Enthusiasm as Legal Advocate, Defender of City Never Dimmed
This article was reported by Jeff Storey, Joel Stashenko and Mark Hamblett and written by Storey.
This article has been updated to reflect a Correction.
New York City was still reeling from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center when Michael Cardozo, a hard-charging Proskauer Rose litigator who specialized in sports law, met with Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg to discuss the post of corporation counsel.
Cardozo recalled in a recent interview that Bloomberg, a non-attorney who had had little experience with litigation as a CEO, observed that he wasn't sure what the corporation counsel did, but said, "he wanted a good lawyer."
Cardozo said he had been "very moved by 9/11" but "frustrated because I couldn't do anything to help." He said that he had had some experience with the corporation counsel's office as city bar president. After quizzing former holders of the position, he decided to sign up with Bloomberg.
"I knew when I took the job that I would be here for only four years," Cardozo said. In fact, he was so convinced that he didn't even bother to sign up for the city pension system because he wouldn't be around long enough for vesting. (He has since joined the system.)
Twelve years and three terms later, Cardozo, 72, returns to Proskauer, leaving office at the same time as the man who appointed him. He has held the position of corporation counsel longer than any of the men whose images, stretching back to 1683, line a long corridor at the Department of Law.
"I had no idea the satisfaction I would get from this job," said Cardozo, who expressed no regret about the legal positions he has taken or the tactics his office has used in vigorously defending the mayor's policies—aggressive tactics that have been harshly criticized by adversaries in the ongoing stop-and-frisk case.
"Yes, we've had some losses this year, but we've had some very exciting wins," said Cardozo. "The losses are not yet final. …It's been hard, but I don't think it's dampened my enthusiasm for the job." (See NYLJ, Aug. 15, 2005 for an earlier profile of Cardozo.)
Cardozo, who earns a salary of about $205,000, manages an agency of 730 attorneys and 604 support staff. All but 50 or so of the lawyers are litigators.