Kathleen Rice to lead state district attorneys

A file photo of Nassau County District Attorney

A file photo of Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. (Jan. 29, 2012) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

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Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has been inducted as president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, naming the fight against prescription drug abuse and juvenile justice reform as her two top priorities in the post.

Rice, 48, succeeds Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance as president for a year of the organization, which represents the state's 62 district attorneys.

"I'm excited to export some of what I've accomplished here to other counties," Rice said in an interview.

Rice was appointed secretary of the association several years ago by then-President William Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney. Since then, she has moved up through the organization's ranks.

New York Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman said Rice, who is up for re-election to a third term in November, is an excellent choice to head an influential organization.

"I think she's a terrific choice for that role," Lippman said. "There are many areas where the DA's Association is looked to for their expertise and policy view." Traditionally, the association has played a key role in introducing and supporting or opposing legislation that affects criminal prosecutions.

Steven Raiser of Mineola, president of the Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association, applauded Rice's choice to focus on juvenile justice and prescription drug abuse.

He said those choices "demonstrate a desire to address root causes and prevention of crime instead of stilted notions of crime and punishment, which tend to be politically popular, but equally ineffective."

Rice said she hopes to encourage leaders to have 16- and 17-year-olds treated as juveniles rather than adults as they are now, and help export Nassau's juvenile justice court, which helps most nonviolent first-time youthful offenders avoid jail.

In her induction speech at the association's summer conference Saturday in Cooperstown, Rice also outlined her goals in fighting prescription drug abuse and related crimes.

"We can share . . . intelligence on the rogue doctors, websites and insurance fraud operations that fuel the problem. We can develop model education programs that we can all take to our high schools and use to educate parents . . . and we can band together as the state's prosecutors and tell policymakers to finally and fully fund drug-treatment programs we agree are often the only pathways out of addiction and crime," she said.

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