If you looked down the ballot on Election Day under the Attorney General column, Hewlett High School, administrators, teachers and students from the late 1960s and very early ’70s might have recognized a familiar name.
Michael Sussman, Hewlett High class of 1971, was the Green Party candidate for the state position that more often than not has served as a springboard to the Governor’s mansion in Albany.
Sussman, a Harvard Law School-educated litigator with more than 40 years of experience, represented the Yonkers Branch of the NAACP between 1981 and 2007, and won more than $400 million from Yonkers, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and New York state to repair the damages those entities caused by promoting school and housing segregation in Yonkers. The legal battle was dramatized in the HBO miniseries, “Show Me a Hero.”
He also won $45 million from the New York state for black and Latino civil service workers who suffered discrimination in promotions due to biases in civil service tests, and a $6 million settlement for the family of DJ Henry, a black student at Pace University killed by a white village cop in Westchester County in 2010.
The District Attorney wouldn’t prosecute. Sussman asked then Gov. David Paterson to appoint a special prosecutor, but Paterson refused. So Sussman sued civilly and won. He continues to advocate for a state law requiring independent prosecutors because, according to Sussman, DAs and local law enforcement have an inherent conflict of interest in police brutality cases because they work so closely together on a daily basis.
“Although I have been a lifelong Democrat I despair of attaining this important office within its ranks without having to compromise ethics to political expediency,” he wrote on his candidate website. “I changed my affiliation to the Green Party as a way to get on the ballot in November without ‘making the deal’ that would put me in political debt.”