Manhattan's first new district attorney in 35 years pledged Monday to approach one of the nation's most prominent prosecutor's jobs -- a model for television's "Law & Order'' -- with a commitment to public safety, fairness and humbleness.
Cyrus R. Vance Jr. promised to use "our immense power as prosecutors with humility'' in remarks at a swearing-in celebration, vowing to balance combating crime with preventing injustice.
Vance officially took over Friday as head of a DA's office known for prosecuting cases ranging from corporate corruption to celebrity misbehavior. In the last four months, the office has charged a TV producer with trying to blackmail David Letterman, reached a plea deal with rapper Lil Wayne in a gun possession case and put "Spider-Man'' actress Kirsten Dunst on the witness stand in a trial involving the theft of her $2,000 handbag.
Vance, a defense lawyer, litigator and son of former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, was elected in November to replace Robert Morgenthau, who built the DA's office into a legal powerhouse known for ambitious prosecutions and such alumni as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Morgenthan, after holding office since 1975, retired at age 90.
Vance, who got a boost from Morgenthau's backing in a three-way Democratic contest on his first run for office, said he knows "all too well the big shoes that I have to fill.''
"But in this I have some practice. I was lucky enough to have a father with big shoes also,'' said Vance, who rarely spoke about his political lineage during his campaign. "And this is what he told me about filling them. ... They are filled by teamwork. They are filled by hard work and by a commitment to doing what we believe is right.''
Vance, 55, was an assistant prosecutor for Morgenthau in the 1980s before spending much of his career in private practice in Seattle. His clients included thousands of women who reached a $72.5 million settlement with the Boeing Corp. in a gender discrimination lawsuit and a former student who unsuccessfully sued a school district over his affair with his sixth-grade teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau.
Vance returned to New York in 2004. His ideas for the DA's office include assigning teams of prosecutors to individual police precincts to drill down on crime patterns and prevention.
Vance, who has two college-age children, is an uncle of Olympic snowboarding hopeful Kevin Pearce, who suffered a serious brain injury while training Thursday in Park City, Utah. Pearce, 22, remains in critical but stable condition at a Salt Lake City hospital.
Vance asked the hundreds of staffers, politicians and supporters at Monday's ceremony at City College to "keep Kevin in your thoughts and prayers.''