Nation - ABA Journal profiles Robert Morgenthau, 'Law & Order' DA

The June issue of ABA Journal profiles "The Boss" Robert Morgenthau, former district attorney for New York County. Morgenthau's career spans from the post-WWII era to the present, including his current Of Counsel job with Wachtel, Lipton, Rosen Katz in New York City. In between, he held the DA's job in Manhattan for a record 35 years.

The ABA Journal profile of Morgenthau arrives coincidentally with the last episode of the highly popular, 20-year series "Law &Order," on whom the show's producers loosely based the DA Adam Schiff character; Morgenthau modeled the original "gravitas and no-nonsense style" that made him "America's DA," according to the article. His protégés have included thousands of young lawyers, more than 80 of whom went on to become state and federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an assistant DA from 1979 to 1984.

Beyond mentoring, Morgenthau was known for his toughness on both white collar and violent crime, meting out "justice for rich and poor" according to his assistants. From bank fraud and money laundering to corporate scandals like Enron and Tyco, Morgenthau also investigated international bank activity and uncovered the financing behind drug cartels, terrorism and rogue dictators. While some critics charged he "put too much emphasis on white collar crime," during his tenure violent crime in New York City plunged.

"I've been interviewing some of the greatest minds in the legal community for more than 30 years," said the article's author, Terry Carter. "Morgenthau moved at the highest levels of politics, policy and society. It is impressive how he has stood so firmly so often on simply what is right."

Born to privilege and wealth, Morgenthau also experienced much luck in his life. As a Navy man, he survived a torpedoed destroyer in World War II. In 1952, he missed the flight that killed his friend and mentor, the legendary Robert Patterson. But even beyond that luck was the access to the rich and powerful he enjoyed growing up and throughout his career. He was a family friend of the Roosevelts and once tended bar for Winston Churchill at his parents' home. Also a friend of the Kennedys, he raced sloops and watched movies with young Jack on Cape Cod, and was lunching with Bobby at Hickory Hill when J. Edgar Hoover informed him that Jack had been assassinated.

"His memory of world events and his place in them is remarkable," said Ed Adams, editor and publisher of ABA Journal. "Morgenthau's experience with significant players and as part of significant events in U.S. and world history in the 20th century is fascinating."

Also featured in this issue of ABA Journal:

* "Questions for Kagan" - ABA Journal asked several experts for questions they would ask U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan during confirmation hearings.

* "Changing Spaces" - In words and pictures ABA Journal looks at new law offices and the motivation behind the moves. Are trends toward smaller offices and multi-use spaces coming to law firms?

* "Tout Suites" - Technology writer Dennis Kennedy says that, with the recent release of several revised office software suites, it's a good time for firms to re-evaluate how they use them now and in the future.

* "Masters of the Game" - Williams and Connolly: How Edward Bennett Williams built the world's most powerful law firm - an excerpt from Kim Eisler's new book.

Published: Fri, Jun 4, 2010