Mayor appoints first woman to lead city’s Law Department as corporate counsel

Georgia Pestana was nominated by Mayor Bill de Blasio to lead New York City’s Law Department. (Photo credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

The daughter of Cuban immigrants will become the city’s first-ever woman to lead the New York City’s Corporate Counsel. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during his Wednesday briefing that he has named Georgia Pestana to be the head of the City of New York’s Law Department where she will be the first Latina to hold the high-ranking post.

“I am deeply honored to be nominated to be the city’s 80th Corporation Counsel,” Pestana said. “When I started at the Law Department right out of law school, I never dreamed that I’d be sitting in this seat more than 33 years later. In every role, there has been more to learn, new challenges to take on and problems to solve. That experience and perspective is why I know that, despite being a little bit in awe, I am up to this role. And that’s why I will make other women and Latinas proud.”

Pestana joined the Law Department’s General Litigation Division directly after graduating from NYU School of Law. After a brief period as deputy general counsel at one of the city’s agencies she returned to the Law Department as the Managing Attorney of the General Litigation Division and was later promoted to Deputy Chief in 1996.

In 2002, she was appointed Chief of the Law Department’s newly created Labor and Employment Law Division, which handles all the litigation arising out of the city’s role as employer of more than 300,000 workers. In 2013, Pestana was promoted to Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Employment and Policy Litigation, where she oversaw the General Litigation, Administrative Law, and Labor and Employment Divisions. She has served as First Assistant Corporation Counsel since 2015.

“The Law Department is at the forefront of New York City’s fight for fairness and justice, and Georgia Pestana has the experience and the vision needed to win those battles,” de Blasio said. “Georgia is an outstanding legal thinker and a compassionate leader, and I look forward to working with her to build a better recovery for all of us.”

Pestana will oversee the city’s approximately 1,000 lawyers and 890 support professionals and replace the outgoing Corporation Counsel James Johnson, who has served in that role since 2019. Johnson will move to the private sector to become the Chief Operating Officer of historic Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. As Corporation Counsel, Johnson led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully fought off numerous legal attacks from the Trump Administration on immigrants and New York City’s federal funding.

“It’s been an honor to lead the Law Department and a great privilege to serve with Georgia Pestana, one of the finest lawyers in the city and a fantastic friend and colleague,” Johnson said. “I am grateful to Mayor de Blasio for the chance to be an advocate for the common good and am thrilled to be able to pass the baton to one of the very best in the profession.”