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Mayor Adams Appoints Lisa Zornberg as City Hall Chief Counsel

July 26, 2023

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NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced that Lisa Zornberg, former chief of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, will serve as City Hall chief counsel. Zornberg will assume her role following the planned departure of current City Hall Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire in August.

In addition to serving as both Mayor Adams’ and City Hall’s counsel, Zornberg will oversee 10 agencies: the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Mayor’s Office of Risk Management and Compliance, the New York City Business Integrity Commission, the New York City Commission On Human Rights, the New York City Department of Records and Information Services, the Office of the Administrative Justice Coordinator, and the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

“It is my great honor to announce Lisa Zornberg as New York City’s next chief counsel,” said Mayor Adams. “She is a dedicated public servant who has taken on the corrupt and the criminal, keeping our nation and our city safe. She knows what it takes to ensure justice is served and democracy is protected, and was even once dubbed ‘the tiny tornado’ for her work. We know she will now be a force for good for our city’s residents. Without question, she is the right leader for the right time, and ready to pick up the baton where Brendan McGuire is leaving off. I want to thank Brendan for his service to this city, and for being one of my most trusted advisors and a close friend. Since day one, he has been an independent thinker and he has never shied away from telling me like it is. He is a great legal mind, and he will be missed around City Hall.”

“This is the greatest city in the world, and being able to serve New Yorkers as part of the Adams administration is exciting beyond words,” said incoming City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. “A government run with integrity and passion for solving real problems remains, in my view, the best way to lift up people and communities, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m looking forward to putting everything I’ve learned and every skill I have to work on behalf of New Yorkers.”

“It has been a privilege to be a part of this team, and I’m grateful to Mayor Adams for giving me the opportunity to serve the city I love,” said outgoing City Hall Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire. “In Lisa, the city is gaining a dedicated, rigorous, and strategic leader who will hit the ground running in support of the administration and all New Yorkers. I’m confident she’ll excel as our city’s next chief counsel.”

“Brendan McGuire has been a dedicated counselor and advisor to the mayor and a dear friend,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “While Brendan will be missed, I am thrilled to welcome Lisa Zornberg to the team. Her experience, passion, and commitment will serve our city well, and I’m looking forward to working with her on some of the biggest issues our city faces.”

 “As someone who’s practiced law for many years, I know an exceptional lawyer when I see one — and between Brendan, Judge Sylvia Hinds-Radix, and now Lisa, this administration has some of the city’s best legal minds,” said Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack. “I’m excited to welcome Lisa to the team, and I’m grateful to Brendan for his dedicated service to the mayor and City Hall.”

“Congratulations to Lisa Zornberg on a well-deserved appointment. Lisa has a most impressive resume, which shows that she will lend her expertise and skills to our administration’s mission to ‘Get Stuff Done!’ She is a welcome addition to our team, and I look forward to working in partnership with Lisa to fulfill Mayor Adams’ agenda and move New York City forward,” said Chief Advisor to the Mayor Ingrid P. Lewis-Martin. “To my dear colleague Brendan: Words pale to express my deepest thanks for all you’ve done for this administration and, moreover, this city. Your mark is indelible! May your next chapter be your best ever.”

About Lisa Zornberg

Lisa Zornberg is currently a litigation partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, based in the firm’s New York City office. She is a member of the White Collar & Regulatory Defense Group, where her practice focuses on white collar defense, regulatory enforcement actions, and internal investigations — including cyber investigations — for corporations and financial institutions as well as complex civil litigation. Zornberg also co-heads associate training for the firm’s litigation department.

Prior to joining Debevoise in 2019, Zornberg was the chief of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she supervised approximately 170 federal prosecutors and oversaw the office’s criminal investigations and prosecutions, including of corporate and securities fraud, cybercrime, health care fraud, criminal violations of U.S. sanctions, Federal Corrupt Practices Act and RICO violations, terrorism, public corruption, construction fraud, art fraud, violence, and drug offenses. Zornberg first joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1998.

Earlier in her legal career, Zornberg clerked for the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, when Justice Sotomayor served as a U.S. District judge for the Southern District of New York.

Zornberg is co-chair of the United Jewish Appeal’s White Collar & Securities Enforcement Executive Committee, a Board member of the Federal Bar Council, a Board member of the Office of the Appellate Defender, and a former national vice chair of the American Bar Association’s White Collar Committee. She is a recipient of the U.S. Department of Justice Marshall Award, the department’s highest award given to attorneys for excellence in legal performance. Additionally, Zornberg is the recipient of the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation’s Federal Prosecutor of the Year award.

Zornberg graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and cum laude from Harvard Law School.

“Lisa Zornberg is a brilliant legal mind with the heart of a committed public servant,” said U.S. Representative Dan Goldman. “As Mayor Adams looks to tackle the biggest issues facing our city and deliver results for New Yorkers across the five boroughs, I know that Lisa’s integrity, judgment, and uncompromising desire to do good will be an invaluable asset. I applaud the mayor for this decision and know that his administration will benefit from Lisa’s addition.”

“Having worked with Lisa both as a partner at Debevoise and as a federal prosecutor, I consider her to be among the most talented and hardworking lawyers of her generation,” said Mary Jo White, former chair, United States Securities and Exchange Commission, former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York, and senior chair, Debevoise & Plimpton. “She brings unsurpassed judgment and an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing in every aspect of her work. The city is fortunate to have Lisa in this critical public service role.”

“Lisa’s unparalleled intellect, experience, energy and integrity will serve her well in meeting New York City’s diverse and challenging legal needs,” said Andrew Ceresney, former director of enforcement, Securities and Exchange Commission and partner, Debevoise & Plimpton. “Having known Lisa for 25 years since we were young prosecutors, she is a fantastic lawyer, and I’m confident that the  mayor’s office, as well as the people of New York City, will benefit from her sound advice and counsel.”   

“Lisa Zornberg is a fantastic lawyer, crisis manager, and problem solver,” said Michael Bosworth, former deputy assistant and deputy counsel to President Barack Obama, former co-chief of the Complex Frauds Unit for the Southern District of New York, and partner and deputy general counsel, Goldman Sachs. “Throughout her career as a federal prosecutor and as a civil litigator, Lisa has excelled because she is smart, she is tenacious, and she is fearless. The mayor and the entire city will no doubt benefit from her judgment and guidance.”

“Lisa is whip-smart, possesses great judgment, and is calm in a crisis,” said Robert Khuzami, former deputy U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York, and chief legal officer, Guggenheim Partners. “New Yorkers are extraordinarily well-served with her helping to address the challenges of this great city.”


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