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Ethics for Government Lawyers 2020

Speaker(s): Karen Griffin, Lisa Zornberg, Orelia E. Merchant
Recorded on: Jan. 31, 2020
PLI Program #: 278946

Lisa Zornberg is a litigation partner based in the firm’s New York 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 complex civil litigation.

Prior to joining Debevoise in 2019, Ms. Zornberg was the Chief of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. As Chief of the Criminal Division from 2016 to 2018, Ms. Zornberg 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 (FCPA) and RICO violations, terrorism, public corruption, construction fraud, art fraud, violence and drug offenses. Ms. Zornberg first joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1998, where, over the next 14 years, she served as an Assistant United States Attorney in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions, rising to supervisory ranks in each division. From 2004 to 2005, she was Deputy Chief of Appeals in the Civil Division and from 2011 to 2012, she was Co-Chief of the Complex Frauds Unit in the Criminal Division. From 2012 to 2016, Ms. Zornberg was a partner at a premier New York City litigation boutique, where she defended corporate officers and individuals in criminal and regulatory matters, and handled complex litigation.

Nicknamed the “tiny tornado” by one New York newspaper for her effectiveness in court, Ms. Zornberg has tried 15 cases to verdict, in both civil and criminal matters. Ms. Zornberg has lectured nationally about current trends in federal law enforcement.

Ms. Zornberg is a recipient of the Department of Justice Marshall Award, the department’s highest award given to attorneys for excellence in legal performance. She is also the recipient of the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation’s Federal Prosecutor of the Year award.

Ms. Zornberg graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1991 and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1994. Early in her legal career, Ms. Zornberg clerked for the Hon. Sonia Sotomayor, when Justice Sotomayor served as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Orelia E. Merchant (personal capacity) currently serves as Chief Deputy Attorney General for State Counsel, a member of the New York State Attorney General’s executive leadership team.  Ms. Merchant heads the Division of State Counsel, which consists of seven bureaus statewide that handle litigation involving the state, its agencies and officials.  She oversees over 8,000 active cases statewide, and manages 450 employees, including 250 attorneys, in prosecution and defense of actions in state and federal court on behalf of executive branch officials, the legislature, and state agencies, officials and employees in virtually all substantive areas of the law; defense of the state against actions in the Court of Claims involving malpractice, contract disputes and property condemnation; recovery of money owed to the state though affirmative litigation; and legal assistance provided to state agencies in connecting with the acquisition and disposition of public land.

From 2002 to 2019, Ms. Merchant served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, where she had a record of distinguished service.  She most recently served as an Executive Assistant United States Attorney with direct oversight of the Office’s Civil and Administrative Divisions, providing counsel with regard to a variety of significant cases and matters handled by the Office and non-litigation matters impacting the Office’s operation.  During her tenure as an AUSA in the Civil Division, Ms. Merchant managed a diverse, demanding, and complex caseload, handling cases in virtually every civil practice area.  She has prosecuted asset forfeiture, environmental, health care fraud, and mortgage fraud cases, and defended employment discrimination, medical malpractice, bankruptcy, immigration, personal injury, prisoner litigation, constitutional challenges, and federal program litigation cases.  Ms. Merchant received a Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an AUSA – Civil from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in 2016.

Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, Ms. Merchant served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions, prosecuting general crimes, violent and drug crimes, criminal environmental cases, and defending the government in tort and employment discrimination actions.  She also served as an Assistant Regional Counsel for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, in Chicago, Illinois. 

Ms. Merchant is a graduate of Tulane University Law School, received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics from Dillard University, and a Master’s degree in marine science from the College of William and Mary.

Karen Griffin is Chief Ethics Officer in the New York City Law Department, Office of the Corporation Counsel, where she has worked since 1995. She is responsible for counseling and training City attorneys in a wide array of legal ethics and professional responsibility matters. Karen is also the Chair of the Law Department’s Committee on Professional Responsibility and Ethics and served on the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics from 2012-2016. Prior to her current role, Karen was a member of the Law Department’s Appeals Division and its Tax & Bankruptcy Litigation Division. In 1998, she was a recipient of the New York City Bar Association’s Municipal Affairs Award for outstanding achievement as an Assistant Corporation Counsel.