Attorneys

Dan Quart Runs for Manhattan District Lawyer on Prison-Justice Report

Dan Quart,

a state assemblyman for eastern Manhattan, says his decade in public office has prepared him to be the borough’s next district attorney, a job that he says can steer criminal-justice policy in a progressive direction.

“This is where I can make a difference, especially at this moment,” said Mr. Quart, one of eight Democrats running to be Manhattan district attorney in Tuesday’s primary.

In the final weeks of the race, Mr. Quart has been campaigning door to door while juggling committee and constituent work and completing a legislative session.

Dan Quart, running for district attorney, canvassed for support in Manhattan earlier this month.

In a heavily Democratic borough, the primary is seen as the decisive election for the four-year job, which incumbent

Cyrus Vance Jr.

is leaving after three terms.

Mr. Quart, 49 years old, has campaigned on reducing the prison population, including putting an end to prosecuting crimes closely associated with poverty, such as trespassing and commercial burglaries. He said he would revamp the sex-crimes unit and stop using conspiracy laws on certain gang prosecutions, which he said unfairly target people of color. He also plans to cut the Manhattan office’s budget.

He said he would recruit different types of prosecutors compared with Mr. Vance’s staff, in part by hiring local law-school graduates and helping to offset student-loan costs with the office’s asset-forfeiture money.

“I don’t want to preclude the possibility of working-class kids coming into the Manhattan D.A.’s office because of huge law school loans,” said Mr. Quart, who often cites his roots growing up in Washington Heights in a union family. “I was one of those kids.”

Mr. Quart says the Manhattan district attorney’s office can’t be reformed by a former prosecutor, aligning closely with

Tahanie Aboushi

and

Eliza Orlins,

the two other candidates with no prosecutorial experience.

Mr. Quart graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 1997. His two decades as a litigator have focused on personal-injury and insurance-defense cases. He has represented clients facing summonses and misdemeanors in Manhattan at various times over the past three years.

Some have criticized Mr. Quart as lacking the qualifications to be district attorney.

Dan Quart says he has sufficient managerial and courtroom experience to be Manhattan district attorney.

“He’s not a prosecutor,” said

Daniel R. Alonso,

a former federal prosecutor who was Mr. Vance’s former chief assistant. “He’s not a manager. He’s not even primarily a criminal lawyer. I admire his enthusiasm for his cause, and he may well be a very effective legislator, but that does not qualify him to be district attorney.”

Mr. Quart said that he has sufficient managerial and courtroom experience and that his work on criminal justice in Albany sets him apart.

In 2011, two months after taking office in the Assembly, he sponsored a bill to decriminalize gravity knives, which are a type of folding knife. Seven years and two vetoes later, the effort succeeded. The ban on gravity knives had a disproportionate effect, both in arrests and prosecutions, on people of color, he said. Because of the ban’s repeal, “3,800 to 4,000 people will never see the inside of the precinct or a courtroom,” said Mr. Quart.

Mr. Quart led the repeal of 50-a, a state law that prohibited public disclosure of law-enforcement disciplinary records, and has fought for the broad release of police-officer body-camera and dashboard-camera footage. He successfully led an effort to virtually eliminate bail laws.

Mr. Quart said his record on criminal justice policy proves how he will approach office policy “when the next gravity knife” arises.

“There’s no guesswork with me,” he said. “If reform is really what you’re looking for, why not choose the known quantity?”

Several Manhattan Democratic clubs and New York elected officials have endorsed Mr. Quart, including Rep.

Carolyn Maloney,

State Sen.

John Liu

and at least eight New York state Assembly members

“We need a prosecutor who really understands issues at the heart of the community, as opposed to just applying law and legal principles based on decades of historical bias,” said Mr. Liu, particularly in a moment marked by change and upheaval. “No other candidate has this conglomeration of experiences.”

Annmarie Giblin,

an attorney who has litigated with Mr. Quart, said he is a natural leader and problem solver.

“He would always emerge as the voice of reason, always had a solution that would bring everyone to the table and always move [the case] forward,” she said.

Manhattan District Attorney’s Race

Write to Deanna Paul at deanna.paul@wsj.com

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