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Ethics for Government Lawyers 2021


Speaker(s): David Sarratt, Karen Griffin, Orelia E. Merchant
Recorded on: Jan. 27, 2021
PLI Program #: 305427

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.


David Sarratt is a partner in the firm’s Litigation Department. He is a seasoned trial lawyer whose practice focuses on white collar criminal defense, internal investigations and complex civil litigation. Mr. Sarratt has significant experience in the technology sector and is recommended by The Legal 500 US for Technology: Data Protection, Privacy and Cyber Law (2016).

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Sarratt served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York from 2010 to 2014. As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Sarratt supervised and participated in a wide variety of investigations and prosecutions, involving international terrorism, cyber crime, financial and health care fraud, racketeering and other crimes. He successfully tried numerous cases to verdict and briefed and argued appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. 

Mr. Sarratt served as a law clerk for the Hon. Douglas H. Ginsburg, United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, from 2004 to 2005, and for the Hon. John Gleeson, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, from 2005 to 2006. 

Mr. Sarratt received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004, where he graduated Order of the Coif and was an Articles Editor of the Virginia Law Review. He earned a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Virginia in 2000.