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Meet Schneiderman's Replacement: NY's First Woman AG

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 10, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's entirely appropriate that Barbara Underwood replaces Eric Schneiderman, the disgraced former attorney general of New York.

Schneiderman resigned amidst allegations he physically abused four women. Underwood, a "highly experienced" lawyer, succeeds him as the first woman to become the state's top attorney.

It almost goes without saying that more women deserve leadership positions, especially when so many high-profile men seem to fail.

Her Second First

Underwood, 73, has been sworn in as New York's acting attorney general. She had been the state solicitor general since 2007, when she was appointed by then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo.

"She's an extraordinarily competent woman, so I have no fear in the immediate she will provide good stewardship in the office," said Cuomo, who is now governor.

Underwood started her public service career working for several district attorney's offices, then served as counsel and chief assistant in the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. She is not only the state's first female solicitor general, she was also the nation's first woman solicitor general.

She takes over the state attorney general's office at a time of turmoil, occasioned in part by Schneiderman's resignation but also by its civil rights lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein.

No "Alpha-Male"

In accepting the position, Underwood downplayed the high-profile matters. She told the New York Times that she wants to keep the office on track "protecting people against discrimination, protecting workers, and protecting against pollution."

"But I don't bring an alpha-male personality for sure," she said. "I think I bring the ability to bring people together and get consensus and offer help and guidance that doesn't threaten them."

Underwood said she doesn't know if that's because she is a woman. "But it feels connected to something a lot of women are socialized to do, which is to help rather than compete," she said.

Before her public service career, Underwood taught at Yale, Brooklyn, and New York University schools of law. She received her law degree from Georgetown, and clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court.

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