Celeste Koeleveld ’89

Courtroom Drama

Winter 2009

Celeste Koeleveld ’89 first knew she wanted to be a lawyer at the age of 12, when she wrote a play titled The Big Trial. The script, which Koeleveld still has, pits a passionate defense attorney against an irascible judge in the trial of a man falsely accused of murder. “It is very Perry Mason,” she says, “very melodramatic. The characters say things they would never say for real. It’s wildly contrary to how things actually go in court.”

Koeleveld would know. She has spent the bulk of her career in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she eventually became chief of the criminal division. Koeleveld left the Southern District last year, when she was appointed to her current position as the New York City Law Department’s executive assistant corporation counsel for public safety. “I was starting to feel like it was time for a change,” says Koeleveld, who is also an adjunct professor at the Law School. “[This new position] seemed like a very appealing change for me.”

Koeleveld now oversees the 70-attorney Special Federal Litigation Division, which handles federal police and correction officer litigation. She also supervises the 100-attorney Family Court Division, which deals with juvenile prosecution. “It’s helped me see a whole new part of litigation and government, and I think it’s been great,” she says. “I’m happy I’ve found something else I enjoy doing.”