About Liz Holtzman
Liz Holtzman: Trailblazer and One-of-a-Kind Leader
A lifelong advocate for women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights, Liz Holtzman has broken through many barriers. She was elected to the US Congress at the age of 31, becoming the youngest woman ever to serve at that time. She was the first woman elected Brooklyn District Attorney, and the first and only woman ever elected New York City Comptroller.
In Congress, Holtzman was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment trial of President Nixon, voting for his impeachment during Watergate. Joining four US Air Force pilots, Holtzman sued to stop the US bombing of Cambodia in a landmark case. In Congress, she led the House as a consistent and vocal supporter of women’s rights, authoring the Rape Privacy Act, helping create the bipartisan Congresswomen’s Caucus, and authoring the extension of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Holtzman introduced the first bill to spur development of drugs for rare diseases, which became law – producing treatments for thousands of victims. She uncovered the presence of Nazi war criminals in the United States and wrote a law and created a unit in the Justice Department that expelled more than 100 of them.
As Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, Holtzman worked to resettle Indochinese refugees, and wrote the Refugee Act with Senator Kennedy. She stopped redlining by insurance companies that stymied affordable housing construction and repair.
As District Attorney, Holtzman helped improve New York State laws on rape, sexual abuse of children, and victim protection. She created New York’s first environmental crimes bureau and a special unit to handle police misuse of force. Her office participated in prosecuting major organized crime cases. Holtzman notably challenged the removal of African Americans from the jury through peremptory challenges and was the only District Attorney in America to ask the Supreme Court to ban the practice. The Court did so, acknowledging her work on the problem. Holtzman also persuaded New York State’s highest court to end impunity for marital rape. She was the only DA in the State to seek that result.
As Comptroller, Holtzman financed the creation of tens of thousands of units of affordable housing, using the power of the municipal pension funds. She used those funds to fight LGBTQ and religious discrimination as well as environmental pollution. She successfully challenged policy that allowed New York City-owned hospitals to refuse offering screening for mammograms for women at high risk of breast cancer, and later worked with Congress to cover mammograms under Medicare. She exposed the failure of New York City to respond to police misconduct in certain cases.
After leaving elective office, Holtzman turned to the private practice of law with a New York City firm. Thereafter, she was appointed by President Clinton to a panel that oversaw the declassification of 8 million pages of secret US files on Nazi war crimes. Under President Obama, Holtzman was asked to deal with sexual assault in the military, serving on a federal panel and then chairing another. She was appointed to and served on the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Committee, until her resignation in protest over Trump’s separation of children from their parents at the Southwest border. She served on the Transition Teams of District Attorney Kenneth Thompson and Attorney General Letitia James.
Holtzman helped found the Fair Elections Legal Network, a national organization that still fights voter suppression, and an organization promoting the election of refugees to elective office.
A graduate of Harvard Law School and Radcliffe College, Holtzman worked as a law student for a Black civil rights attorney in Georgia and helped found a national civil rights group that brought law students to the South to fight Jim Crow. She served as Assistant to Mayor John Lindsay, where she started the programs to place safety matting in the City’s playgrounds and build mini pools.
Holtzman has received four honorary degrees and many awards. She appears in OSCAR®-winning documentaries including “Women – for America, for the World,” winner of the OSCAR® for best documentary short subject, on nuclear disarmament; and “Hôtel Terminus,” OSCAR® winner for best documentary feature, on Nazi Gestapo Chief Klaus Barbie. She also is featured in “Watergate,” by OSCAR®-winning documentary director Charles Ferguson, and “All the President’s Men Revisited,” produced and narrated by OSCAR®-winning actor Robert Redford. Holtzman is the author of books including The Case for Impeaching Trump, her memoir Who Said It Would Be Easy?: One Woman’s Life in the Political Arena, and Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution – and What We Can Do about It.
Born in Brooklyn, Liz Holtzman is a longtime resident of the borough. She is the first generation of her family to be born in America.