New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio picked a former U.S. attorney to be the city's top lawyer on Sunday and pledged a clean break from some of the legal approaches of his predecessor's administration.
De Blasio, a Democrat who will be inaugurated Wednesday, appointed Zachary Carter to be the city's corporation counsel and head its law department, touting the importance of a relatively unheralded office.
"There will not be a piece of legislation or executive order or any major action that we take as a city government over the next four years that does not have the approval and support of the city's top attorney" de Blasio said at a Manhattan news conference. "It's one of the roles that touches literally every part of government and therefore the lives of every New Yorker."
De Blasio signaled that Carter would immediately change direction from some of the positions held by the law department under outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent.
The city will abandon its appeal of a federal judge's decision that the NYPD sometimes used its stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutionally by unfairly targeting minorities. The ruling to install a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD has been on hold pending that appeal.
Additionally, de Blasio said he would follow through on a campaign promise to settle a lawsuit brought by five black and Hispanic boys convicted in the 1990 rape and grisly beating of a white woman jogging in Central Park. They served six to 13 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out in 2002 because of evidence linking someone else to the crime.
They sued police and prosecutors for $250 million but the lawsuit has languished for a decade.
Carter was the first African-American to be named U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District when he was tapped for that post by former President Bill Clinton in 1993.
"Throughout my career I tried to use the law to level the playing field for those seeking access and equal opportunity," said Carter, who echoed many of de Blasio's progressive campaign themes. "We have failed as a society when we don't meet the needs of the least advantaged among us."
During the six years he held the post, Carter oversaw high-profile prosecutions including the police officers convicted of abusing Abner Louima in 1997. Carter was also involved in the prosecutions of former Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante and those responsible for the death of Yankel Rosenbaum during the 1991 Crown Heights riots. He has spent recent years in private practice.
His appointment was widely praised, drawing high marks from the likes of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Though de Blasio takes office on New Year's Day, several key posts in his administration remain open, including the heads of the Education and Fire Departments. He said Sunday some appointments would not be made until several weeks into his term but did not specify which.
De Blasio also fielded questions for the first time since his 19-year-old daughter Chiara released a video on Christmas Eve in which she addressed her struggles battling depression and substance abuse. He said he was "so gratified" by the outpouring of support his family has received.
The mayor-elect said he and his wife paid for the video but did not reveal when it was filmed or the reasons behind the timing of its release. He also declined to answer whether his daughter's struggles at any point made him reconsider his mayoral bid.
De Blasio will be sworn in Wednesday by Clinton at a City Hall ceremony.