Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio Sunday introduced former U.S. attorney Zachary Carter as the next top lawyer for New York City and rolled out an ambitious legal agenda for the corporation counsel to tackle.
"Many believe that if there's one role in government that serves as the conscience for the rest of the government, it is the corporation counsel," de Blasio said at a news conference at the Surrogate's Court building in lower Manhattan.
De Blasio said the Law Department under Carter's leadership will drop outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's appeal of a federal ruling that found the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice disproportionately targeted minorities. He said the agency also will settle the "Central Park Five" case, in which five men were wrongfully convicted in a jogger's rape.
Carter, 63, said he is ready to help usher in an "era of shared opportunity and prosperity and justice." De Blasio has additionally charged him with expanding paid sick leave and introducing new affordable-housing mandates.
"If anyone has ever worked to end the tale of two cities, both in their professional life and in their personal commitment, that person is Zach Carter," de Blasio said.
Carter is de Blasio's fourth agency head appointment, but leadership vacancies as of Sunday remained in the fire, transportation, sanitation and several other departments.
De Blasio faces criticism over the slow pace of his team's rollout and Sunday said he would retain some Bloomberg appointees until they can be replaced. He would not specify which agencies will have holdovers.
"There are cases where the new agency head takes over on day one; there are cases where the new agency head has been appointed, but will be in transition for a few weeks; . . . there are others that will be named in the coming days or the next few weeks. . . . What we've done with each and every agency is make sure that operations will continue smoothly," he said.
President Bill Clinton, who will swear in de Blasio as mayor Wednesday, appointed Carter as the first African-American U.S. attorney in the Eastern District in 1993. In that post, Carter convicted mob leader Vincent Gigante and prosecuted the Abner Louima police brutality case.
Carter will return to civil service after serving as a partner at the corporate law firm Dorsey & Whitney. He is also chairman of Bloomberg's committee on the judiciary. He graduated from New York University Law School.
Several political and community leaders applauded his appointment.
The civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton in a statement said Carter "personifies the forward movement of fairness and equality in the criminal justice system."
In a statement, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called Carter "a wise and judicious officer of the court."