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Justice reform is on the menu for these candidates for Manhattan DA

The Manhattan County Criminal Court building. (Photo: Zach Korb/Flickr Creative Commons)

With the Manhattan District Attorney’s office set to be vacated by Cy Vance at the end of 2021, no small crowd of candidates have lined up to take his place overseeing hundreds of prosecutors and high-profile cases against the likes of Donald Trump.

But who are the nine candidates?

It’s an important question to ask as the 2021 mayoral race has eclipse the DA election in terms of public attention and the Democratic primary falls on the same day: June 22.

The majority of the nine candidates are seeking to reform the office and dole out justice by more modern standards of giving the New Yorkers a shot at a better life rather than a life of recidivism. They are Dan Quart, Alvin Bragg, Eliza Orlins, Lucy Lang, Liz Crotty, Alvin Bragg, Diana Florence, Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Tahanie Aboushi.

Dan Quart, a Washington Heights native, has been a litigator for 25 years but is no stranger to politics. In 2011, he ran for state Assembly where he has served his constituents as a lawmaker in Albany.

He has explained that as the district attorney, he will decline to prosecute low-level crimes that do not pose a public safety risk. As well as reforming the sex crimes unit to be more “survivor-centered” in nature, Quart plans to bring greater transparency to the office.

Alvin Bragg has explained that as a teenager growing up in Harlem, he was subject to repeated instances of stop and frisk by NYPD officers which encouraged him to become a prosecutor, helping Preet Bharara in the US Attorney’s office and becoming Chief Deputy Attorney General for New York.

Bragg plans to shift the focus of the Manhattan DA’s office from that which prosecutes low-level crimes and enact reforms that will see the end of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Eliza Orlins acts as the only public defender in the race with a decade on the job and has described the Manhattan DA’s office as a “cruel” and overly-punitive system that drive over-incarceration in New York.

Orlins has specifically mentioned dismantling the “human and financial costs of mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline” in her run for DA, claiming that the system as it stands is “rigged” poor, black and brown New Yorkers.

Lucy Lang is a former assistant district attorney who has expressed a desire to keep communities safe while prioritizing ending mass incarceration, as well.

Having a history of working alongside clients who were the victims of crimes as well as incarcerated individuals who may be serving time unfairly, Lang also served as director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College.

Liz Crotty began her legal career in 2000 and worked her way through the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney in both the Trial Division and the Investigation Division.

For the last 12 years, however, Crotty has worked at her own law firm which she operates alongside her partner. As DA, she hopes to establish a sex crimes and domestic violence bureau, while focusing on prosecuting white-collar crimes.

Diana Florence worked in the Manhattan DA’s office, under Vance who has held the seat for about a decade and described current operations as a “concierge system of justice” for the wealthy.

Florence has had a career spanning 25 years prosecuting real estate and other corporations for defrauding 9/11 charities, wage theft and creating dangerous work conditions. As opposed to punishing the poor for petty crime, she plans to go after the money corporations owe to government.

Tali Farhadian Weinstein immigrated to the United States 40 years ago at four years old fleeing violence in Iran, and believes that the DA’s office needs to act with sensitivity as the city recovers from COVID-19.

Farhadian has served as Counsel to Attorney General Eric Holder under the Obama administration and also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, and plans to establish a Bureau of Gender-Violence as well as a Conviction Review Unit within a new Post-Conviction Justice Bureau.

Tahanie Aboushi, like the others in the race, is reform minded as well hoping to turn the DA’s office from “one that destroys communities to one that restores them.”

Aboushi is a civil rights attorney who became interested in law at 14 when her father was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and sees the criminal justice system as an “antiquated” approach that has never resulted in a change in terms of making communities safer.

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