December 5th, 2018
By Colby Hamilton
Janet Sabel, a chief deputy attorney general under New York AG Barbara Underwood, is set to return to the Legal Aid Society in early January to take over as interim attorney-in-chief and CEO of the nation’s largest public defender organization. LAS has sought new leadership since Seymour James stepped down earlier this year. According to the organization, Sabel’s return will help facilitate the search for a permanent person to take on the leadership roles. Richard Davis, the chair of LAS’s board of directors and now in private practice, said Sabel has made a career demonstrating “she is a fighter for justice.”
“Janet’s 25-year career at Legal Aid, followed by eight years at the New York State Attorney General’s Office in important leadership positions, make her the ideal person to guide the Legal Aid Society during this interim period,” Davis said in a statement. Sabel joined the state Attorney General’s Office in 2011, under then-AG Eric Schneiderman, as executive deputy AG for social justice. She was promoted to first deputy AG of affirmative litigation in 2013, before becoming one of two chief deputies in 2015.
During her tenure in the office, Sabel oversaw a number of high-profile actions, including a landmark antitrust case involving the sale of Alzheimer drugs, the state’s first enforcement of mental health parity laws, and a resolution of a redlining investigation of a Buffalo bank. She has also been a key part of the AG’s challenges to the Trump administration’s immigration, travel ban and sanctuary city policies. She oversaw successful litigation efforts to restore federal funding for tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers, as well fraud litigation against Trump University.
Prior to joining the AG’s Office, Sabel held a number of top positions at Legal Aid during her decades with the organization, including as attorney-in-chief of LAS’s citywide immigration law unit.
In a statement, Sabel said she was honored to be returning to Legal Aid.
“Having served in several different capacities ranging from staff attorney to general counsel and chief administrative officer, I look forward to continuing to build a supportive workplace for all of our employees and to ensuring that the Legal Aid Society has the funding it needs to fulfill its mandate and remain the premier legal services organization in the country fighting for justice for its clients,” she said.
In a statement, Underwood called Sabel an extraordinary public servant and a passionate advocate for the most vulnerable.
“For the past eight years, she has been the driving force behind so many of our office’s efforts, especially our work protecting New Yorkers from discrimination by for-profit companies and the federal government,” the attorney general said. “We will dearly miss Janet, and Legal Aid is lucky to have her back to lead the organization.”