History of the Office


The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has a long tradition of excellence and non-partisanship, and is considered one of the nation’s preeminent prosecutor’s offices. Since the 1930s, there have been just four elected District Attorneys, and each has had a significant impact on modern criminal prosecution.

SELECT TIME PERIOD
  • 1817-1937
    Early District Attorneys
  • 1938-1941
    Thomas E. Dewey
  • 1942-1974
    Frank S. Hogan
  • 1975-2009
    Robert M. Morgenthau
  • 2010-Present
    Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.,

Early District Attorneys

Until 1801, Manhattan did not have a District Attorney; instead, criminal cases were prosecuted personally by the New York State Attorney General. Manhattan’s first District Attorneys were appointed by the Council of Appointment, a body created by the New York Constitution of 1777 for the purpose of appointing government officials for which the Constitution provided no other means of appointment or election. Under the Constitution of 1821, District Attorneys were appointed by the now-abolished Court of General Sessions, a process that continued until the Constitution of 1846, which provided for the popular election of District Attorneys. The first elected Manhattan District Attorney was John McKeon, who was elected in 1847 after having been appointed the previous year. A District Attorney’s term lasted three years until 1987, when District Attorneys began to be elected to the four-year terms that continue to this day.

Complete list of Manhattan District Attorneys

  • Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., 2010 – Present
  • Robert M. Morgenthau, 1975 – 2009
  • Richard H. Kuh, 1974 – 1974
  • Frank S. Hogan, 1942 – 1974
  • Thomas E. Dewey, 1938 – 1941
  • William C. Dodge, 1934 – 1937
  • Thomas C.T. Crain, 1930 – 1933
  • Joab H. Banton, 1922 – 1929
  • Edward Swann, 1916 – 1921
  • Charles Albert Perkins, 1915 – 1915
  • Charles Seymour Whitman, 1910 – 1914
  • William Travers Jerome, 1902 – 1909
  • Eugene A. Philbin, 1900 – 1901
  • Asa Bird Gardiner, 1898 – 1900
  • William Marvin K. Olcott, 1896 – 1897
  • Vernon M. Davis, 1896 – 1896
  • John R. Fellows, 1894 – 1896
  • De Lancey Nicoll, 1891 – 1893
  • John R. Fellows, 1888 – 1890
  • Randolph B. Martine, 1885 – 1887
  • Peter B. Olney, 1883 – 1884
  • Wheeler H. Peckham, 1883 – 1883
  • John McKeon, 1882 – 1883
  • Daniel G. Rollins, 1881 – 1881
  • Benjamin K. Phelps, 1873 – 1880
  • Samuel B. Garvin, 1869 – 1872
  • Abraham Oakey Hall, 1862 – 1868
  • Nelson J. Waterbury, 1859 – 1861
  • Joseph Blunt , 1858 – 1859
  • Peter B. Sweeney, 1858 – 1858
  • Abraham Oakey Hall, 1855 – 1858
  • Lorenzo B. Shepard, 1854 – 1855
  • Nathaniel Bowditch Blunt, 1851 – 1854
  • James R. Whiting, 1838 – 1844
  • Ogden Hoffman, 1829 – 1835
  • Hugh Maxwell, 1821 – 1829
  • Pierre C. VanWyck, 1818 – 1821
  • Hugh Maxwell, 1817 – 1818

Notable Alumni

  • Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
  • Former Governors Thomas E. Dewey, Charles S. Whitman, and Eliot Spitzer;
  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor;
  • Judge Pierre N. Leval of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit;
  • Former New York City Corporation Counsel Peter Zimroth;
  • Best-selling author and famed sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein;
  • Former Chief Judges Charles Breitel and Stanley Fuld of the New York Court of Appeals;
  • Former United States Attorneys for the Southern District of New York Emory Buckner and George Z. Medalie;
  • Roslynn R. Mauskopf, former United States Attorney and now District Judge for the Eastern District of New York;
  • Barbara S. Jones and John Keenan, United States District Judges for the Southern District of New York;
  • Sterling Johnson and Dora Irizarry, United States District Judges for the Eastern District of New York;
  • Ellen N. Biben, New York State Inspector General, as well as former Inspectors General and now Judges of the Court of Claims Dineen Riviezzo and Jill Konviser;
  • Ronald G. Goldstock, the first Director of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force;
  • Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice;
  • Herbert J. Stern, former United States Attorney and District Judge for the District of New Jersey;
  • Anne Milgram, former Attorney General of New Jersey;
  • Robert E. O’Neill, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida;
  • Many other judges, lawyers in public service and private practice, academics, and others too numerous to mention.