|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2008)|
||This article consists almost entirely of a plot summary. It should be expanded to provide more balanced coverage that includes real-world context. (December 2011)|
|Law & Order character|
|First appearance||"Prescription for Death"|
|Last appearance||"Fear America"|
|Portrayed by||Richard Brooks|
|Time on show||1990–1993, 1996, 2005, 2006|
|Seasons||1, 2, 3, 6, 16, 17|
|Credited appearances||69 episodes (total)|
|Succeeded by||Claire Kincaid|
Paul Robinette, played by Richard Brooks, is a fictional character who appeared in the TV drama series Law & Order from the pilot episode in 1990 until the final episode of the third season, "Benevolence," in 1993. He is the first of the seven Assistant District Attorneys who have been featured on Law & Order, and the only male. He appeared in 69 episodes.
Robinette is introduced as having been raised in Harlem and worked his way through law school and into the Manhattan District Attorney's office at a young age. He works under Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty), whom he comes to think of as a mentor, despite occasionally disagreeing with his prosecution methods. He was mentored as a teenager by Police Commander William Jefferson, who inspired him to become a lawyer. In the pilot episode, "Everybody's Favorite Bagman", however, he and Stone discover that Jefferson is corrupt, and that he conspired to murder a city councilman.
Robinette advocates racial equality through equal treatment, including equal punishment; while he abhors racism, he also feels little sympathy for black people who turn to crime. He insists on being given the same opportunities as the equal of his white colleagues, without what he feels are added advantages from affirmative action policies.
After the character leaves the show and returns later as a defense attorney, his attitude has turned 180 degrees. In the first season episode "Out of the Half-Light", Stone asks Robinette if he thinks of himself as "a black lawyer, or a lawyer who's black". Robinette at first considers himself the latter, but he gradually comes to think of race as a more integral part of his reasons for practicing law. He later confirms this in the 1996 episode "Custody".
Departure from show
He leaves the DA's office and eventually becomes a defense attorney who represents his clients as victims of institutionalized racism, and defends criminals thusly despite prosecuting them in the past strictly based on law. He is replaced by Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy).
Initially, his disappearance from the show was never explained and was not mentioned in either the third season end or fourth season opener. NBC press releases at the time of the character's departure mentioned that Robinette had moved to a Park Avenue law firm. On the 4th season DVD, a deleted scene (Episode 3 "Discord") includes Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) asking to see Robinette. Stone responds with "Uh, you'll have to take a cab uptown. Park Avenue. Woodward, Martin, and Schwartz."
Robinette has reappeared on the show three times: once in 1996, 2005 and 2006, as opposing counsel to Stone's successor, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston). In the 1996 episode "Custody", he defends a black woman who attempted to kidnap her son from his white foster parents. In the 2005 episode "Birthright", he defends a nurse accused of performing sterilizations on promiscuous black teenagers whom she deems emotionally unfit to become parents. In the 2006 episode "Fear America", he defends a Muslim accused of murder who killed to cover up his terrorist activities. In that episode, Robinette accuses McCoy and the D.A.'s office of participating in a giant conspiracy to make every Muslim appear to be a terrorist.