehammer, the political consequences be damned. Right now, in both his lawmaking and campaigning modes, Mr. Brodsky is focused on privacy issues. His sense of timing � with national concern over the Bush administration’s domestic wiretapping policies and growing worries over corporate Internet stalkers � is characteristic of a long legislative career. Earlier this month, Mr. Brodsky announced an ambitious reform package that would result in statutory, administrative and even constitutional protections against both public and private encroachments on the “right to be let alone.” “Most people have an expectation that there are things about their lives that the government, corporations and their neighbors have no right, no right, to inquire into and know about, unless they choose to let that information out,” Mr. Brodsky said. “The right of privacy is being eroded from every angle � the government, corporations, technology. The privacy of New Yorkers is under assault from every corner. This is a job for a lawyer.” A “job for a lawyer” is the catch phrase of Mr. Brodsky’s campaign. In his view, it all comes down to that. “You want someone in there who is a lawyer, who has spent his life understanding what the law is and how it affects the lives of average citizens,” Mr. Brodsky said. “The experience of litigating cases and considering social issues from the perspective of a lawyer is invaluable to this job. You can’t do it without having done it.” � John Caher can be reached at [email protected].

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.