Steve Rosenbaum: Da Dum. Real Life "Law and Order" New Manhattan DA Cy Vance to Star
It’s been a very long time since such a collection of Democratic royalty gathered in one place.
But at City College’s Great Hall, New York’s political movers and shakers arrived to honor and celebrate a big Democratic win.
And with good reason – after 35 years in the office of District Attorney, Robert Morganthau was handing over the reigns of the busiest and most storied DA’s office to Cy Vance Jr.
Mayor’s Dinkins and Koch were there, as was State Senator Charles Schumer, City Counsel President Charles Stringer, John Kerry’s sister Peggy Kerry
and former Senatorial Candidate Caroline Kennedy.
Prosecutor turned author Linda Fairstein was in the crowd, as was documentary filmmaker Ric Burns, and Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts.
Vance steps in to an office that turned the criminal courts process into prime-time television with the series Law and Order and not one, but two spin offs. (Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit). But the truth of the matter is that the slick 48 minute crime procedural doesn’t reflect that actual state of affairs for Justice in New York County. Luckily, Vance has movie star good looks that will serve him well in the high profile position as the City’s Top Prosecutor. As you might expect, the office has all of the history and some of the fossilization that any organization with one leader for three and a half decades is likely to exhibit. The challenges facing Vance include changes in both the very bones of the office and the world around it.
For example, crimes that used to increasingly be committed with a knife or a gun are now more likely to be committed with a computer or a forged stock certificate. In the era of Bernie Madoff and identity theft, the Manhattan DA’s office will need to recruit and retain a whole new class of computer savvy prosecutors who can piece together digital evidence, and make cases where the evidence is more likely found in an email trail than a blood trail. Digital evidence, from computer hard drives to high-tech wire taps will increasingly be the stuff that cases are made of, and New York can lead the way in setting new standards. This can’t come as a surprise to the savvy Vance, who’s been both a corporate attorney and criminal defense attorney. New York’s Courts have long lead the Nation, both in terms of visibility and complexity – and big changes are likely to face both the office and The Courts in the years ahead.
So even as Democrats celebrate the election of the first New Democratic DA in 35 years, Vance knows he’s got his work cut out for him. Mogenthau may have been known within the DA’s office as “The Boss” but Vance, in his acceptance speech, was already changing the tone by making sure everyone in attendance knows that he’s planning on building a team and sharing the limelight in his tenure in the office. Said Vance; “My Father stood in big shoes (speaking of his father, former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance) … and he always told me the way you fill them is with a team.”
And so, Team Vance takes the field.