Barbara Underwood
Solicitor General of New York
Assumed office
January 1, 2007
GovernorEliot Spitzer
David Paterson
Andrew Cuomo
Preceded byCaitlin Halligan
66th Attorney General of New York
In office
May 22, 2018 – December 31, 2018
Acting: May 8, 2018 – May 22, 2018
GovernorAndrew Cuomo
Preceded byEric Schneiderman
Succeeded byLetitia James
Solicitor General of the United States
In office
January 20, 2001 – June 11, 2001
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded bySeth P. Waxman
Succeeded byTheodore Olson
Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States
In office
March 23, 1998 – January 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded bySeth P. Waxman
Succeeded byPaul Clement
Personal details
Born (1944-08-16) August 16, 1944 (age 76)
Evansville, Indiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Martin Halpern
(m. 1985)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)

Barbara Dale Underwood (born August 16, 1944) is an American lawyer currently serving as the Solicitor General of New York. She was first appointed to the position in January 2007 by Andrew Cuomo, who was then serving as the state's Attorney General. Underwood was reappointed in 2011 by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Underwood herself served briefly as the Attorney General of New York upon Schneiderman's resignation from the position on May 8, 2018. She declined to seek the office in the 2018 New York state elections, and resumed the position of Solicitor General after Letitia James was sworn in to succeed her on January 1, 2019. Underwood was the first woman to serve as Attorney General of New York.

Early life

Underwood was born in Evansville, Indiana, to Dr. Robert Underwood and Mildred Kinstein Underwood. She grew up in Belleville, New Jersey, and is the eldest of three daughters.[1] Underwood earned an A.B. magna cum laude from Radcliffe College of Harvard University in 1966 and received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1969.

While Underwood was a student at Radcliffe in 1963, she worked at WJRZ as news editor and got engaged to Howard Allen Cohen, a second year student at Rutgers Law School, who was also working at WJRZ.[2]

Legal career

After graduation, Underwood clerked for Chief Judge David L. Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and then Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court from 1971 to 1972.[3] After leaving the Court, Underwood was a law professor for 10 years at the Yale Law School, from 1972 to 1982. She also has taught at Brooklyn Law School and at New York University School of Law.

Underwood left academia to work in the Kings County District Attorney's Office.[4] She later served in the District Attorneys for three different counties in New York City: she was an Assistant District Attorney in New York County, Chief of Appeals and Counsel to the District Attorney in Kings County (Brooklyn), and Senior Executive Assistant District Attorney for Legal Affairs in Queens County. She then served as Chief Assistant United States Attorney and later Counsel to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.[5][6]

In 1998, Underwood was appointed by United States Attorney General Janet Reno to be Principal Deputy Solicitor General under Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman.[1][7] Underwood held that position for three years, and then served as Acting Solicitor General from January to June 2001, making her the first woman to act as Solicitor General.[8] After working in the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York for several years, in 2007 she was appointed Solicitor General of the State of New York, a position she held under three state Attorneys General.[9] She has argued twenty-two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and many cases before the federal and state appellate courts.[10][11]

She became Acting Attorney General on May 8, 2018, following the resignation of Eric Schneiderman.[12] The State Legislature picked Underwood as the replacement to fill the remainder of Schneiderman's term on May 22, 2018.[13] Underwood pledged not to seek elected office and fill out the remainder of Schneiderman's term until an elected successor is sworn in.[14] As Attorney General, Underwood successfully sued Donald Trump and his foundation, Donald J. Trump Foundation, for "a pattern of persistent illegal conduct."[15][16]

The Attorney General's office passed to Letitia James following her victory in the 2018 New York state elections.[17] Underwood, who had never sought or held elective office, professed contentment when she returned to the Solicitor General's office in January 2019.[17] "I like that role, and so I'm happy to go back to doing it," she told an AP interviewer at the time. "I have come to like this too. It's not that I'm eager to leave this, but I'm very happy to be going on to something that I know I like."[17] Underwood left the office having made history, as the first woman to serve as Attorney General of New York.[18]

On November 30, 2020, as Solicitor General of New York, Underwood argued the case Trump v. New York on behalf of New York State.[19]

Honors and awards

In 2012, the American Inns of Court presented her with its Professionalism Award for the Second Circuit, honoring her mentorship of attorneys throughout her career.[20] In May 2016, Radcliffe College conferred on her an honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa.[21][22]


Underwood has lived in New York City since 1982. She is married to Martin Halpern, former Brandeis University professor of playwriting and dramatic literature.[1][23] They live in Brooklyn and have one son, Robert, born in 1986.[1] Underwood had one previous marriage which ended in divorce.[1] Underwood is Jewish.[24]

Selected publications


  1. ^ a b c d e Hoffman, Jan (April 9, 1998). "Public Lives; Smart Lawyer for a Rich, Querulous Uncle". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  2. ^ "Barbara Underwood Is Planning Nuptials". New York Times. January 16, 1964. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  3. ^ "Senior Staff |". Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Kurtz, Howard (October 27, 1987). "The Private Public Prosecutor". Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  5. ^ "Here's Attorney General-Elect Eric Schneiderman's First Round Of Appointments". NY Daily News. December 22, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  6. ^ Mustain, Gene (June 9, 1996). "Court Opens Spy Heaing". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  7. ^ "Underwood Appointed Principal Deputy Solicitor General" (Press release). United States Department of Justice. March 11, 1998. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  8. ^ Groll, Elias J.; Jiang, Athena Y. (January 5, 2009). "Obama Names Law School Dean Solicitor General". Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "Attorney General Andrew Cuomo appoints top legal team to Martin Tankleff case". New York Daily News. Associated Press. January 18, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  10. ^ "Cases argued by Barbara Underwood". Oyez!. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  11. ^ Fermino, Jennifer (March 6, 2008). "A Flight of Fancy". New York Post. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  12. ^ Roy, Yancey (May 8, 2018). "Acting AG named as Dems mull replacement". Newsday. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  13. ^ Colby Hamilton. "Lawmakers Select Underwood as Interim Attorney General." New York Law Journal. May 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Karen Dewitt "Barbara Underwood named interim NYS Attorney General" WXXI News May 22, 2018
  15. ^ Mangan, Dan (June 14, 2018). "New York attorney general sues Trump and family over charity, claiming 'illegal conduct'". CNBC. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  16. ^ Prokop, Andrew (June 14, 2018). "Read: New York attorney general's new lawsuit against Trump Foundation, President Trump, and his children". Vox. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c "New York's 1st female attorney general closes surprise tenure as leading Trump antagonist". The Associated Press. January 1, 2019. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  18. ^ McKinley, Jesse (May 22, 2018). "Barbara Underwood approved as state attorney general; first woman to hold post". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "The Honorable Barbara D. Underwood to Receive the 2012 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Second Circuit". Inns of Court. Archived from the original on April 5, 2017. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  21. ^ Nguyen, Sophia (May 24, 2016). "Poet and Renaissance Scholar Launch Commencement Week". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  22. ^ Colby Hamilton. "Lawmakers Select Underwood as Interim Attorney General." New York Law Journal. May 22, 2018.
  23. ^ "Barbara Underwood Marries a Playwright". New York Times. August 5, 1985. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  24. ^ Underwood, Barbara [@newyorkstateag] (August 15, 2017). "I am Jewish. There are New Yorkers still alive today who fought against Nazis, or survived the concentration camps" (Tweet). Retrieved December 18, 2018 – via Twitter.
Legal offices Preceded bySeth P. Waxman Solicitor General of the United StatesActing2001 Succeeded byTheodore Olson Preceded byCaitlin Halligan Solicitor General of New York2007–present Incumbent Preceded byEric Schneiderman Attorney General of New York2018 Succeeded byLetitia James