Brooklyn District Attorney-elect Kenneth Thompson has announced a 32-member transition team of prominent private attorneys, community leaders and criminal justice experts who are tasked with recruiting high-caliber legal talent to the office.
Thompson introduced Thursday a team that brings deep prosecutorial and governmental experience to help him make good on a campaign pledge to “transform” an office with 500 prosecutors and 1,200 staff into the “greatest law enforcement office in the country.”
The group is cochaired by Michele Hirshman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Paul Shechtman of Zuckerman Spaeder.
Hirshman has been a prosecutor in both the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office and the New York Attorney General’s office. She is also on the board of directors of both the Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center.
Shechtman also served as a prosecutor in the Southern District, and as counsel to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and director of criminal justice under Governor George Pataki.
“As Brooklyn’s next District Attorney, I am deeply committed to keeping our streets safe and making sure that everyone is treated equally under the law. I am confident that with the help of this distinguished group of leaders, we will be able to begin the process of restoring our borough’s trust in its justice system and fulfilling the mission of this extraordinary office,” Thompson said in a statement.
“I thank everyone for agreeing to be part of this transition team. Together, we will work to ensure that the people of Brooklyn have the best prosecutor’s office possible,” added Thompson, a former assistant in the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s office and founding partner of Thompson Wigdor.
Though the transition committee will assist in identifying prospective candidates, Thompson said he has final say on hiring. The statement also noted that the committee will not “provide guidance or opinions” on any pending cases.
Hirshman in a statement said the committee “draws upon some of the best legal minds in the greater New York area, and we will help ensure that the D.A.’s office does the same.”
Asked in an interview whether many attorneys had expressed interest in working for Thompson, Hirshman said “there is enthusiasm and a lot of people have been in contact” with the committee members.
She added that during the transition period, the committee would also serve as an “extra pair of eyes and ears and a sounding board” for Thompson as he reviewed broader office policies.
Thompson tapped a deep pool of attorneys with law enforcement experience.
Among those are Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District who is now a partner with Kirkland & Ellis.
Former U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District Zachary Carter and Alan Vinegrad are also members; they are now partners with Dorsey & Whitney and Covington & Burling respectively.
Thompson was an Eastern District prosecutor from 1995 to 2000, during Carter’s tenure. Thompson worked with Vinegrad, most notably in the 1999 case against New York City police officers who beat and sodomized Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Other Eastern District alumni include George Stamboulidis, a partner with Baker & Hostetler, and Mark Feldman, deputy inspector general for the Office of the Inspector General of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The committee includes several top-level members of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office: Leroy Frazer Jr., executive assistant district attorney for external affairs; Chauncey Parker, executive assistant district attorney for crime prevention strategies; and Catherine Christian, counsel for Special Projects for the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
Among the high-profile attorneys on the committee are Robert Giuffra, Jr., a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, and Theodore Wells, Jr., a partner at Paul Weiss. Thompson’s partner, Douglas Wigdor, is also a member.
The Brooklyn defense bar is represented by Jay Schwitzman, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association, and Josh Saunders, senior trial attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services.
The team also includes Hynes’ predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, who served as Brooklyn District Attorney from 1982 to 1989 and is now counsel at Herrick, Feinstein.
Thompson’s onetime political rival Abraham George is on the committee. George, a former Manhattan prosecutor, was once the third candidate in the Democratic primary, but dropped out and endorsed Thompson (NYLJ, July 29).
A number of the committee members donated to Thompson’s campaign. For example, Carter donated $500, Stamboulidis gave $1,000, Schwitzman donated $2,000, George donated $5,000 after he left the race and Wells donated $10,000. Wigdor gave $40,000 to Thompson’s campaign.
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