January 31, 2011


Manhattan's legendary former district attorney wins State Bar's highest honor

ALBANY-Robert M. Morgenthau, the legendary former district attorney for New York County, received the 2011 Gold Medal, the State Bar's highest honor, for his decades of extraordinary service to the people of New York. State Bar President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP) presented the award to Morgenthau on January 29 during the President's Dinner as part of the State Bar's Annual Meeting. The event was held at the Harvard Club in Manhattan.

The Committee on Annual Award honored Morgenthau, who retired at the end of 2009 after 35 years in office, for his tremendous success in prosecuting organized- and white-collar crime; his unsurpassed professionalism; and his ethical integrity that made him one of the most respected attorneys and public servants in the nation. During his tenure as the longest serving district attorney in Manhattan's history, his office became a training ground for the best and brightest in the legal profession. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor were just two of the thousands of assistant DAs who served under Morgenthau that include 82 men and women who have gone on to become judges.

"Robert Morgenthau led what is widely considered the country's premier prosecutorial office with the utmost integrity, an unwavering commitment to upholding justice and an outstanding record of accomplishment. Over the years, thousands of New York's finest lawyers have worked as assistant prosecutors in Morganthau's office, where they received not only a greater understanding of the law, but also a greater understanding of the importance of integrity and respect for all people," said President Younger. "I feel privileged to award one of New York's very finest leaders with our highest honor. He is a most deserving recipient, and we are proud to recognize his indelible accomplishments in the law."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said: "When I served in the District Attorney's Office under Robert Morgenthau's tenure, I knew that I was working for one of the finest prosecutors in the country. Bob Morgenthau brought safety to our communities and fairness to our courts. It is an honor and a privilege to have succeeded him."

A graduate of Amherst College and Yale Law School, Morgenthau was elected Manhattan's district attorney in 1974 and held that position through nine terms. He is currently of counsel to Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

He began his legal career in private practice and later served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York for eight years. As U.S. Attorney, he received wide acclaim for his successful prosecutions of organized-crime figures, white-collar criminals and major tax cheats while pursuing bribery cases against various government officials including IRS attorneys and accountants. During his tenure, he established a special unit to investigate securities fraud.

First awarded in 1952, the prestigious Gold Medal is presented annually to a distinguished member of the bench or bar with outstanding legal ability who is also a leader in the legal profession and the larger community

Morgenthau previously received the Bar's Excellence in Public Service Award and the Outstanding Prosecutor Award.

Past recipients include: S. Hazard Gillespie, past president of the New York State Bar Association; Frederick "Fritz" A.O. Schwarz, Jr., senior counsel, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Hon. Sandra Day O'Connor, retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; and Hon. Judith S. Kaye, retired chief judge of the State of New York.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for 135 years.