Real McCoy? Gov. eyes ‘Law & Order’ actor for high court

By Curtis Riboflavin

Published January 12th, 2015

ALBANY – In a stunning move, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to nominate Sam Waterston, an award-winning actor who successfully prosecuted hundreds of fictional killers on television, to fill a vacancy on the state ‘s highest court.

“It looks like a done deal,” a high-level Cuomo administration official told the Smudge.  

Waterston, 74, wowed audiences from 1994 to 2010 as justice-craving New York City prosecutor Jack McCoy, a ruthless legal eagle who rose from an assistant to Manhattan district attorney in a star-studded career on NBC’s “Law & Order.”

McCoy, who’s not even real, was declared a "Living Landmark" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. But skeptics note Waterston has no real legal experience whatsoever and called the nomination "ridiculously shallow and moronic."

Nonetheless, administration officials say Waterston’s record on television was too good to ignore. A Yale graduate who attended the Sorbonne in Paris, Waterston has played presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, as well. The actor has also served on the Advisory Committee for the Lincoln Bicentennial, voiced Lincoln in an exhibit -- and delivered Lincoln's Cooper Union speech on May 5, 2004.

“Tell these naysayers to put that in their pipe and smoke it,” an angry Cuomo reportedly told insiders when he heard of the backlash, according to a person who was there.

Waterston’s detractors note McCoy, widely considered annoying and sanctimonious, repeatedly used strategies legal scholars described as “stupid.” McCoy also regularly ignored direct orders from his boss, fictional District Attorney Adam Schiff, who often told McCoy, “Are you out of your mind?”

McCoy, a Democrat, also worked on the television show for Republican District Attorney Arthur Branch, played by real-life GOP politico Fred Thompson.

“How can you deny Waterston just because he’s an actor when Thompson, who played a fictional character, is a real-life politician?” asked Andy Boing, a longtime state Capitol observer.


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