Students interested in law and ethics should look up Richard Briffault’s class at Columbia, where he’s been teaching since 1983. Once a member of New York’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, Briffault currently chairs the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (he will soon step down, with Wayne Hawley nominated to take his place.) A prolific writer, Briffault has co-authored a law textbook and some 75 law review articles.
The 2020 Law Power 100: 51-100
The 2020 Law Power 100: 51-100
A defense attorney with a record of success in white-collar crime cases, Carrie Cohen previously served as a federal and state prosecutor. Cohen, who investigated corruption and fraud at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, now draws from that experience in her role as chairwoman of the New York State Bar Association anti-hate task force. She was the lead prosecutor in the corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
David Patton runs the independent nonprofit corporation that is dedicated to defending poor people accused of federal crimes, a position he has held since 2011. Meanwhile, Deirdre von Dornum has called attention to the lack of electricity and heat at the Metropolitan Detention Center, living conditions in prison for pregnant inmates, and other issues. Once a division of the Legal Aid Society, Federal Defenders became independent in 2005.
Born and raised in the capital region, Paul DerOhannesian II spent 22 years running the special assault unit in the district attorney’s office in Albany County. Since joining DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian, he has worked for high-profile clients such as Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney during her tight 2018 race and handled criminal defense for the sex cult leader Keith Raniere. DerOhannesian is the author of a legal guide to sexual assault trials.
Trailblazing attorney Brad Karp – who is listed as one of former Vice President Joe Biden’s top volunteer fundraisers for his presidential campaign – has been at Paul, Weiss his entire career. Before rising to the chairman role in 2008, Karp chaired the firm’s litigation department. Considered one of the nation’s leading litigators, he is described as “the best strategic adviser in the business” by the legal information website Chambers USA.
Kevin S. Schwartz is a partner in the litigation department of his firm and chair of the judiciary committee on the New York City Bar Association. At the 150-year-old organization, Schwartz leads a committee of 50 lawyers in interviewing all judicial nominees for courts throughout the city, as well as district attorney candidates and nominees for U.S. attorney for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption was shut down and then investigated by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the commission turned to Mike Koenig to represent it. The veteran Albany attorney has represented a number of clients in headline-grabbing cases, including individuals involved in the federal prosecution of a former state Senate majority leader, the Troopergate scandal and a state attorney general pension fraud probe.
What happens if a judge does something wrong? The state Commission on Judicial Conduct steps in. They are in charge of investigating complaints against judges and if needed, deciding what consequences that judge will face. Administrator and counsel Robert Tembeckjian previously served on various ethics and professional responsibility committees of the New York state and New York City bar associations and has written extensively about judicial ethics and discipline.
If you’re a part of a private or public company and need help securing financing, grants or other benefits, Jeffrey Citron can help. He has practiced law for over 25 years and has extensive expertise in real estate and general commercial practice. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Citron also makes time to serve on the boards of private, charitable and other not for profit corporations, such as the Fenway Golf Club.
Kapil Longani was named New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s counsel in November 2018, a role in which he provides legal advice on internal matters and policy issues, including overseeing special projects. Longani, who also coordinates with the general counsels at city agencies, served as senior counsel to Rep. Elijah Cummings for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, leading the investigation into the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.
Anthony Crowell is one of the many veterans of the Bloomberg administration who have remained active in New York City’s civic life. He served as counselor to the mayor, overseeing a wide range of legal, regulatory, legislative and administrative matters, while also handling various civil rights initiatives. At New York Law School, he has introduced the institution’s first strategic plan, overhauled the curriculum and put an emphasis on increasing diversity.
For more than 15 years, Nicole Bellina has fought to elevate the rights of victims of police brutality, prison inmates and others. She started her career at the Prisoners Rights Project, working to protect the rights of Rikers Island inmates. She gained a reputation as a tactful negotiator, moving on to The Legal Aid Society then finally Stoll, Glickman & Bellina. Last year, she joined the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Criminal Bar.
Davida Perry decided she wanted to become a lawyer after watching her father, Murray Schwartz, “zealously advocate for his clients,” she says. She has spent more than 30 years fighting for the rights of employees and leading landmark cases that shaped harrassment and discrimination law in New York. Among other notable wins, she helped establish New York City’s Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Before joining the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David worked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as deputy secretary and counsel for civil rights and later as counsel to the governor. David, a noted LGBTQ civil rights attorney who previously worked at the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is the first civil rights lawyer and the first person of color to serve as president of the Human Rights Campaign in its 40-year history.
Have a question about the intersection of law, technology and science? Tim Wu – who coined the term “network neutrality” in 2003, which led to the passage of a federal net neutrality measure – can probably answer it. The Columbia professor, who previously worked in former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, continues to help lawyers and members of Congress understand the importance of tech in politics.
Henry “Hank” Gutman made Brooklyn his home a long time ago, and has served on the boards of local civic organizations including the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp. In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Gutman as chairman of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. In a press release, Gutman said the Navy Yard could be “a source of sustainable 21st century jobs for New Yorkers.”
Mary Lu Bilek joined CUNY School of Law’s faculty shortly after it opened and took the helm in 2016. She is credited with helping the law school to win national recognition for diversity and public interest. Bilek previously served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and helped the school gain accreditation, all the while developing and implementing curriculum and spearheading programs that helped the school increase its student diversity.
As a founding partner of construction law firm Zetlin & De Chiara, Michael Zetlin uses his expertise as a graduate civil engineer and attorney to help clients get what they want. Zetlin serves as general counsel to the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the New York Building Congress. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers.
Karol Mason’s resume definitely couldn’t fit on one page: She became the first African American woman elected as chair of the management committee at any major national firm while at Atlanta-based Alston & Bird; she worked as U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs during the Obama Administration. Now, as president of John Jay, she directly impacts the future of the New York legal world.
Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld co-founded the Innocence Project after they began studying and litigating issues surrounding the use of forensic DNA testing. Their work shaped the course of case law around the nation and helped lead to an influential study by the National Academy of Sciences. Scheck and Neufeld serve together on New York state's Commission on Forensic Science and are both special counsel at the Innocence Project.
The New York Amsterdam News called Milton Tingling “one of the city’s most revolutionary judges.” A lifelong New Yorker, he had 35 years of law experience, including on the New York Supreme Court, when he became the first black county clerk in New York in 2015. Under his 2010 ruling, the state ended the practice of shackling juvenile offenders when taking them to court. He also ruled against former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban.
Joe Canovas has served as special counsel at the New York State AFL-CIO for eight years – representing 2.5 million members, retirees and their families. The state AFL-CIO has big goals for 2020, and is working on legislation that will help ensure rights and benefits for gig workers. The group also has plans to protect Medicaid, which provides health care and other services to more than 6 million New Yorkers.
Attorney Jonathan Abady has had a varied career, jumping from high-profile civil rights cases to representing big-name clients like Harry Belafonte and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. After beginning his career as a trial lawyer, Abady became a supervising attorney with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. He was also one of the lead lawyers in two major class actions resulting in historic reform in the jail system at Rikers Island.
Ed Zimmerman is a wine expert – but that is just one of his many talents. He is the only New York lawyer featured on a recent list of the nation’s top lawyers in startups and emerging companies published by legal information website Chambers USA. Zimmerman, who is co-founder and chair of his firm’s tech group, has served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business since 2005.
Following her work as the lead government attorney on the team that convicted Nxivm leader Keith Raniere – “A crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power,” as she put it at the trial, according to The New York Times – Moira Kim Penza went into private practice as a partner at Wilkinson Walsh. She served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York until last year.
As chairwoman of the real estate department at Duval & Stachenfeld, one of the largest real estate practice groups in New York City, Terri Adler has earned a reputation as a leader in corporate real estate transactions. Adler, who developed her firm’s women’s initiative, works hard to make sure other women can join her at the top by mentoring and assisting young attorneys within the firm and outside of it.
Nominated to the bench of the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George W. Bush in 2003, Stephen Robinson supervised a range of cases. He previously served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Robinson started his legal career in New York City in 1984 at a corporate firm. At Skadden, he focuses on corporate investigations and government enforcement matters.
Erica Buckley was once the chief of the Real Estate Finance Bureau at the New York attorney general’s office, and she now shares her wealth of knowledge – including discussions of the Martin Act and construction development issues – in her “Ask the Former Regulator” column in New York Law Journal. Erica leads her firm’s cooperatives and condominium practice and oversees transactional matters and government investigations that revolve around housing-related issues.
A labor and employment attorney since 1990, Stuart Lichten has won cases resulting in the recovery of millions of dollars for employees who were wrongfully dismissed, sexually harassed, mistreated in some way, or underpaid. Lichten has also represented union members facing criminal charges stemming from on-the-job activity. He practices election law in New York and has represented political candidates in election law or campaign finance law matters.
Ernest Hart started his career as a prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, moving on to become an Assistant District Attorney. He also served as a judge in the New York City Criminal Court and on the New York Supreme Court, and led the Civilian Complaint Review Board. As the NYPD’s Chief Legal Officer, Hart guides law enforcement regarding all legal matters, like interpreting laws and ensuring that enforcement is lawful.
The nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission works to improve public safety through innovation. As president, Richard Aborn helps create and advance strategies to improve the justice system, strengthen gun policies and practices as well as prevent youth gun violence and stop cybercrime. The commission has been an integral part of the passage of several New York laws, including the SAFE Act and expanding the use of DNA evidence to investigate crimes.
Some top lobbying outfits in New York are under the umbrella of a law firm, while others are lobbying firms that happen to have attorneys on staff. Sean Doolan’s Hinman Straub is of the law firm variety. With more than 30 years of experience in government relations and administrative law, Sean Doolan covers a wide range of issues at all levels of state government and takes on a wide array of clients.
When Judge James Burke was asked to recuse himself from Harvey Weinstein’s trial after chastising Weinstein for using his cell phone in court despite multiple warnings, Burke, a former prosecutor, instead used the opportunity to teach the courtroom about the importance of following rules. Following the guilty verdict delivered by the jury on Feb. 24, Burke ordered that Weinstein be held in custody until sentencing later this month.
Christina Ryba made history when in 2016 she became the first black person to be elected to sit on the state Supreme Court bench within a 28-county region of upstate New York. Since then, she has ruled on legislative raises, education guidelines and home care in New York. She was appointed to the American Bar Association’s anti-hate task force and previously served on the New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates.
Grant Jaquith occupies perhaps the least high-profile of New York’s four U.S. attorney offices, although he may not be there much longer. In August, President Donald Trump nominated the federal prosecutor to a 15-year term serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, D.C. A military veteran, Jaquith has also served as first assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the office’s criminal division.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was sued for blocking former Assemblyman Dov Hikind on Twitter, she turned to Allyson Belovin to represent her. Belovin has devoted her career to representing working people, including through negotiation of union agreements that affect thousands of members. She has also represented a variety of clients on discrimination claims, including race and sex discrimination claims, equal pay, disability claims and First Amendment claims.
John Cordo, who once served as special counsel to the Republican state Senate majority, has spent more than a decade building an influential law and lobbying firm in Albany. His lobbying accomplishments include helping secure a living wage for home health care workers in New York City and the winning bid for Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack. He was previously a partner at Featherstonhaugh, Wiley, Clyne & Cordo.
As the director of immigration legal policy, Camille Mackler focuses on all policies regarding right to counsel for immigrant communities. Her hard work has paid off: New York recently became the first state to introduce a law that would create a right to an attorney for immigrants facing deportation. Mackler wrote that the moment reminded her “that we may sometimes feel like we are down, but we are definitely not out.”
Thomas Garry has worked on numerous New York political campaigns, including as New York state counsel for former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid. Among his areas of expertise are health care, economic development and public finance projects. Karl Sleight, who specializes in horse racing, gambling and marijuana policy, has served as counsel in both of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission investigations and as special counsel to the New York State Legislative Ethics Commission.
Peter Moschetti Jr.’s name appears frequently on lists of top lawyers in New York and nationwide. He is a founding member of his firm and previously worked as a prosecutor in the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. Moschetti, Jr. was appointed by Gov. George Pataki to the New York State Temporary Commission on Lobbying and later appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Gaming Commission.
Sanjay Mody represents clients in the areas of infrastructure, real estate, government and finance. A board member of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and a member of the New York Committee of the Regional Plan Association, he previously served as senior adviser to the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where his work partly focused on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site.
Jason Lilien advises nonprofit clients on corporate governance and compliance, among other matters. He is former bureau chief of the New York state Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, where he developed legislation and regulatory initiatives that now serve as models around the nation. He also led efforts to work through some noteworthy trust and estate matters, such as the settlements of the Huguette Clark and Brooke Astor estates.
Marc Landis co-chairs his firm’s real estate practice, managing a variety of cases including corporate and commercial matters. Landis, who focuses part of his practice on the acquisition, development and preservation of affordable housing, has been recognized for his pro bono work helping limited-income tenants who were facing eviction from two women’s residences in Manhattan. He has also dedicated pro bono work to community-based health, education, and social service organizations.
A seasoned attorney who appears regularly on lists of top lawyers, Claude M. Millman focuses on commercial civil litigation at Kostelanetz & Fink. Millman, who was previously a partner at Proskauer, is a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. The former director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, he has also represented contractors, including nonprofits, doing business with New York City and state.
Peter Lauricella is the regional managing partner of the Albany office for Wilson Elser, a major law firm with 38 offices around the country. And while he often handles local cases – involving the state Attorney General’s Office – he also is vice chairman of the firm’s national commercial litigation practice and chairs its government investigations and contracts practice. He has also served on local ethics boards and helped review judicial candidates.
Jason Clark, an assistant attorney general in the state attorney general’s Harlem regional office, was installed in October 2018 as the president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, a citywide association of African American and minority lawyers. On Clark’s watch, the bar association has advocated for reforms to the criminal justice system, including reducing incidents of police officers killing unarmed civilians, protecting immigrant rights and reforming the state’s bail system.
David Ross is an expert in the field of Medicaid law. He was appointed by Gov. George Pataki as general counsel of the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, which was created in 2005 in response to public concern about fraud and waste. Ross then worked as the deputy Medicaid inspector general for audits and investigations. He now focuses his practice on Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance audits and investigations.
Attorney Glen G. McGorty is “held in high regard” and considered a leader in white collar and regulatory enforcement, according to Chambers USA, a website that ranks lawyers and law firms nationwide. A former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, McGorty has a strong reputation when it comes to government investigations. McGorty has served as the independent monitor of the New York City District Council of Carpenters since 2014.
In 2017, Joseph Drayton was elected as the president of the National Bar Association, a national organization representing African American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students, the first time a New Yorker has held the role in years. A partner at Cooley since 2012, he specializes in intellectual property and commercial litigation. He was previously at the law firm Kaye Scholer and prior to that worked as an engineer.
Sanford Rubenstein, the famed Brooklyn-based personal injury, medical malpractice and civil rights attorney, has handled seemingly endless multimillion dollar high-profile cases, including the police torture of Abner Louima, the deadly shooting of Sean Bell, and the botched hospital diagnostic test of a student who went into a coma and died. In a story discussing some of the highlights of Rubeinstein’s career, Resident magazine called him “a champion for the people.”
Correction: An earlier version of this list misspelled Anthony Crowell's name. Erica Buckley's “Ask the Former Regulator” column is in New York Law Journal; an earlier version of this story listed the incorrect outlet.