Yesterday, longtime Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced that he would not seek re-election this fall. The 89-year-old, who was first elected to the position in 1975, told reporters, "Some people are slow to learn. It took me a long time to realize I was getting older... I recently realized I'm 25 years beyond normal retirement age. I decided I would not push my luck any further." Both the Daily News and Post report how his wife Lucinda Franks "repeated some questions for her hard-of-hearing husband." The Post adds that the press conference was "hastily scheduled" after it broke news of the retirement.
The NY Times looks at Morgenthau the man and his legacy, noting how he "projected the image of the aristocratic prosecutor, an unflappable, even shy sort," but with "ambition and reach [that] had a boundless and very New York feel...[Morgenthau] dragged the office into the 20th, and then the 21st century. He founded sex-crime and consumer-affairs units, instructed his prosecutors to chase after slumlords and added Spanish-speaking staff and interpreters at a time when such actions registered as at least mildly revolutionary. He revamped the legendary homicide bureau, shaking up sinecures that extended back to Thomas E. Dewey in the 1930s." And before working as Manhattan DA, he was a federal prosecutor appointed by JFK in 1961—the Daily News has a timeline of his career while the Post points out some of those prosecuted includes John Gotti, P. Diddy, Russell Crowe and Robert Chambers.
Morgenthau's tenure was hailed by city and state officials—and even a certain producer of a ubiquitous television program. Mayor Bloomberg said, "Robert Morgenthau has been a superb District Attorney, and few people have served the City longer or more ably. Over the past four decades, he has become a New York institution, and he has set the standard for district attorneys across the nation." Senator Charles Schumer said, "Every so often a giant in their field comes along and in the world of criminal justice. Robert Morgenthau was just that man." Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “He truly is a legend and he’s been a major force in law enforcement throughout the country, and we all know about his international reach as well. He’s just an icon.” And Law & Order producer Dick Wolf said, "He was the inspiration for the Adam Schiff character when I created 'Law & Order' and it worked out very well."
Friends say that Morgenthau plans to spend more time with his family after serving out this term (he'll turn 90 in August). Now the race is on for Manhattan DA hopefuls. Leslie Crocker-Snyder, who unsuccessfully ran against Morgenthau in previous primaries, will be a contender as will Morgenthau's "righthand man" Dan Castleman and Morgenthau's friend and former ADA Cyrus Vance, plus other former ADAs, like Richard Aborn. Newsday's Dan Janison wrote, "Politically, the departure means more than filling the job itself. The Manhattan DA's office has been the pace-setter in the region regarding specially-funded state programs that affect district attorneys' offices -- a budgeting operation that court insiders say has impact on Nassau, Suffolk, and the city's other four boroughs."
Morgenthau refused to discuss his successor, "I've crossed one bridge today. I'm not crossing a second bridge."