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Eric Adams

Who Is Randy Mastro, the Lawyer Poised to Become a New Top Dog in the Adams Administration?

With rumors swirling about a new top lawyer in New York City—a former Giuliani deputy mayor who could potentially defend Mayor Eric Adams in civil court—we dug in to what New Yorkers should know about him.

Randy Mastro speaks as Mayor Eric Adams Launches NYC Legal Fellows Program. City Hall. November 2, 2022.
(Caroline Willis / Mayoral Photo Office)

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that there's yet another imminent shakeup in the Adams administration. New York City's current corporation counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix, the city's Corporation Counsel, who litigates civilly on behalf of the City, is on her way out, and City Hall is in the final stages of hiring her replacement. That replacement? Randy Mastro, a Republican former federal prosecutor who's currently working at corporate law firm King & Spalding, and has argued multiple reactionary lawsuits against the City in court in recent years. Currently, Mastro is representing New Jersey in its lawsuit against New York over congestion pricing. 

If he assumes the role—Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabien Levy would not confirm Mastro's future appointment to the Times—Mastro will be in charge of the legal team that represents city agencies, employees, and the mayor. In the Adams administration, that means (somewhat controversially) defending the mayor against a charge of sexual assault by a former NYPD colleague, which the colleague alleges occurred back in 1993, and also top Adams aide Timothy Pearson, who was accused in March of sexual harassing a female NYPD sergeant in 2022. The corporation counsel would also, as of now, take some of  the reins on defending the mayor from any charges related to the federal investigation into his 2021 mayoral campaign's alleged ties to the Turkish government, not to mention coming to the defense of other Adams administration officials, like Winnie Greco and Rana Abbasova, who've come under FBI scrutiny, too. In short, Mastro is likely about to become a very busy man.

According to the Daily News, Hinds-Radix's exit is linked to "disagreements she has had with top members of the Adams administration about sensitive legal matters," which reporter Chris Sommerfeldt described as including the sexual assault lawsuit against the mayor. Hinds-Radix, a former judge, has yet to comment to any outlet about her potential departure from her current role.

Some City Councilmembers have already made their feelings known about Mastro's prospective appointment to the corporation counsel position, which would require confirmation from the council to pass. A dozen City Councilmembers talked to the Daily News on Wednesday about blocking Mastro's appointment, including Progressive Caucus members Sandy Nurse, Tiffany Cabán, and Chi Ossé.

If the name "Randy Mastro" rings any bells, that's probably because Mastro has been a player in tristate area politics for decades—since he served as a top aide, then deputy mayor, to Rudy Giuliani. Here are a few snippets from Mastro's bio that may factor into why Adams wants this guy on his team, stat.

1. Randy Mastro has a long and winding resumé.

Mastro is a man who's lived many lives. He's been  a corporate lawyer, was then-Mayor Giuliani's chief of staff from 1994 to 1996, and deputy mayor for operations from 1996 to 1998, and also was a federal prosecutor. 

Mastro's career highlights include:

  • Representing AIG, Amazon, Madison Square Garden, Dow Jones, Verizon, Dart, DraftKings, Home Depot, Daimler, JPMorgan, GE Capital, Marsh McLennan, Vale, Estee Lauder, Unilever, Quest Diagnostics, Bear Stearns, Bank of New York Mellon, Vornado, The LeFrak Organization, Saks, and UBS Financial Services.
  • Accolades like being named “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by both Chambers USA and Benchmark, a “Litigation Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal, a “Trial Lawyer MVP” by Law360 in 2017, and a member of the 2023 City & State Law Power 100
  • A position as "Lecturer in Law" at University of Pennsylvania's Penn Carey Law school.
  • And per his biography on King & Spalding, "spearheaded the City’s crackdown on organized crime, for which he received La Cosa Nostra death threats."

Yes, when you're Randy Mastro, anything can happen—from defending Amazon to teaching a class to getting menaced by the mob—much like the city of New York itself.

2. Randy Mastro likes a fight.

The Times described Mastro as a "pit bull" in a 2014 article dedicated to his "aggressive tactics" in the courtroom—tactics that came into question when his firm was retained by New Jersey's then-governor Chris Christie, in the wake of the scandal known as Bridgegate. The firm's investigation, led by Mastro, left a female aide to Christie holding the bag for the bridge closure—and questions about the fairness of the investigation in the mind of one federal judge, who called Mastro's investigation "a 'calculated strategy' of 'opacity and gamesmanship,'" according to the Times, because Mastro failed to keep notes of witness interviews during the investigation.

Mastro was a frequent letter-writer to the New York Times opinion section in the '90s, where he weighed in forcefully on topics (often as member of the Giuliani administration) like local term limits (to block a third Bloomberg run—an anonymous source told New York Magazine that Mastro was the "the Luca Brasi of [that] operation"), street safety, New York City's job market, and the consolidation of cable TV. He also, in 2016, found time to pick up the pen again and defend his law firm's Bridgegate investigation. "We simply followed the evidence, and our investigation’s findings in all material respects mirrored those of two subsequent investigations, conducted by a joint legislative committee and the United States Attorney’s Office," he wrote. "The Times should stop clinging to a narrative contrary to the consistent findings of three separate investigations, including ours."

Mastro was also instrumental in letting Chevron off the hook for a $9 billion judgment by the Ecuadorian government, which found the oil company at fault in a landmark pollution class action lawsuit led by fellow U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger. Mastro, with his former law firm Gibson Dunn, led a RICO case against Donziger, accusing him of bribing Ecuadorian judges, which led Donziger being disbarred in New York state. As a result of contempt of court charges related to the RICO case, Donziger spent almost three years under house arrest. The same year he was released, 2022, Mastro got his new job at King & Spalding.

Mastro has continued to toss his hat into the ring on current New York City issues. He represented a group of Upper West Side residents in their successful fight to evict homeless New Yorkers from a vacant hotel in 2020. As part of that battle, he hired two former NYPD detectives to pretend to be plumbers in order to verify the address of a homeless activist.

He also represented a group of landlords in 2021, bringing an end to a state eviction moratorium, and represented Madison Square Garden Entertainment as it banned lawyers suing the company from its venues in 2022 and was investigated by the State Liquor Authority for the ban in 2023. Mastro is also currently representing New Jersey governor Phil Murphy's office in the state's federal lawsuit against New York City's congestion pricing laws

What can you say—Mastro likes a case that makes a good headline, and who makes more headlines than Mayor Adams?

3. Randy Mastro and Eric Adams have some mutuals

Nothing brings two people closer, faster, than having some friends in common. And one of Mastro's other famous clients includes REBNY chair, real estate titan and Adams ally Douglas Durst. Mastro represented Durst and his cousin, Jonathan, in a lawsuit against centrist political group No Labels filed earlier this year. The cousins filed suit against No Labels in New York state court after donating $145,000 to the group, charging that they'd been misled after it began backing various third-party candidates as part of its political strategy. 

But more important than a mutual connection is the connection that Mastro and Adams seem to have with each other. The Times reported that Mastro donated to Adams's reelection campaign last October, and in 2022, Mastro appeared alongside Adams at an announcement for a legal fellowship matching junior lawyers at private firms with one-year placements in the legal departments of City agencies. 

At that announcement, Brendan McGuire, then-chief counsel for City Hall (which is different from the City's corporation counsel), called Mastro "a real supporter of this administration" and "no stranger here to City Hall" while introducing him. Adams specifically thanked Mastro, as a "longtime government employee, a private citizen, an advocate for our city," and said that "Randy has just been amazing throughout the years that I've known him." 

Mastro was similarly complimentary:  "When the call came from the City administration to participate in this program, we at King & Spalding, of course, responded to the call," Mastro said when he took the podium. "But when it came from this mayor, Eric Adams, it was an easy call…We," he said, referring to the lawyers gathered on stage, "like you, love this city, and we want to see you succeed, because when you succeed, we all succeed on behalf of our city."

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