The Judiciary Committee of the Queens County Bar Association interviewed six of the seven candidates for Queens district attorney and found that only Judge Greg Lasak deserved its highest rating of “well qualified.”
Lasak served as a prosecutor in the Queens district attorney’s office for 25 years where he was chief of the Homicide Bureau and executive assistant district attorney in charge of the Major Crimes Division before he was elected a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court in 2003.
“We’re glad that the Bar Association saw what we know to be true: that Judge Lasak is, bar none, the most qualified candidate in this race,” Lasak Campaign Chairman Bill Driscoll said. “He’s the only candidate who can keep Queens safe while reforming the criminal justice system in a responsible way.”
The Queens County Bar Association released the ratings on May 30 without commentary. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman and former prosecutors Mina Malik and Jose Nieves were all found to be “qualified.”
“I have been an attorney for over 30 years, working in some of the city’s top law firms and using my legal expertise every day to serve the people of Queens as an Assembly member, Council member and borough president. I’ve written laws and shaped policies that have changed thousands of lives across our city and state,” Katz said. “The district attorney’s office has immense responsibility and our next DA will need the sound judgement that only comes with decades of legal experience to steer it in the right direction.”
Malik was proud to receive a “qualified” rating.
“Their approval rating is demonstrative of my passion for giving a voice to the voiceless, my depth and breadth of experience in both the defense and prosecution sides, and my over two decades of work in criminal justice and reform,” Malik said. “I pledge to continue my life’s mission as Queens district attorney.”
As chairman of the City Council’s Committee on the Justice System, Lancman has oversight of the city’s five district attorneys.
“My 19 years practicing law in state and federal court, holding wrongdoers accountable for sex harassment, wage theft, and worker safety violations, combined with my 11 years as a public official overseeing the criminal justice system, has prepared me to be the district attorney Queens needs to bring real reform that improve public safety and ensure equal treatment under the law,” Lancman said.
But following his interview with the Queens County Bar, he questioned the committee’s diversity on Twitter.
“Purported gatekeepers for most diverse county in USA. About 40 lawyers. Every single one white. Not a person of color in room. Eyes roll when I discuss #racism in criminal justice system, no surprise,” he wrote.
A spokeswoman for the Queens County Bar Association would not comment on Lancman’s tweet.
Tiffany Cabán, the only public defender in the race, was rated as “not approved.”
“Tiffany has spent her career as a public defender in daily contact with defendants, assistant district attorneys, law enforcement officers, court and correctional personnel and judges,” Cabán spokeswoman Monica Klein said. “She has deep familiarity with the complexities of practice under New York’s Penal Law and Criminal Procedure Law, as well as extensive work on carceral policy issues, unlike Melinda Katz, a career politician who hasn’t spent a day in criminal court. This is clearly a statement about the kind of candidates and issues the association want to promote, political insiders who are desperate to preserve the status quo rather than bring real reform to the DA’s office and to the county.”
The committee did find José Nieves, a career prosecutor and Army combat veteran, to be qualified.
“I would like to than the Queens County Bar Association for taking the time to carefully evaluate my professional experience, leadership qualities and administrative experience and determine that I was qualified to serve as the next Queens County District Attorney,” Nieves said. “As a progressive prosecutor with over 18 years of experience, I am ready to lead the office on day one and will continue to bring real criminal justice reform to Queens County while ensuring public safety.”
Betty Lugo, the seventh candidate running in the June 25 Democratic primary, was “not rated due to failure to appear for interview.”
QNS reached out to Lugo’s campaign and is awaiting their response.