Public Defender Eliza Orlins runs for Manhattan District Attorney

New York City Public Defender, Eliza Orlins.
New York City Public Defender, Eliza Orlins.

New York City Public Defender Eliza Orlins has announced her candidacy for Manhattan district attorney on a platform designed to transform criminal justice and make New York safer for every resident.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve been a public defender here in Manhattan, where I’ve represented over 3,000 New Yorkers, people who didn’t have the money to pay for a lawyer; I fight for justice for them,” said Orlins in her announcement video.

“Every day in court, I fight against a criminal legal system that’s cruel and unjust, one that’s rigged for the rich and powerful and against everyone else – a system that fails us, that devastates Black, Brown, and low-income communities, that tears families apart, that hurts innocent victims, and that does not keep us safe,” she added.

“We can do better. We must,” Orlins continued. “I know the system from the inside, so I know we can’t change the system unless we change the DA (District Attorney). That’s why I’m running to be your next Manhattan District Attorney.”

Since 2009, Orlins said she has served as a public defender at The Legal Aid Society, where she has represented more than 3,000 low-income New Yorkers targeted for and charged with crimes by current Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

She said she has represented and fought on behalf of New York’s most vulnerable communities—Black and Brown individuals, as well as those who could not afford a high-priced lawyer.

During that same period, she charged that Vance has let the rich and powerful commit brutal crimes—including rape and sexual assault—”without a slap on the wrist.”

“Instead, Vance has declared war on the city’s minority and impoverished communities,” Orlins said.

As District Attorney, she said she will continue fighting to transform the criminal justice system, decriminalize poverty and make the city’s streets safer for every New Yorker, as she has fought to do over the last decade.

In her decade as a criminal defense attorney for The Legal Aid Society, Orlins said she has litigated in both New York State Supreme Court and New York State Criminal Court.

She said she also trains new lawyers to argue for bail, win suppression hearings, cross-examine witnesses and compose powerful closing arguments.

Orlins garnered a national following after competing on two seasons of the CBS television show “Survivor” and a season of CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” which she uses to advocate for criminal justice reform and other social justice issues.

Orlins is a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Syracuse University, and a cum laude graduate of Fordham Law School.

While in law school, Orlins externed at The Legal Aid Society and participated in the Criminal Defense Clinic through New York County Defenders.

Additionally, she was the Symposium Editor at the Urban Law Journal at Fordham and clerked for New York State Supreme Court Judge James A. Yates.

Orlins said she has developed a reputation as “a relentless champion for the underdog.”

She said she has taken on “the toughest of fights for the very people our system is rigged against, including our Black and Brown neighbors and those in lower-income communities.”