Koch complained that Riker's Island was overflowing with prisoners from the crack-cocaine epidemic and he wanted a Criminal Court "lobster shift" to arraign defendants more quickly.
The mayor asked Wachtler to intercede with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
"I told him I would speak to D.A. Morgenthau on his behalf, but only if he would stop beating up on the judiciary," Wachtler said. "Morgenthau was cooperative, around the clock arraignments were instituted in the city, andtrue to his wordKoch no longer used the judiciary as a populist punching bag."
Koch is also credited with improving the professionalism of the Corporation Counsel's Office. He wrote in a 2008/2009 New York Law Review article that the city needed more competent legal representation if it was to confront the fiscal challenges it faced.
"It was not viewed as a really professional office," said Michael Cardozo, Bloomberg's corporation counsel. "There were a lot of political appointments and not a lot of merit appointments. Today, we pride ourselves on being an absolutely non-political office. We hire people absolutely, solely on the merits."
"Despite the changes in mayors over the years, the Law Department today is essentially Ed Koch's Law Department," said Jeffrey Friedlander, the current first assistant corporation counsel who started working for the Law Department during the Koch years.
Another top official in the office, appeals division chief Leonard Koerner, said Koch deferred to the judgment of his Law Department, even when politically sensitive cases were involved.
"I don't think he fancied himself as a lawyer when he was mayor," said Koerner, who joined the Law Department in 1967. "He was certainly a good lawyer. He had excellent judgment and was able to discuss complex legal issues. But he didn't see himself as making the legal decision. Whether he agreed or not, he deferred to the corporation counsel. He let people do their jobs and he had confidence in the people he had working for him."