Paul Shechtman, after 25 years in personal observe representing legislation enforcement officers, attorneys, politicians, Wall Avenue executives, and celebrities such because the rapper Lil’Kim, mentioned he was prepared for a change.
It was fairly a change.
New York Metropolis’s Division of Correction on Aug. 9 introduced Shechtman as its new deputy commissioner and basic counsel, a task that makes him the highest lawyer for the jail system and its largest advanced at Rikers Island.
“This can be a likelihood for me to do one thing significant in a metropolis I actually care about,” Shechtman mentioned in an interview from his workplace, the place he’s coming every day as required by a mayoral mandate. “I needed to have a final chapter within the public sector. My children had been pushing me to do it and never simply speak the speak.”
Shechtman, 73, has averted a path typical for a lot of attorneys his age—retirement. His transfer to an in-house authorized job can also be uncommon for somebody who has spent nearly a half-century practising legislation.
It was Mayor Eric Adams’s chief counsel, former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr associate Brendan McGuire, who beneficial Shechtman for his new place.
Shechtman mentioned he referred to as McGuire, a buddy and fellow former federal prosecutor, earlier this 12 months to supply up his companies. “I requested in the event that they wanted an excellent lawyer—possibly I ought to’ve mentioned an outdated lawyer,” he quipped.
However Shechtman mentioned his expertise—sharpened over 4 a long time of authorized observe in myriad high-stakes battles—are nonetheless sharp.
“You could be productive in your seventies and tackle new challenges,” he mentioned. “And I believe my spouse is pleased that I’m out of the home.”
The Harvard Regulation Faculty graduate and Rhodes Scholar who as soon as clerked for former U.S. Supreme Courtroom Justice Warren Burger succeeds Asim Rehman, who in March was named chief administrative legislation decide and commissioner of New York’s Workplace of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
Shechtman spent almost the primary decade of his authorized profession as a state and federal prosecutor in New York. He was additionally the state’s prison justice director from 1995 to 1997 underneath former Gov. George Pataki.
He’s written in regards to the want for bail reforms and sought to right wrongful convictions.
“I’ve been an advocate for a center path,” mentioned Shechtman, including that his largest concern in regards to the prison justice system is the pendulum for govt or legislative motion to swing too extensively in a single route or one other.
The Rikers Island jail advanced for years held people going through misdemeanor fees on $500 bail, Shechtman famous.
“That’s loopy,” he mentioned, citing the meaninglessness of holding people going through minor fees, many whom had been freed by organizations that posted their bail.
Rikers is usually the primary merchandise on Shechtman’s docket every day, he mentioned.
The ability, hit onerous by staffing shortages associated to the coronavirus pandemic and dealing with a sequence of inmate deaths, is topic to a federal monitor tasked with overseeing an overhaul of in its operations.
New York’s Division of Correction mentioned earlier this 12 months it was taking steps to enhance the power after that monitor, jail reform knowledgeable Steve Martin, accused the town of stymieing his efforts.
A shock go to this week by a delegation of metropolis officers discovered the Rikers advanced in higher form than anticipated, partly on account of improved staffing ranges, though circumstances are nonetheless harmful, in response to Bloomberg.
Shechtman, who’s working intently with the town’s corrections Commissioner Louis Molina, expects to have the ability to present extra progress later this 12 months and keep away from a federal takeover of the power.
“After I was in personal observe, my shoppers would say to me, ‘Assume outdoors the field,’” Shechtman mentioned. “I’d say to them, ‘I don’t. You may both plea, plea and cooperate, or go to trial. All I can do is get you in the best field.’”
As Shechtman noticed it, if a shopper wasn’t in the best field, they had been going to be “harmed vastly.”
Shechtman spent the majority of his profession at Stillman Friedman & Shechtman, a New York-based litigation boutique the place he was a reputation associate.
He left that agency in 2011 to grow to be a associate at Zuckerman Spaeder. Ballard Spahr acquired Stillman & Friedman, as his former agency was renamed, in 2013.
In 2016, Shechtman and Barbara Jones, a former federal decide in New York, left Zuckerman Spaeder to grow to be companions at Bracewell.
A Bracewell spokesman confirmed that Shechtman left the agency on the finish of Could.
Jones stays at Bracewell. Shechtman mentioned parting methods along with his longtime colleague was the hardest half in his choice to depart personal observe.
He mentioned he’s getting used to not writing briefs and staying out of the courtroom.
“I don’t miss representing people—it’s actually onerous—you’re getting individuals on the most troublesome time of their lives,” Shechtman mentioned. “Their lives had been in my fingers.”
It was at Bracewell the place Shechtman represented Norman Seabrook, a former head of New York’s corrections officers’ union, who was arrested in 2016 on corruption fees.
An preliminary bribery trial involving Seabrook ended with a hung jury in 2017. Seabrook was finally convicted the next 12 months and sentenced in 2019 to 5 years in jail and ordered to pay $19 million restitution.
“My understanding is the unions had been advised I used to be coming, and so they didn’t complain,” Shechtman mentioned when requested about potential conflicts in his new position. “I don’t assume I’ve any enemies there.”
A longtime lecturer at Columbia Regulation Faculty, Shechtman oversees roughly 15 attorneys on the Division of Correction.
He mentioned he’ll keep in his present position as lengthy the town and Adams need him.
“So long as I’m able to doing this job and it stays attention-grabbing and I’m capable of assist, I’m going to remain,” Shechtman mentioned. “They might must push me out in a wheelchair.”