Fallout From Hack of City Law Department Could Linger for Months

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Among the thousands of lawsuits New York City faces each year, this case was unexceptional — a man suing the city and several police officers over his arrest during a 2016 demonstration. But last week, the case hit a snag for an unusual reason: The city’s Law Department had been hacked, and lawyers were struggling to gain access to important documents.

“Practically all attorneys from the New York City Law Department still do not have remote access to electronic files,” wrote Jorge M. Marquez, a city attorney, to the judge on July 1, asking for an extension of deadlines in the false-arrest case.

Mr. Marquez noted that attorneys could enter the Law Department’s offices to review files but because of the pandemic, many attorneys, including himself, were not going into work. “It is currently unknown when this problem will be resolved,” he wrote, adding that the city hoped it would be in the coming weeks.

More than a month after hackers gained access to the Law Department’s computer system — which stores an untold amount of sensitive information — it is now apparent that the breach had a more profound effect than officials have publicly revealed. The department’s chief IT officer has been reassigned and replaced. And the fallout, as chronicled in internal communications obtained by The New York Times, may for months continue to affect the 1,000-lawyer agency that defends the city in court.

Many city Law Department employees have returned to the office on a limited basis, but the inability to retrieve documents remotely has slowed some of their work.

Laura Feyer, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement that the Law Department’s attorneys are “arranging on-site and remote work accordingly to ensure there is minimal impact to cases.”

Nick Paolucci, a Law Department spokesman, said that a majority of the department’s attorneys have been able to meet court deadlines and that the legal work of the city was moving forward.

But court records show the hack continues to complicate cases. In letter after letter to judges, the city’s attorneys have sought postponements in cases, saying that without access to electronic files, they could not prepare a…