Rikers Island Lawyer Seeks Significant ‘Final Chapter’ in Profession

Rikers Island Lawyer Seeks Significant ‘Final Chapter’ in Profession

Paul Shechtman, after 25 years in personal apply representing legislation enforcement officers, legal professionals, politicians, Wall Road 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 common counsel, a task that makes him the highest lawyer for the jail system and its largest complicated at Rikers Island.

“It is a probability 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 wished 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 legal professionals his age—retirement. His transfer to an in-house authorized job can also be uncommon for somebody who has spent virtually a half-century practising legislation.

It was Mayor Eric Adams’s chief counsel, former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr associate Brendan McGuire, who really helpful 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 “I requested in the event that they wanted a superb lawyer—possibly I ought to’ve mentioned an outdated lawyer,” he quipped.

However Shechtman mentioned his abilities—sharpened over 4 many years of authorized apply in myriad high-stakes battles—are nonetheless sharp.

“You will be productive in your seventies and tackle new challenges,” he mentioned. “And I feel my spouse is pleased that I’m out of the home.”

The Harvard Legislation College graduate and Rhodes Scholar who as soon as clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court docket 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 practically 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 below former Gov. George Pataki.

He’s written in regards to the want for bail reforms and sought to appropriate 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 government or legislative motion to swing too extensively in a single route or one other.

Rikers Island

The Rikers Island jail complicated for years held people dealing with misdemeanor prices on $500 bail, Shechtman famous.

“That’s loopy,” he mentioned, citing the meaninglessness of holding people dealing with minor prices, 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 arduous by staffing shortages associated to the coronavirus pandemic and dealing with a collection 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 ability after that monitor, jail reform professional Steve Martin, accused the town of stymieing his efforts.

A shock go to this week by a delegation of metropolis officers discovered the Rikers complicated in higher form than anticipated, partly as a result of improved staffing ranges, though situations are nonetheless harmful, in accordance with Bloomberg.

Shechtman, who’s working carefully 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 ability.

“After I was in personal apply, my shoppers would say to me, ‘Suppose exterior the field,’” Shechtman mentioned. “I’d say to them, ‘I don’t. You’ll be able to both plea, plea and cooperate, or go to trial. All I can do is get you in the proper field.’”

As Shechtman noticed it, if a consumer wasn’t in the proper field, they had been going to be “harmed enormously.”

Non-public Observe

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 turn out 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 turn out to be companions at Bracewell.

A Bracewell spokesman confirmed that Shechtman left the agency on the finish of Might.

Jones stays at Bracewell. Shechtman mentioned parting methods along with his longtime colleague was the hardest half in his choice to go away personal apply.

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 arduous—you’re getting individuals on the most tough time of their lives,” Shechtman mentioned. “Their lives had been in my palms.”

Corrections Connections

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 prices.

An preliminary bribery trial involving Seabrook ended with a hung jury in 2017. Seabrook was ultimately 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 informed 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 Legislation College, Shechtman oversees roughly 15 legal professionals 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 in a position to assist, I’m going to remain,” Shechtman mentioned. “They could need to push me out in a wheelchair.”