The following lists all characters, major and minor, of the "mothership" Law & Order series.
Sergeant Max Greevey
- Big Fun
- Deadpan Snarker
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Got shot in the first episode of Season Two.
- Raised Catholic: '80s Catholic. It can be somewhat bizarre viewed thirty years later.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: He appeared in only one season of the show, which considering its length is absolutely nothing.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He hates walkup apartment buildings.
Detective Mike Logan
- Abusive Parents: His dad hit his mom. His mom got drunk and hit him.
- Alcoholic Parent: His Lady Drunk mother.
- Breakout Character: Most people with an opinion say it's not Law & Order without Lennie Briscoe, but there's a good number who don't think it's Law & Order without Lennie Briscoe or Mike Logan. His departure from the show was considered to be the loss of "the heart" of Law & Order.
- Cartwright Curse: His partners sure do get shot a lot.
- Catchphrase: "(Criminal commits some crime and then does something mundane or fun?)... Now THAT is cold."
- Cowboy Cop: Not so much a cowboy as he is a hothead, but the practical outcome can be pretty similar.
- Deadpan Snarker: Consistently. His partnership with Briscoe was a war of one-liners.
- Fair Cop: See immediately above.
- Fatal Flaw: Mike has a very short temper.
- Forgotten Childhood Friend: The case that uncovered his Rape as Backstory past kicks off with the death of a policeman who was Logan's friend when they were young.
- Hollywood Atheist: Due to his abusive childhood at the hands of religious individuals. Logan has no faith in the Catholic church as an institution, but his thoughts on God are a bit less clear. This thread is tugged again in the Criminal Intent series with a somewhat open resolution. He does make it inside a church again before death.
- Hot-Blooded: He's the first through the door when it's kicked down and the most likely to put his hands on a suspect.
- It's Personal: After Max is killed, which is ironic given the bad blood between the two actors.
- Mr. Fanservice: He's played by Chris "Mr. Big" Noth.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: During his time on the show, he makes comments that could variously be described as sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and homophobic (although he seems to more or less get over that one in his final episode). He seems to be a misanthropist above all else and does show legitimate remorse when he sees how the black (and offensive) humour common in the force is taken by outsiders.
- Put on a Bus: After punching out a homophobic city councilman (and probable murderer) for claiming they were Not So Different, he was exiled to Staten Island. The Made-for-TV Movie Exile: A Law & Order Movie brought him back five years later, and he eventually returns as part of the Law & Order: Criminal Intent cast.
- Quip to Black: His designated job before passing the baton to Briscoe.
- Rape as Backstory: A friend set him up to be molested by a Catholic priest as a young boy.
- Really Gets Around: Mike has a lot of ex-girlfriends, given the number of references he makes to them and Briscoe's comments about his love life.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: After publicly punching a homophobic politician, who got off a murder charge on a technicality, Logan is sent to Staten Island on the Domestic Disputes Department, a severe demotion for such a talent detective. The only reason he wasn't fired outright was because the politician in question was such a creep.
- Transplant: From the original series to Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Captain Donald Cragen
- The Alcoholic: Part of his backstory.
- Bald of Awesome: Bald. Fairly sarcastic, but awesome.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: His departure wasn't explained until the episode "Bad Faith" three years later, which revealed that he was heading up the Anti-Corruption Task Force.
- Clear My Name: In "Blue Wall," in which he is suspected of corruption due to guilt by association.
- Da Chief: First head of the 27th in the series.
- Deadpan Snarker: Merciless. Don't ask him about verbal altercations.
- No Indoor Voice: Considering the rate of turnover, can you blame him?
- Team Dad: Averted. He takes on this role in SVU.
- Transplant: From the original series to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Sergeant Phil Cerreta
- By-the-Book Cop: Never uses any form of trickery, and is always polite to even the worst of suspects, but is still a very effective detective.
- Cool Hat: The ushanka of awesome.
- Cool Old Guy: Same deal as Max.
- Family Man: One of the few L&O franchise characters to boast a relatively functional home life, he's dedicated to his wife and five children. With young victims in particular, Cerreta can be downright fatherly.
- Put on a Bus: Shot by a gun dealer in "Prince Of Darkness", Cerreta accepted a desk job afterwards.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: For Max Greevey. They look so similar a casual viewer might not figure it out. Except that only one of them dies for real. Both of them are rather large men. According to Jerry Orbach, while he was filming one of his first episodes on the streets of New York, a kid said to him, "You're the new fat guy, right?"
- We Hardly Knew Ye: One season and eight episodes. Replaced with Lennie Briscoe, the man who became the face of the franchise, so most people don't even remember Phil, even though he was on for longer than Greevey.
Detective Lennie Briscoe
- The Alcoholic: A major part of his backstory as well as a plot point in one episode. When introduced, he's sober. In "Aftershock," he falls off the wagon, which starts the chain of events that leads to Claire's death. He starts going back to AA after the events of that episode.
- The Atoner: To his children. Not surprising, as he was raised Catholic.
- Breakout Character: There is a large group of people who think it's not Law & Order if it doesn't have Lennie Briscoe. He was the face of the show along with Jack McCoy.
- The Cast Show Off: A striking aversion. Despite Jerry Orbach being a Tony Award-winning song and dance man who even recorded a solo album, Lennie Briscoe never sings a single note on the show, and at one point claims to be no good at music. However, Orbach did have a few occasions to display his talents at trick shots in pool.
- Character Death: Upon actor Jerry Orbach's death, both Detective Logan and Detective Green referenced Briscoe's (off-screen) death, also from cancer.
- Cool Old Guy: Lennie Briscoe was the defining example on '90s television.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lennie made the Quip to Black trope. One series of adverts for the show were titled Briscoe's Best.
- Disappeared Dad: Because of his drinking and divorce, he wasn't the best father, and his present day relationships with his daughters are strained at best. He blames himself for the death of his younger daughter Cathy, believing that if they'd had a better relationship she wouldn't have started dealing drugs and subsequently been killed by her former dealer.
- Dirty Cop: There are hints of this in his past, when he was a drinker. In the present, it's a role he plays to the hilt to get snitches to trust him, but the audience never sees anything but decency from him. However, his knowledge of the dirty cop play book often gives him the inside track on cases.
- Generally, if a defense attorney wants to make Briscoe look bad on the stand, they'll imply he's this, to varying degrees of success.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: Briscoe was an absolute master of these.Defense Attorney: Why whack the defense attorney, why not the D.A?Briscoe: You kill the D.A, somebody might actually care.
- Fatal Flaw: Briscoe had drinking problems.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most synonymous characters with the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the third season.
- Known Only by Their Nickname Lennie's full name isn't seen or spoken until his final episode: it's Leonard J. Briscoe.
- The nameplate on his desk, however, read Leonard W. Briscoe.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: It's downplayed in later episodes, but his first appearance has him make some pretty xenophobic remarks about Italians and Latinos.
- Papa Wolf: Although he doesn't get along well with his daughters, he loves them both dearly and is devastated when one of his daughters is murdered near the end of the eighth season. Then, he's offered a chance to put a hit on his daughter's killer. His daughter's killer later turns up dead, allegedly from a heroin overdose; whether or not Lennie was involved is left ambiguous.
- Parental Neglect: Unfortunately, he was this to his daughters; his present-day relationships with them are strained as a result, and he deeply regrets it.
- Quip to Black: The Trope Codifier.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Lennie predates the regular issuing of automatics, so he keeps his .38 to the day he leaves the show.
- Sherlock Scan: When he first shows up at a crime scene, he immediately and correctly deduces that the uniformed officer on the scene was lying about what he was doing and where he was, and identifies both: eating donuts at a particular shop, based on the powdered sugar on his blues.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted; he's notably different from his predecessors. Where they were both fairly reasonable, well-adjusted family men, Briscoe is a snarky, cynical recovering alcoholic with two failed marriages behind him.
- Transplant: Orbach left the show to do Trial By Jury, because his prostate cancer was getting worse and Trial By Jury, being a Law Procedural, made his work less demanding. Unfortunately, Orbach succumbed to his cancer, which had made him so weak that they had to re-write his last scene in the series to accommodate him.
- UST: Frequently flirts with Dr. Rogers, though it's hard to say what he actually feels. But he did take her to the opera once, according to her.
Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
- Black Boss Lady: Black, the boss, a lady. What more can be said?
- By-the-Book Cop: Demands that her detectives toe the line, and when they engage in unethical or illegal conduct (such as when Briscoe perjured himself to try and convict a cop-killer) she will chew them out for it.
- Da Chief: Second head of the house, from Cragen's departure to the very last episode.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: God help you if you try to baby her, she will not stand for it.
- Do Wrong, Right: When Lupo and Bernard are involved in the shooting of a suspect, Van Buren remarks that one of them killed the man... and the other needs to hit the target range.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Van Buren finishes out the series engaged to her new boyfriend, and after a grueling battle with cancer, the final moments of the entire series are her receiving a phonecall that she's in the clear.
- A Father to His Men: She tried several times unsuccessfully to have Logan transferred back to her unit, after he was exiled to Staten Island.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: As a Reasonable Authority Figure, Van Buren will sometimes step in and play Good Cop in contrast to her own detectives' Bad Cop. Some suspects might wish they'd stuck with the Bad Cops, though, as Van Buren can be a chillingly effective interrogator without ever raising her voice. In one episode she has a very sweet, kind chat with a suspect about their children — and without even bringing up the crime at all, manipulates the suspect (a mother who had killed her own son) into spontaneously breaking down and giving a full confession.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: See Limited Advancement Opportunities, below. However, this is touchingly averted in the series finale when her detectives hold a fundraiser to assist with Van Buren's medical bills. The chief of police himself shows up with checks from various higher-ups, including the mayor of New York, telling Van Buren she's made a lot of friends in the city.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most synonymous characters with the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the fourth season.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: She applied to be Captain at one point, but a white woman with less seniority was promoted instead. She then sued the NYPD, which resulted in internal police politics coming into play making things harder for her and her unit, to the point where she was told by her superior she would have to resign to get her detectives the resources they needed; a judge later dismissed her lawsuit, and she never received a promotion in all of her time on the show.
- Never Mess with Granny: You will regret it. Granny has a force of personality and intensity that are enough to make you cower in fear, and she carries a gun.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Especially when she first appeared. She replaced Captain Cragen, who continually harped to his subordinates of what can't be done, she focused on directing her troops on what can be done.
- The Stoic: She remains an Iron Lady on top of her precinct even when battling cancer and the attendant medical bills.
- Suddenly Always Knew That: Van Buren used to work vice, so when they need to find a suspect who's working as a truck stop prostitute, she effortlessly directs Lupo through his cover as a gay trucker soliciting the guy for sex. Both Bernard and Lupo are hilariously taken aback by her expertise.
- Tranquil Fury: After Cutter ambushes her on the witness stand with invasive questions about her personal medical history. Van Buren's voice barely rises above its normal volume, but her anger is nuclear when she calls Cutter out afterwards.
- Twofer Token Minority: Her original role on the show could easily be seen this way. Indeed, Merkerson has often noted that at the time she was hired, no black woman in the NYPD had yet risen to the rank of Lieutenant.
Detective Rey Curtis
Lennie Briscoe: It never occurred to me that you wouldn't, partner. What, you wanna see this scum bounce?
Rey Curtis: I wanna see him strapped down with a needle in his arm but I'm not gonna perjure myself to make it happen!
- The Atoner: After cheating on his wife, he does everything he can to salvage their marriage. More generally, he's a faithful Catholic who plays by the rules and the least cynical of all the detectives to appear on the show.
- Back for the Finale: In the final season we saw Van Buren attending his wife's funeral.
- Bilingual Bonus: His ethnicity and fluent Spanish enabled him to develop a rapport with witnesses and victims, garnering necessary information the detectives might otherwise not have gotten.
- By-the-Book Cop: In his methods, yes, to the point of exasperating others.
- Character Development: He starts off quite judgmental, aloof and self-righteous, which creates tension with the more laid-back Briscoe. A few years on the job (and a slip in his morality after he has a brief affair), he's more relaxed about things and has a better working relationship with Briscoe.
- Chick Magnet: While Mike Logan's success with the ladies was more of an Informed Ability, our boy Rey is quite popular with the females. Examples include Jamie from S6s "Aftershock", Lisa from the S7s LA trilogy, his female boss at OCCB who sexually harassed him, and about 80% of the women that are witness, suspects, friends of witnesses and suspects, and plain old friends who help out on cases.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Not just women are attracted to him. During a Crossover with Homicide: Life on the Street, Detective Rene Shepard makes a man as gay because he was checking Curtis out rather than her. In another episode, a male suspect comes on to him pretty strongly (though the man is a Depraved Bisexual who comes on to Jamie just as strongly a few minutes later).
- Expository Hairstyle Change: He decides to cut his hair later in the series; symbolizing his more relaxed personality.
- Fair Cop: Considering that Bratt was cast to replace Noth, this was guaranteed.
- Fatal Flaw: Curtis couldn't curb his infidelity.
- Happily Married: His wife considers divorce after his affair, but they stay together. When Bratt decided to leave the show, Curtis stepped down to a desk job so he could spend more time with his wife (who had recently been diagnosed with MS).
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the fifth season.
- Inspector Javert: He has an initially unyielding black-and-white view of crime and criminals, but this softens slightly over time.
- Rabid Cop: His early appearances had him as this. He once pulled his service pistol on a biker simply because the guy referred to Curtis as a spic. Thanks to Briscoe and Van Buren's influence he mellowed out pretty quick.
- Raised Catholic: And how. He's still faithful, as demonstrated several times throughout his run, and he often uses his knowledge of the faith to convince other believers to talk.
- Your Cheating Heart: Cheats on his wife in the Season Six finale, and is eventually so consumed with guilt over it that he spills the beans to his wife, who wouldn't have found out otherwise. His guilt gets even worse when his wife is diagnosed with MS.
Detective Ed Green
- The Atoner: He taught his girlfriend how to gamble, and it ruined her life.
- Badass in a Nice Suit / Sharp-Dressed Man: He's one of the more sharply dressed detectives on the show. His off-duty wear is pretty stylish, too.
- Brutal Honesty: He's very blunt with both suspects and his colleagues, part of what makes him a good complement to Briscoe.
- Character Development: From a rash, short-tempered Cowboy Cop to mature, wise mentor to his younger partners.
- Cowboy Cop: Van Buren notes he already has some discipline issues for excessive force, and early on he tends to be much more physical with suspects than absolutely necessary.
- Cunning Linguist: Speaks fluent Spanish, as well as a decent amount of French and some Russian "enough to get a date".
- Fair Cop
- The Gambling Addict: It's referred to several times, usually mentioning his frequent trips to Atlantic City, though it's never known how severe a problem it was. It even comes back to bite him in the ass during "Burn Card"—he mentions that his despondency over Lennie's retirement and later, his death was enough to trigger a relapse, kicking off a chain of events that led to his downfall.
- Graceful Loser: After said downfall. He thanks Lupo for being a good cop, even if it was Lupo's policework (in an effort to exonerate Green) that uncovered everything Green was trying to keep covered up.
- Heroic BSoD: In his final episode. Van Buren even tells him there's a chance to rehabilitate himself, and to return to policework while fighting his gambling addiction. Green admits he's too exhausted to keep fighting.
- Honor Before Reason: In his last episode, he adamantly refuses to speak in his own defense, even if it means going to jail. Turns out he is protecting a girlfriend who is also a fellow gambling addict.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most synonymous characters with the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the tenth season.
- Real Men Eat Meat: Averted, he is a badass Cowboy Cop who also happens to be a vegetarian.
- Real Men Get Shot: In S 15 E 20, while trying to escort a reluctant witness to trial, he takes a round in the chest when an assassin guns the witness down. Green is seriously wounded, but he recovers from the injury and returns to the job.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: At 6'3", he's the tallest of the detectives on the mothership, and the third-tallest of all the detectives in the American versions (behind Detectives Goren and Nichols.)
- Scary Black Man: He isn't actually, but he'll often pretend to be during interrogations. Which ironically leads to him being Mistaken for Racist when he makes a sarcastic comment to a perp about the perks he gets for beating up black suspects.
Detective Joe Fontana
- Blatant Lies: Whenever he says he's "authorized", he almost certainly is not. He also loves weaving completely fabricated stories about his life and (non-existent) wife and kids in order to get closer to witnesses and suspects.
- Catchphrase: "We're authorized."
- Cowboy Cop
- Cool Old Guy: Don't let his smooth talk and slick style fool you - if he has to get rough, he will.
- Dirty Cop: Subverted. This was suggested in a long-running B-plot that backed up several episodes, due to the fact that he always had a money clip filled with at least a couple of grand on him, lived in an expensive condo, wore tailored suits, and drove a sports car, all on a cop's salary. In truth he was actually Secretly Rich.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: On more than one occasion. Don't kill a cop or kidnap a kid near him.
- Rabid Cop
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Carries a .357 Smith & Wesson Model 19. Possibly a holdover from his days with Chicago PD, as that weapon was never authorized by NYPD.
- Secretly Rich: It turned out that Fontana's grandfather was "the original Chef Luigi" (a Bland-Name Product alternative for Chef Boyardee), and that Fontana's been living off his share of the family fortune since he was a teenager.
Detective Nick Falco
- The Bus Came Back: For one episode, in which he's a murder suspect. And he's the one who keeps finding all the key evidence, even though he's on suspension. He was framed.
- By-the-Book Cop: A pragmatic example: Falco is studying law, and as such is very concious about making sure he and Fontano don't do anything that could get their evidence suppressed by a judge.
- Temporary Substitute: He replaced Ed Green for four episodes when Jesse L. Martin was filming RENT.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Only appeared in four episodes as a regular, along with a guest appearance one season later.
Detective Nina Cassady
- Action Girl
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Not mentioned again after Season 17, though the finale implied Van Buren was going to get her transferred out after one too many slip-ups.
- Cowboy Cop
- Ensign Newbie: Very young to have moved from being a uniform cop to a homicide detective. Van Buren in particular feels that she is too inexperienced and only got her gold shield because the brass wanted some good PR.
- Fair Cop: The fairest of them all.
- Noodle Incident: How Nina got tagged "The Beauty Queen Detective" was barely addressed and only in her debut episode.
- Never Live It Down: The incident is one of the reasons her co-workers at the 27th have a hard time taking her seriously.
- It's implied, actually, that when Nina was in the 97th, she did an undercover operation at a beauty salon that went out of hand. Her impulsive bravery in that situation was widely admired by the press, but the police believe that she did it to garner sensationalism.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Appeared in one season before she disappeared.
Detective Cyrus Lupo
- The Alcoholic: Started as Drowning My Sorrows due to job related PTSD, but spiralled from there.
- Badass Baritone: He has by far the deepest voice of any detective in the series. There's a reason Jeremy Sisto also voiced Batman after all.
- Broken Ace: Lupo is introduced as a cool and mysterious anti-terrorism agent, but his past is filled with alcoholism and regret.
- Closet Geek: He's into graphic novels.
- Cool Shades
- Deadpan Snarker
- Faux Yay: Not quite often enough to become a Running Gag, but on two separate occasions Lupo goes undercover pretending to solicit sex from other men in order to catch a suspect.
- It's Personal:
- The case that brought him into the 27 was his brother's death (via assisted suicide). Van Buren initially bars him from investigating for this very reason, but authorizes him when a second body pops up.
- Gets a Call-Back in Green's last episode, with Lupo admitting Green helped him keep it together after his brother's death. Which is why Lupo keeps investigating Green's case, determined to clear his name.
- Loophole Abuse: Lupo loves attempting this, as he's studying to be an attorney himself and knows enough to find technically legal tactics during investigations. Often subverted however, as defense attorneys jump all over evidence obtained this way, frequently succeeding at getting it excluded from trial.
- Nice Hat: Fond of his knit hat.
- Pet the Dog: Literally — Lupo investigated a dogfighting ring, which led him to adopt a pit bull.
- Quip to Black
- Seriously Scruffy: Fitting with his Broken Ace background, Lupo's often disheveled and sporting a five o'clock shadow. When he loses the stubble and starts dressing more nicely in later seasons, it's noticeable enough to draw remarks from other characters.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: His failed attempts at Loophole Abuse, mentioned above, often get him smacked down by Cutter or McCoy for causing needless difficulties at trial. In turn, as a former anti-terrorism agent, Lupo's Berserk Button is easily touched off by the DA's office stretching anti-terrorism laws to prosecute crimes that are plainly not terrorism.
Detective Kevin Bernard
- Blue Oni, Red Oni: He's the blue oni, far more cool-headed and controlled than his partner Lupo.
- By-the-Book Cop
- Comical Overreacting: He flashes his badge while interviewing a gold dealer, and is extremely put out when the guy prices his badge at $11. A scene later he's still venting to Lupo about it.Lupo: You want it to be made out of solid gold?
- Embarrassing Nickname: St. Bernard. It's why he does not like dogs.
- Hidden Depths: In "Brilliant Disguise" he knows enough about fine art to identify that the 'Houdini' sculpture a suspect was bragging about was the work of 'Houdon'. Lupo needed it explained to him.
- Internal Affairs: Though he hated it and took the first chance he could to get out of IA. Even so, he acknowledged that his time in IA was educational and made him see the importance of policing the police.
- Raised Catholic: It was at Catholic school, fittingly, that he gained the Embarrassing Nickname listed above.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Implied in "Rapture," though he has little patience for the suspects professing the end of days.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's introduced as a hardass from IA investigating Ed Green's shooting of a suspect. However, he takes it respectfully when Van Buren accuses him of only doing "50% of an investigation". And when Lupo angrily presents him with additional evidence, Bernard's willing to reconsider his seemingly airtight conclusions and even takes Lupo himself along to investigate.
- The One Who Made It Out: He grew up in a hard neighborhood, part of the reason he now favors a tough-on-crime approach that would make Abbie Carmichael proud.
- Two First Names: His last name, Bernard, can also be used as a first name.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Benjamin "Ben" Stone
The first Executive Assistant District Attorney. Dogged in his pursuit of justice, but alway following the letter of the law.
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Bus Crash: After one of the longest bus rides on record, the character is killed off on Spin-Off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in February 2018, almost 24 years after his last onscreen appearance. Fittingly, his eulogy is delivered by the character who replaced him, Jack McCoy (whose own bus came back).
- By-the-Book Cop: While dogged in his pursuit of justice, he insists on following the letter of the law, in direct contrast to his successors.
- Gentleman Snarker: When he calls you "sir", it means he doesn't like you.
- Glasses Pull: The reigning king of it on the series.
- Opt Out: Resigns when one of his prosecutions results in the implied death of a woman who he had put on the stand as a witness.
- Raised Catholic:
- Schiff One-Liner
- The Stoic: Ben had the emotional range of a brick. It made him all the scarier.
- Tranquil Fury: Masterfully portrayed in "Indifference". During the prosecution of a scumbag spousal/child abuser, the look he gives the aforementioned defendant makes it clear that he would beat the crap out of him if he could.
Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette
The first (and only male) ADA. Working exclusively under Ben Stone, he would leave the District Attorney's Office to go into private practice as a defense lawyer and would return several times going up against Jack McCoy.
- '80s Hair: The Flattop of Justice. The first time Robinette guest starred, Richard Brooks had notably shaved his hair.
- Amoral Attorney: In his return appearances as a defense attorney.
- Brother Chuck: Although he has come back for the occasional guest appearance, and his departure was explained in a deleted scene in Season 4 where it's revealed he's gone into private practice.
- But Not Too Black: Frequently gets accused of this by other African Americans. Probably what led him to become a Malcolm X/Johnnie Cochran parallel.
- Hidden Depths: The first episode that he guest-starred in proved him to be a more than competent attorney, competent enough to deadlock a jury. In contrast, when he was a regular Stone mostly had him do leg work.
- Malcolm Xerox: When he comes back as a defense attorney, and slings race cards like Al Sharpton on meth.
- Token Minority: For the first three seasons, the only black character on the show.
District Attorney Alfred Wentworth
Appeared only in the pilot episode, and thus appears for the fewest episodes out of any regular cast member (1).
District Attorney Adam Schiff
The first District Attorney. Rising up from the ranks as ADA, he occasionally tends to fret about how trials will affect his chances for reelection but he will never let his politics interfere with justice.
- Boring, but Practical: He prefers to cut deals with suspects, which, while not as flashy and risky as trials, are much less expensive and ensure the suspect is punished.
- Catchphrase: "Cut a deal."
- Commander Contrarian: Schiff's style is to appear resistant to any idea. At least this way, he can outsource blame.
- Grumpy Old Man
- Jews Love to Argue: He was big on arguing with McCoy especially, sometimes because it needed to be done and sometimes just because.
- Parental Substitute: For both Stone and McCoy. His relationship with Stone was more nurturing, and Adam was disappointed when Stone chose to resign. Schiff's relationship with McCoy, however, is more adversarial.
- Pragmatic Hero:
- He's personally opposed to the death penalty, but he's still willing to use it if the public demands it. He's also not above using the publicity of gruesome crimes and trials to get himself reelected. After all, he can't serve the justice system if he loses his position.
- Gets a Call-Back in a season 18 episode when a witness wants a fairly mild favor from newly minted District Attorney McCoy, who balks at starting a precedent of doing favors. Cutter remarks that Schiff would've done it with his eyes closed.
- Schiff One-Liner: Trope Namer
- Skewed Priorities: Played with. He often comes off as more concerned about a trial's impact on his chances for reelection than actual justice. However, when it comes down to it, unless his subordinates really push the boundaries of the law, Schiff will back them up during controversial trials.
- Team Dad
- Who Needs Enemies?: If a personal friend of his appears in an episode then it's likely they're corrupt and will sell out Schiff and the DA's office at the drop of a hat.
Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid
Paul Robinette's replacement who set the trend for subsequent ADAs to be female. She worked under Ben Stone and then Jack McCoy, and was very idealistic for a prosecutor.
- Bus Crash: Quite literally. Claire was originally supposed to only be paralyzed in the car crash in the Season 6 finale and then Put on a Bus, but when actress Jill Hennesey declined to return for a final episode in Season 7 she was killed off instead)
- Interestingly, Jill Hennessey has stated that she wanted to return and was not aware that her character was killed off until someone watched the episode and told her.
- Hello, Attorney!
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the fourth season.
- Insult Backfire: When McCoy accuses her of "latent feminism," she immediately retorts that it's not latent.
- MayDecember Romance: With Jack. The actors were born 28 years apart. It's not clear if the characters are the same age as the actors who play them but Claire is clearly in her twenties and Jack is old enough to have been a young adult in The '60s.
- The McCoy: Amusing, given her boss' name.
- Retirony: She debates either resigning from the DA's office or quitting law altogether (and Jack talks her out of it) shortly before she's injured/killed in a car accident. Jack ends up feeling very guilty about this.
- Sleeping with the Boss: Although only indicated through very subtle Ship Tease hints during her time on the show, during an episode sometime after her death, it is confirmed on screen that she had been sleeping with McCoy, after her having told him when they first met that nothing of the sort would happen.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Schiff criticizes her for it, but still keeps her on.
- Wham Line: In "Aftershock," Claire has a conversation with a law professor who seems to be a former teacher of hers, talking about the execution she witnessed and her feelings on various aspects of the legal system in general. Then just as Claire turns to leave:Mac: You know, your mother would like you to come by one of these days for dinner.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy (later District Attorney)
Ben Stone's replacement. Hot-headed and willingly to bend the law to its limits to win a conviction, he eventually became the District Attorney himself.
- Abusive Parents: As revealed in "Aftershock" Jack's father was a policeman who drove him to succeed at all times and pushed him into law school rather than become a cop like him. He was also a chain-smoking drunk who regularly beat Jack's mother (and its implied he hit Jack as well). Jack still has something of a Broken Pedestal towards him, telling a Cutter that he still remembers when he realized that his dad was "a son of a bitch."
- Berserk Button: Bigots and children who get hurt are sore spots for him. So when he's prosecuting someone guilty of a hate crime or a crime against children, McCoy gets even more hostile towards the man or woman.
- Breakout Character: He didn't show up until the 5th season, but he became the face of the franchise, arguably even moreso than Lennie Briscoe. This was helped by the fact that, unlike Orbach, Waterston survived the series and Orbach's death made the District Attorney's office much more important.
- The Chains of Commanding: When he becomes the DA, he's the one calling the shots which means he can no longer afford to take the reckless changes he did when Schiff, Lewin, or Branch had his back and his quick to lay down the law, much to the chagrin of his subordinates, who are well aware of his colorful legal record.
- Character Development: Becomes less reckless and ruthless as he got older, especially when he becomes the District Attorney, and reprimands Cutter's actions, just as other DA's did with him. To wit, in person he actually withdrew a plea deal at a hearing revolving around the surgery of young girl, much to Cutter's fury.
- Commuting on a Bus (after he becomes District Attorney)
- To elaborate, while his screentime got diminished he still had more of an active role than previous DAs.
- Determinator (The things he will do to get his way legally...)
- Foil: The complete opposite of Stone, Jack is known for being reckless, hot-blooded, and willing to bend the law to it's limits to get justice.
- Guys Are Slobs: A mild case. In Double Down, Brisco, Curtis, Ross, and Van Buren come by McCoys apartment at 2 am to discuss a case. It is noticeably disheveled, mostly strewn with books and papers. Ross appears to be reluctant to sit down, though the older and wiser Van Buren is unfazed.
- Heel Realization: The older he gets, he looks back on the more outrageous stunts he pulled that got him chewed out by Schiff, Lewin, Branch or dragged before the Bar Committee with regret. This is especially pronounced when he becomes the DA and he often argues with Cutter, who's just as reckless but less moral. Cutter tries to defend himself by pointing out that Jack did the same thing, only for Jack to retort that his actions had consequences for him and he's trying to stop Cutter from making the same mistakes he did.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Due to some of the questionable ethics and legality of stunts he pulled by the time he becomes the actual DA he doesn't get that much respect from the Legal Establishment.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most synonymous characters with the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the fifth season.
- Irony: In Arthur Branch's last episode Branch says McCoy may one day fill his seat. McCoy responds that he has no mind for politics. The very next episode, McCoy is filling Arthur's seat as District Attorney.
- It's Personal: The deaths of Claire Kincaid, ADA Ricci, and Alexandra Borgia cause him to go on legal Roaring Rampages of Revenge of sorts. All come close to getting him disbarred.
- Specifically: Following Claire's death, McCoy later collaborates with a judge to frame a drunk driver for first degree murder (the driver really killed the people, but was so intoxicated he couldn't form the intent needed for a murder charge. McCoy and the judge collaborated to keep evidence proving that the man was drunk out of court, so McCoy could falsely claim that he wasn't drunk and deliberately killed the people. It is implied that all this was because he was bitter that Claire's killer received a light sentence and wanted to see proper justice done for the victims in this case
- When a bit character, ADA Ricci, dies, McCoy suspends habeas corpus.
- After Borgia dies, McCoy sets up a show trial with fake evidence and perjured testimony to try to trick the killer into a confession.
- Jerk With A Heartof Gold: Deliberately cultivates a reputation as a hardass, but frequently backs down when confronted with a defendant who legitimately deserves sympathy.To Jamie Ross, "Then you can tell him he's dealing with a junkyard dog."McCoy: Four minutes.Defense Attorney: Always have to play the tough guy, don't you.McCoy: Tough has nothing to do with this.Defense Attorney: You feel for the woman, Jack. It doesn't make you weak.McCoy: Three minutes.Defense Attorney: I could win this case, y'know.McCoy: Not when the judge instructs the jury on the definition of legal insanity.Defense Attorney: Ten years is a long time.McCoy: She killed a man.Defense Attorney: A scoundrel. ... Ten years, or until a panel of three medical professionals certifies she's not a threat to herself or others.McCoy: Doctors to be chosen by my office.Defense Attorney: But in the private psychiatric facility of her choice.McCoy: To be approved of by me and located within my jurisdiction. One minute.Defense Attorney: Done.McCoy: I tell the judge. [stands up to leave]Defense Attorney: It's not a bad thing, Jack.McCoy: What?Defense Attorney: Having a heart.
- It is made even more explicit in the episode, "Burned," where McCoy prosecutes a boy who is obviously mentally ill and needs to be committed to a mental hospital. However, the boy's grandfather interferes with the plea bargaining and blatantly would rather risk his grandson being sent to regular prison than have a mental commitment draw attention to his own fragile mental health. At this, McCoy goes out of his way to prevent that when he could have simply stayed out of the way and score an easy conviction win.
- Karma Houdini: He's done things that in real life would get you disbarred at best and imprisoned at worst. Yet, he some how ends up as DA.
- Knight Templar: His behavior could dip into this if a case struck close to home or the the cause was justice in his opinion. He's been willing to tear into the First Amendment and equal protection laws if it means a conviction.
- MayDecember Romance: Heavily implied with Claire; confirmed a couple of seasons after Claire's death.
- Noodle Incident: In 2011 he's been replace , yet he's back in office by 2018. The exact circumstances of this all have never been explained.
- Old-School Chivalry: Subtle, but notice that every time he's speaking with a woman getting into a cab, he opens the door for her. Even if she's opposing counsel, a suspect, hindering prosecution, etc.
- Parental Substitute: As noted by Linus Roache, there's a fairly adversarial father-son dynamic between McCoy and Cutter, but generally McCoy acts as a surrogate father to Cutter, who has little-to-no contact with his biological father.
- Raised Catholic
- Schiff One-Liner
- Sleeping with the Boss: Is notorious for having had this kind of relationship with his assistants, all female. When he first came into the District Attorney's office, Claire Kincaid pointed out that he'd slept with all three of his previous assistants (and married one of them), to which Jack replied that all the relationships were mutually consensual. Then Claire declared that nothing of the sort would happen between herself and Jack, to which he agreed...only for them to get intimate later on down the line. After Claire's death, he doesn't get involved with any of his assistants again.
- Team Dad: Once he becomes District Attorney
- What the Hell, Hero?: His actions have been called out by Schiff, his colleagues, the judges, the Bar Association disciplinary committee, and eventually himself.
Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross (later Judge)
Claire Kincaid's replacement. A former defense attorney who switched to prosecution after a former client she acquitted killed again. She eventually leaves the DA's office to spend more time with her daughter. She returns to private practice and then becomes a judge.
- Hello, Attorney!
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the seventh season.
- Mama Bear: Her devotion to her daughter occasionally conflicts with the show, such that she debates quitting more than once and eventually is Put on a Bus because of it. Her Amoral Attorney ex-husband uses it against her to help his client.
- Retool: The character was originally a morally ambiguous ex-defense attorney who became a prosecutor after a client she got acquitted went on to kill again. As such, she was originally a lot more underhanded and devious when it came to court room trickery. Sadly this was quickly dropped and the character was turned into a single mother Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Claire Kincaid.
- Statuesque Stunner: A beautiful woman standing 5'10.
- Transplant: From the original to Law & Order: Trial by Jury, although she was only a recurring guest character in the latter.
- What the Hell, Hero?: She calls out Adam Schiff after he seems gleeful that the horrific rape and attempted murder of a young child happened near an election since a conviction would boost his chances of reelection.
Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael
Jaime Ross's replacement, a tough as nails prosecutor who spent four years in Special Narcotics with a 95% conviction rate, which impressed Schiff enough to have her promoted to major felonies as McCoy's assistant. She later leaves to work the US Attorney's office.
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Albeit a brunette.
- Distaff Counterpart: When Abbie suggested they "hang 'em all" in her first episode, McCoy struggled not to laugh. For those not in the know, McCoy was once dubbed "Hang 'Em High McCoy" for his Draconian approach.
- Hello, Attorney!
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the ninth season.
- Inspector Javert: Often displays a black-and-white view of crime and criminals, to the point where in early season 9 she has zero sympathy towards a young woman she sent to prison on a minor drug charge who is now accused of arranging the murder of a guard who was abusing her (demanding sexual favors from her and threatening to harm her daughter if she didn't comply). It's especially disturbing considering that Abbie is a rape survivor herself, yet her attitude towards the woman is essentially disbelief mixed with, "It's your fault for doing something that put you in jail in the first place".
- She eventually relents and convinces McCoy to set up a good deal for the woman.
- When she's at an arraignment hearing, there's a venom in her voice as she makes the people's case why the defendants should not be given bail as opposed to the other ADA's who did this part of their job with a strict professionalism.
- Knight Templar: She's very keen to push for the highest possible punishment for a crime, including the death penalty if applicable. In short, don't expect any mercy from her.
- Rape as Backstory: Abbie was date-raped by a law student when she was a college freshman.
- Smug Smiler: Whenever the Prosecution drops the bomb on the Defendants with new evidence or a witness that nails, she loves doing this.
District Attorney Nora Lewin (Seasons 11-12)
The Interim District Attorney, appointed to finish out Adam Schiff's term after he left the position to work on the Holocaust Project. A former law professor.
- All There in the Manual: Her departure is never explained in the show, but rather in a companion book to the series called Law & Order: Crime Scenes; apparently she found herself disenchanted with the position of district attorney and chose not to run for election when her interim term was up.
- Beware the Nice Ones: A sweet woman who is new to her job and nervous about having to fill the shoes of Adam Schiff. She will also take you down if you threaten her office or anyone in it.
- Brother Chuck
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After the end of season 12.
- The McCoy: She and Serena share this trait, which was part of why she chose to hire Serena after Abbie left.
- Pragmatic Hero: Like her predecessor, she is personally against the death penalty but recognizes that completely avoiding it might cause the DA's office to be seen as too soft on crime.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Applies the law even when it conflicts with her personal beliefs, such as when she has to make the decision to pursue the death penalty against a defendant.
Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn
Abbie Carmichael's replacement, chosen by Nora Lewin since her liberal idealism mirrored her own. She had a more strained relationship with Branch, who ultimately dismissed her for being too sympathetic to the defendants.
- Alliterative Name: Serena Southerlyn.
- Gaydar: In an unintentional bit of foreshadowing, she correctly picks up on a Psycho Lesbian (who had been presenting herself as a mere concerned witness) as the real culprit in a murder, rather than the person they actually have on trial.
- Hello, Attorney!
- Lipstick Lesbian
- The McCoy: To the point where it got her fired.
- Shout-Out: Serena is named after one of Dick Wolf's kids.
- Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: She didn't kiss anybody, but the effect was much the same.
- Suddenly Sexuality: The reveal was so notoriously out of left field that it provides the trope page quote. Looking backwards you can see the attempts at foreshadowing, but they don't mean anything to anyone without hindsight. When she drops the bombshell in her final scene it's implied even her bosses didn't know.
- Interviews with Dick Wolf suggest that he wrote that scene just to shock the viewers and get them talking, implying that any and all foreshadowing was unintentional. This is reflected in viewer response, which was not 'Oh, that's so edgy' like Wolf expected, but more 'Oh, that's so cheap'.
- Strawman Political: Serena existed as the Fox News Liberal of the show, offering weak liberal talking points only to be invariably slapped down by Branch.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist
District Attorney Arthur Branch
Nora Lewin's replacement as District Attorney, after she decided not to run for election. A hardass conservative who was elected to make New Yorkers feel safe after 9-11.
- Brother Chuck: When Fred Thompson decided to return to politics, Arthur was abruptly written out with Jack taking his place as DA. He was mentioned once or twice, afterward.
- Good Is Not Soft: He was elected to make New Yorkers feel safer in the wake of 9/11.
- Good Ol' Boy
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most memorable characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the thirteenth season.
- Large and in Charge: At 6'6", he was most certainly this (and to date, the tallest character/actor in the Law & Order universe.)
- Team Dad: Neither affectionate nor even really nice, but always ready with encouragement or to make an attempt at convincing before he ordered. Even when he fires Serena, he points out that she has the skills and mindset of a superb defense attorney...which simply don't work for a prosecutor.
- Transplant: Sort of. He became a regular cast member on spin off Law & Order: Trial by Jury, but he was still a cast member on the original series at the same time.)
Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Borgia (ten episodes of Season 15, Season 16)
Serena's replacement. A consummate professional who never lets her political views, dictate her conduct.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: She was kidnapped and viciously beaten. The beating caused her to vomit, but as she was gagged she choked on it. She choked to death on her own vomit.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: In the cruelest way possible.
- Flat Character: She really didn't have much of personality beyond the standard "compassionate" assistant, although her conservatism endeared to Brach.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most memorable characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the fifteenth season.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: She had the shortest tenure of any ADA — a season and a half totaling only 33 episodes.
Assistant District Attorney Conseula "Connie" Rubirosa
The last ADA. A people person, but nevertheless committed to see that justice is done. She eventually moved to Los Angeles to look after her mother and move to one of the spinoffs, and then joined the federal government, leading a joint task force to combat underage sex trafficking.
- The Cameo: Pops up in the 15th season of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit heading a federal joint task force on underage sex trafficking.
- Dude Magnet: Every other episode has a man commenting her good looks.
- Embarrassing Old Photo: Deliberately invoked in one episode where they're trying to buy time to verify if the suspect (an attractive young woman) is the same person as a suspect in a previous crime (a much frumpier woman). The judge expresses disbelief it could be the same person, at which point Connie whips out her own much frumpier high school photo and makes her point.
- Cutter: Whoo. I might have had a chance with you back then.
- Fanservice Pack: Between seasons 17 and 18.
- Good Is Not Dumb: She's much, much nicer than Cutter, but it's not a weakness; she's incredibly observant and sometimes her people skills allow her to catch things her colleagues miss.
- Hello, Attorney!
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the seventeenth season.
- The McCoy: She's not the Wide-Eyed Idealist Serena was, but she tends to moderate Cutter's Amoral Attorney streak.
- Transplant: To Law & Order: Los Angeles.
- Twofer Token Minority: As a woman and an Hispanic. She's willing to call out whites for not understanding racism or men for not understanding misogyny. To be fair, she also calls out a Straw Feminist for going over the line.
- UST: With Cutter. She's jealous of his flirting with a legal assistant, and she knows very well that he's in love with her.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter
Jack McCoy's successor as EADA when he was appointed District Attorney. Cutter is just as ruthless, but with fewer scruples and a decidedly more gray outlook on justice.
- Amoral Attorney: Even more so than Jack that even the detectives are appalled by his methods. To wit, during one tria; about a company that made drugs and did illegal human trials he cross-examines Van Buren out of the blue, about her cancer and how she uses the drugs to treat that are made by the company on trial. She is not happy about it at all, to the point she refuses to even speak with him.Stick with your law books, detective. On the page, the law is a much purer thing.
- Awesome Mc Coolname
- Commander Contrarian: He disagrees with Jack, a lot — to the point you wonder why he wasn't fired since he usually acts like he's the one in charge.
- Determinator: Like Jack, he'll do anything to win a case. However unlike Jack it seems he's less interested in justice and just interested in winning.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: To the police, since he went out of his way to needlessly antagonize during his tenure even Van Buren.
- Foil: He's just as ruthless as McCoy, but he's more cocky, more difficult to work with, disrespectful to his colleagues and all in all seems more interested in winning a case for winning's sake than for justice.
- Iconic Item: His baseball bat.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the eighteenth season.
- Jerkass: Cutter's extremely abrasive, openly contemptuous of Jack, and goes out of his way to needlessly antagonize his colleagues both at the DA's office and with the NYPD, because he's that much of a prick. Special mention goes to the episode "Falling" where he tried to force a family to accept a plea deal that would explicitly forbid them from doing a controversial operation on their disabled daughter that would make it easier for them to care for her —- something the judge overseeing the case had flat out forbid Cutter to do. Jack who had ordered Cutter to remove it from the deal, personally intervene at the sentence hearing to tell the judge the DA's office is having the stipulation removed from the plea deal.
- Jerkass Has a Point: When Detective Ed Green is facing murder charges, McCoy and Rubirosa balk at charging an officer they know so well. Cutter points out that if it were any other cop they (especially McCoy) would be on the warpath, and continually presents alternate theories that would justify the maximum charges, which is what tends to happen with every other defendant. Of course legal ethics would require that they rescue themselves from the case due to a conflict of interest — it speaks volumes about how cold-hearted Cutter is that he felt no hesitation at all in doing it, instead of passing it on to another ADA who never met or worked with Green.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Manipulative Bastard
- Rank Up: Averted. When he's transferred to SVU, he's been demoted to Bureau Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit.
- Smug Snake: His earlier episodes usually had him disobey Jack's order to prove he knew better than the old man... and it always blew up in face. He got better.
- Ultimate Job Security: You really have to wonder as to why he hasn't been fired yet. Talented lawyer he may be that no way excuses his blatant and open contempt of Jack, his boss. Especially since Jack had no trouble firing an ADA who told him to his face that he couldn't be trusted with the power of the DA's office.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: At least one person tells Connie that Cutter carries a torch for her. He really does.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Gets called on his more questionable actions often.
- One time when McCoy chews him out, he points out McCoy did the same thing, only for McCoy has to remind him he got chewed out for what he did and would suffer consequences.
- At two different times, Connie shortly, but curtly rips into him for using her good looks as a way to win a trial.
- Van Buren rips him a new asshole after he blindsides her on the witness stand with extremely personal questions about her cancer treatment.
- Transplant: Played a recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for one season after the original was cancelled.
Dr. Elizabeth Olivet
- Played by: Carolyn McCormick (Seasons 2-7, 9, 13-20)
- Broken Bird
- Cowboy Cop: When she goes after a Smug Snake gynecologist who raped one of her patients—only to become a victim herself.
- Did They or Didn't They?: With Logan; she treated him after Greevey's death and they later became friends, but the exact nature of their relationship isn't clarified until Season 18, when Cutter gets the information from McCoy and uses it to discredit her during a trial. Olivet admits to the relationship but adds that she stopped treating him once the relationship started.
- Fake Guest Star
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Briefly.
- Rape as Drama: One episode focuses on her being molested and later raped by a gynecologist.
Dr. Emil Skoda
- Played by: J. K. Simmons (Seasons 8-15, 20)
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome (Disappeared after the 2004 season as the actor (J. K. Simmons) got a job on The Closer, but subverted when he appeared again for two episodes in 2010 with no warning.)
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the eighth season.
Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers
- Played by: Leslie Hendrix (Seasons 2-20)
Wise-cracking doctor who figures out why people died. Blase about her job, to the point of eating lunch in rooms containing corpses. She at least once had to perform an autopsy in a full HAZMAT suit. Appears in 143 episodes throughout seasons 2-20.
- Autopsy Snack Time: Has a habit of eating lunch in the morgue.
- Deadpan Snarker: Big time. A scene with her and Briscoe is a sight to behold.
- Fake Guest Star: She's been on the show longer than any of the regulars.
- Iconic Sequel Character: One of the most fondly remembered characters in the show, but doesn't make an appearance until the second season.
- Ship Tease: With Lennie Briscoe. They've gone out to the opera at least once, but whatever relationship they may or may not have had is never confirmed.
- Transplant: Briefly to SVU, permanently to Criminal Intent.
Chief of Detectives Laird
- Played by: James Biberi
Van Buren's superior. He supports her through her bout with breast cancer. Appears in 3 episodes in seasons 18-20.
Detective Tony Profaci
- Played by: John Fiore
Another detective in the 27th precinct. Friendly and affable. Was working for the mob. Appeared in 45 episodes in seasons 1-9. His replacements are even less known than he is.
- Exposition Fairy: Typically does the work that's too boring to show on-screen and shows up to give the info to the main duo.
- FaceHeel Turn
- Fake Guest Star
Detective Morris LaMotte
- Played by: Larry Clarke
Detective who worked with the squad in seasons 9-10. Burly and cheerful. In one episode he went undercover to a Neo-Nazi rally.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappeared without explanation, to be replaced by Cordova.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: To some extent he was a non-Italian Profaci.
- Played by: Andrea Navedo
A younger Latina detective who apparently replaced Morris Lamotte and lasted from Season 11 to season 14.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Replaced without explanation herself by a nameless African-American woman detective.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Like all of the other Profaci replacements, she does basically the same things running information and manning the phones.
- Played by: John Cariani
A geeky tech who often analyzes evidence that the detectives bring in. Appeared in 26 episodes in seasons 12-17.
- Adorkable: He's charming and incredibly nerdy.
- Played by: Megan Byrne
A computer expert who works with the police. Appears 6 times in Seasons 12-14.
- Hackette: She is a woman who is very skilled at hacking.
- Played by: John Michael Bolger
A corrupt police officer whose misconduct resulted in multiple people being convicted of crimes they had not committed. Appeared in 2 episodes, one in season 10 and one in season 14.
- Rabid Cop: He once badly beat a suspect that he was sure had killed someone. Unfortunately, the suspect's obvious injuries resulted in the whole case being tossed. Rather than accept this, Daniels decided to keep the suspect's murder weapon and to hang onto it until he could frame the suspect for a different murder.
- Played by: Tovah Feldshuh
McCoy's friend and rival. Zealous, crusading attorney, who often takes on cases to make political points. Appeared 13 times, between seasons 2-17.
- Call-Back: After "Open Season," where she is shot in The Tag, she disappears for several seasons. When she returns, she's using a cane.
- Characterization Marches On: In her first few appearances, she's just another of the show's revolving door of Amoral Attorneys who will work for anyone with the money to pay them. She didn't start being portrayed as a crusader until the episode "Hot Pursuit."
- Crusading Lawyer: Melnick is a civil rights extremist—she even defended a neo-Nazi who had shot a personal friend, because the principles were that important to her. Only problem is, they weren't as important to the defendant...
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: ...who asked her to send messages to the outside world, in defiance of a communication ban. She did, believing that the ban was cruel and unusual punishment. The messages turned out to be the next target for her client's associates to kill. Oops.
- What Have I Done: Once McCoy hit her with the results of her above actions.
- Never My Fault: When arrested for the above actions, she insisted that she was right and the judge was wrong and was mad at McCoy for screwing her over by prosecuting her for a crime she did commit.
- Worthy Opponent: She and McCoy are on much friendlier terms than he usually is with defense attorneys.
Professor Norman Rothenberg
- Played by: Jeffrey DeMunn
A law professor who takes cases for rich clientele, Rothenberg delights in setting precedents that will help later cases — even going so far as to throw one case in order to be able to appeal it and have the appellate court rule certain types of searches unconstitutional. He admits that he only cares about the law, not justice. Appeared in 8 episodes, between seasons 4-18.
- Amoral Attorney
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In his first appearance, he is clearly a stand-in for Alan Dershowitz (just as his client is the Distaff Counterpart of Claus von Bülow).
- Transplant: Becomes a Recurring Character on Law & Order: Trial by Jury.
- Played by: Lorraine Toussaint
Generally worked for poor defendants. Was often involved on cases involving systematic oppression such as racism and oppression of mentally disabled people. Appeared in 6 episodes in season 1-4, and one additional episode in season 14.
- Malcolm Xerox
- My God, What Have I Done?: In one episode, a riot after a white motorist gets acquitted after knocking down an African-American child and fleeing the scene leads to an African-American man murdering a white man (who was unconnected to the original incident). Green manages to get the latter defendant acquitted after arguing that this actions were motivated and justified by racial anger. She looks quite satisfied with the result... until she looks over and sees the grieving widow of the second victim.
- Straw Feminist
- Worthy Opponent: Ben Stone seems to have have a lot of respect for her, and vice versa.
- Played by: Bob Dishy
Attorney for the rich. Known for being extremely well-prepared. Appeared in 7 episodes between seasons 4 and 12.
- Played by: George Grizzard
Shrewd attorney for the rich and high-profile. Stone had a rivalry with him. Appeared in 6 episodes between seasons 2-11.
- Amoral Attorney
- Batman Gambit: Gold could - and often did - goad Ben Stone into mistakes just by playing up his Smug Snake tendencies.
- One of these backfires on him when it allows Stone to pull a legal maneuver that wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't been manipulated into his action in the first place.
- Foil: Gold was explicitly designed to embody everything the relentlessly honorable Stone despised. (This is why he disappeared after Stone was replaced by McCoy: not enough of a contrast.)
- Manipulative Bastard
- Smug Snake
- Worthy Opponent: A one-sided version at least, since he seemed to genuinely enjoy sparring with Stone (albeit in a rather arrogant, belittling fashion). Stone, conversely, viewed Gold with little more than cold contempt.
- Played by: Joe Morton
A lawyer who tends to use affirmative defenses (e.g., "My client did it, but for a good reason.") Notable for having one of the best records of all the show's recurring defense attorneys; his clients were only convicted twice, and one of those was then appealed, with the outcome undetermined at the end of the episode. He appeared in 4 episodes in seasons 10-15.
- Asshole Victim: Chiles argued this at least three times. It worked when he argued that a former Black Panther was justified in shooting a cop because the cops had oppressed the black community, and when he argued that the father of a dead soldier was justified in killing a guy because the other guy insulted the military in front of him. It failed when he argued that a basketball player was justified in killing a guy who was harassing him and his family.
- Malcolm Xerox: In 'Burn Baby Burn', he turned in to this in order to argue that a former Black Panther who killed a white cop shouldn't be jailed.
Randall 'Randy' J. Dworkin, Esq.
- Played by: Peter Jacobson
A jovial and goofy lawyer, nicknamed 'Squirt', who at first disgusts McCoy but eventually earns his respect. His perpetual irreverence irritates judges, and his creative defenses often frustrate the prosecution. Appears in 3 episodes in seasons 13-16, as well as two more episodes in season 19 of SVU.
- Beware the Silly Ones: He jokes his way through court proceedings and acts like an Ascended Fanboy getting to go up against the legendary Jack McCoy, but proves to be an incredibly wily opponent. In Dworkin's first episode, McCoy barely scrapes out a victory, and in his second McCoy has to trick the defense into accepting a plea by pretending he has evidence he doesn't really have.
- In his second SVU appearance, he beats McCoy to get an acquittal of a guy that had actually confessed on the stand to the murder he was charged with. He managed to convince the jury that the victim, a brain-dead person, shouldn't really be considered 'alive' to begin with. Notably, McCoy had successfully prosecuted another guy who killed a brain-dead person back in season 8... but that other guy wasn't defended by Dworkin.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer
- Chewbacca Defense: Dworkin pretty much operates on this.
- Large Ham
- Obfuscating Stupidity
- Worthy Opponent: After McCoy learns that his Bunny Ears tendencies are an obfuscation for genuine legal talent. He warns his ADA not to dismiss him. During one trial they have a serious ex parte moment. They share a drink, each admitting they feel terrible about the trial. McCoy because he hates that he's winning using evidence produced by torture, Dworkin because he's defending a man who's vile trash and glad that he's losing.
- Played by: Keith Szarabajka
Jamie Ross's ex-husband. He started off only defending the innocent, but eventually attracted the attention of a client who was guilty of violent crimes but had very deep pockets. Gorton and Ross got the man acquitted, and he went on to commit more crimes. Gorton is willing to do anything to win a trial, including exploiting the terms of his divorce sesttlement with Ross (which requires them to spend a set number of hours with their children; Gorton, who runs a big law firm, can delegate to his assistants so he can spend the requisite number of hours at home, but Ross, working for the government, can't, putting her custody of the children at risk). Appeared in 3 episodes in season 7.
- Played by: Giancarlo Esposito
A defense attorney who often advocates for the downtrodden. Appears in 3 episodes in seasons 14-15.
- Butt-Monkey: Turns into this in 'Vendetta.' Not only is he repeatedly humiliated by McCoy, but his client abducts him and ties him up in a bathroom. There's also the time his deranged client fires him in 'Locomotion' over his own vehement objections.
- Played by: Joyce Reehling
A defense attorney who specializes in affirmative defenses for women claiming to have been abused. Appeared in 2 episodes in season 5.
- Straw Feminist: She defends these, and she is one herself. She even resorts to blatant racism in order to convince a jury that one of her clients was abused by a Japanese man (and thus should be acquitted for killing him).
- Played by: Sig Libowitz
An incompetent pro bono defense attorney. Appears twice in the main series, once in season 8 and once in season 15, and also appears once on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
- Alliterative Name: Stan Shatenstei'n'
- Butt-Monkey: He's bad enough at his job that he usually up as this whenever he goes up against the prosecutors.
- Fail O Sucky Name: The first four letters of his last name are 'shat.'
- Played by: Jonathan Cake
A stereotypically oily defense attorney, who's an ex-DA. Turned out be more corrupt than anyone suspected.
Judge Gary Feldman
- Played by: Cliff Gorman
A judge with political ambitions, who wanted to base his campaign around targeting drunk drivers. He collaborated with McCoy to hide evidence in a case involving a drunk driver that killed three people. When McCoy backed out of the scheme, he vowed revenge and went on to run against Adam Schiff. He was backed by Carl Anderton ('Burned'), who wanted revenge on Schiff for his own reasons. Appeared 3 times in Season 8.
Judge Morris Torledsky
- Played by: David Lipman"Your client is getting dangerously close to the textbook definition of chutzpah!"
An arraigning judge who enlivens his boring job with witty comments to his judgments.
Judge William Wright
- Played by: Ron McLarty
A judge whose defining characteristic was disagreeing with McCoy on everything. Notable appearances included setting aside a 'guilty' verdict for three boys convicted of raping a mentally disabled girl ('Damaged') and setting aside a 'guilty' verdict when McCoy convicted a gun dealer of murder due to his unethical business practices ('Gunshow'). In his final episode, 'Dissonance,' Nora Lewin threatened that she would destroy him unless he judged the trial fairly. Appeared in 4 episodes between seasons 8-11.
- Alliterative Name: William Wright.
- Depending on the Writer Whether Wright is reasonable or not varies drastically depending on the episode that he's in. In "Gunshow", the episode takes his side, indicating that the gun dealer, while evil, hadn't actually violated any law, and that McCoy was basically engaging in prosecutorial misconduct by trying to get him convicted for being a bad guy, not for violating any actual statute. In "Damaged", on the other hand, Wright is shown as a heartless and stupid jerk who refuses to even consider that the mentally disabled girl could have been raped, even though McCoy provided ample evidence that the girl was incapable of consenting to sex.
- "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Wright's reasoning for why he wouldn't reverse his decision to set aside the guilty verdict in "Damaged".
- What the Hell, Hero?: Calls out the jury for convicting the three boys of rape.
- Played by: Robert Vaughn
An old friend of Adam Schiff's. When his son was arrested for murder, he refused to allow his grandson to plea to an insanity defense, even though it would get his son better treatment. It turned out that this was because his grandson's insanity was genetic, and if it were known that his son had the illness, people would suspect him of having it too. When Schiff refused to allow him to sacrifice his son, Anderton sponsored Judge Feldman in the forthcoming election for District Attorney. Appeared 3 times in season 8. Played by Robert Vaughn.
Governor Donald Shalvoy
- Played by: Tom Everett Scott
At first an ally of McCoy, he turned against the district attorney when McCoy said he'd reveal that Shalvoy was seeing prostitutes as part of a case. Shalvoy then sabotaged the case and began trying to destroy McCoy, going so far as to sponsor someone to run against him in the next elections. He appeared 4 times in seasons 18-19.
- Antagonistic Governor
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Shalvoy tries to bring down former ally Jack McCoy after the latter attempts to expose his use of prostitutes, he then offers to take down new ally Joe Chappel, McCoy's rival for District Attorney, to bribe McCoy, and then sells out his own WIFE to keep from losing his position as Governor.
- Corrupt Politician
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Starts out as a thinly vieled Expy of New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, but in subsequent appearances grew into his own character.
- Our Presidents Are Different: President Corrupt and President Playboy.
- Smug Snake
- Played by: Pat Moya
Rey Curtis' wife.
- Bus Crash
- Ill Girl: Is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the beginning of season 8. It eventually ends up killing her.
- Played by: Jennifer Estlin
Briscoe's daughter, who isn't very close to him. Gets caught up in a drug operation, with fatal consequences.
Dr. Valerie Knight
- Played by: Deidre O'Connell
Van Buren's doctor, who treated her when she developed ovarian cancer. Appeared in 4 episodes in season 20.