Former Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino Jr. — who was succeeded in the post by Mimi Rocah — has left nearly four decades of public service to join the Rye law firm Dorf & Nelson LLP.
Also joining the law firm’s litigation department as partner is former First Deputy Westchester District Attorney Paul Noto.
“What I’m looking forward to with Dorf & Nelson is a unique opportunity that will give me the chance to be part of their litigation team but also be involved in the firm’s strategic planning, helping them in making decisions in expanding their areas of practice,” Scarpino told the Business Journal.
Scarpino said for all of his years in public service the work never really seemed like work.
The Mount Vernon native first entered public service as assistant corporation counsel in Mount Vernon. Next, he became a special agent for the FBI investigating civil rights violations along with crimes such as kidnappings and extortion. He also worked on espionage cases. He subsequently worked for Bankers Trust Co.
In 1984, at age 32, he began serving as a judge in Mount Vernon, followed by county and New York state judgeships. In 2000, he was elected Westchester County Surrogate. In 2015, he joined the law firm of DelBello, Donnellan, Weingarten, Wise & Wiederkehr LLP. In 2017, Scarpino was elected Westchester DA.
“During my four years as district attorney we focused very much on fair and just prosecutions as well as on the administrative side to make sure that the district attorney’s office moved into the 21st century,” he said.
“One of the important things when I first came into the DA’s office was to create a new case management system, which provided us with the capabilities of developing portals so we could get the police departments to send information to us directly and then we have another portal to send it out to defense lawyers as required under changes to the way discovery is handled,” Scarpino said. “If we hadn’t have done that we never would have been able to live up to the new requirements under the legislation for discovery.”
Scarpino said that an important part of running an office with 245 people was giving the staff the tools and technology to do the job better. Part of what he did was to find the funds to obtain laptops for all of the assistant DAs.
“The fact of the matter is if those ADAs did not have those laptops to work from home the office would not have been able to function during Covid,” he said. “With Covid it was crisis management. We were able to do our job and at the same time keep our people safe.”
During his time as DA, Scarpino focused on violent criminals. He did that by creating a special guns, gangs and narcotics investigative group.
“Working with our investigators and all the local police departments over the four years we were able to indict and convict and sentence over 70 major gang leaders. And by doing that you took violent criminals off the street. And during that period of time, the last 3½ years, we had a tremendous drop in violent crimes, whether it was homicides, burglaries, robberies, assaults, simply by taking the violent criminals off the streets.”
Scarpino also pointed to the success of “Operation Sledgehammer,” which last month resulted breaking up an auto insurance fraud ring that had been operating in Westchester and the Bronx. The alleged perpetrators, individuals and auto body shops, were charged with grand larceny, money laundering, insurance fraud and enterprise corruption.
“You would think that because I’m coming from the DA’s office that I might be considering dealing with white collar criminal defense work or something of that nature,” he said in regard to his new role with Dorf & Nelson. “I don’t rule out something like that or being part of a decision to create something of that nature within the firm,” he said.
“I started as a special agent with the FBI and what you do as DA, as an administrator, you’re running and working with investigations. I think there’s even an additional opportunity to be involved in internal corporate investigations. Corporations run into problems in which they desire to have an outside group come in and investigate it and that is clearly something that Dorf & Nelson would be a great platform to do that from. They have background in corporations, they have background in labor and employment. Many times corporations have internal investigations that they’re concerned about.”
Scarpino commented on recent incidents around the country that have resulted in calls for justice reform and better police training.
“We all still have to recall there are victims and witnesses that have to be protected,” Scarpino said. “People are awakening to the fact that we have to focus more on the quality and training of police officers who are involved in these matters and the responsibility of those in charge to do what’s right. Our job is to serve and protect, and when we stray from that, whoever does that, they do a tremendous injustice to all of the quality police officers who are out there.”
Looking forward to the move
Noto, like Scarpino, has been a public servant for years.
A practicing attorney for more than 28 years, he was mayor of the village of Mamaroneck from 1985 to 1993. From 1993 to 2001, he was on the Westchester County Board of Legislators representing District 6 encompassing Port Chester, Harrison, Rye Brook and part of Mamaroneck. In January 2017, he joined the District Attorney’s Office.
Noto told the Business Journal that he hoped to be able to use his experience in government and private practice to help Dorf & Nelson grow.
“I have a lot of municipal experience and I hope to do municipal work representing municipalities and individuals who have business with municipalities,” Noto said. “I did quite a bit of land use and zoning and planning work. I hope to do that at Dorf & Nelson plus real estate, which is transactional and of course is very much coordinated with the land use part.”
Noto said that his experience has shown that developers often make mistakes by going into a project thinking they’ll get approvals for whatever they want.
“I think you have to be very careful,” Noto said. “Listen to neighborhoods. Listen to people. It may take a little longer but I think it’s well worth it in the end.”
Noto said that he’s excited about the opportunities and challenges offered by the move.
“I’ve been in and out of the private sector for most of my career. I’m familiar with the transition back and forth and I hope it will be a very smooth one,” Noto said.