Casey Novak

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ADA Casey Novak
Law & Order character

Casey Novak - SVU.jpg

Novak in her last episode "Valentine's Day"
First appearance "Serendipity" (2003)
Last appearance "Valentine's Day" (2012)
Portrayed by Diane Neal
Time on show 2003–08, 2011–12
Seasons 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13
Credited appearances 112 episodes (SVU)
1 episode (TBJ)
113 episodes (total)
Preceded by
Succeeded by

Casey Novak is a fictional character on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, portrayed by Diane Neal. She is the only female Assistant District Attorney (ADA) to have appeared in five complete seasons in any Law & Order series and the longest-running ADA in the entire franchise.

Character overview[edit]

Casey Novak is a young and focused senior-assistant district attorney who's been with the Manhattan DA's office since 2001. It is revealed in early season five that she graduated from Harvard law school, as seen on a plaque in her office. While sometimes deeply affected by the horrific crimes she deals with on the job, she does not often reveal her emotions. This is an exception to her first appearance; when Detective Benson came into her office to berate her for being too hard on a young child in a lineup, she finds Novak in tears. Although she quickly loses her innocence when dealing with sex crimes, she still shows uneasiness when dealing with the gray areas of human involvement, preferring the letter of the law to the messiness of each individual reality. Nonetheless, Novak has a 71 percent success rate in the cases she prosecutes, whereas the average for prosecutors is 44 percent.[1]

It is revealed that in her final year of law school, Novak was engaged to a man, Charlie, who suffered from schizophrenia.[2] She ended the relationship when his symptoms became so severe she felt she was no longer safe with him. In 2002 Charlie attacked her in her home during a psychotic episode. She convinced the police not to press charges, but ended the relationship. He eventually became homeless, and was found dead as a "John Doe" in the spring of 2007. She developed a deep compassion for the mentally ill afterward.[3] While prosecuting a case, she deliberately sabotages a competency hearing for a schizophrenic child rapist to avoid him being extradited to Louisiana where he would face the death penalty. Manhattan's new DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) calls Novak into his office and threatens to fire her and have her disbarred if she abuses the authority of the DA's office again.[3]

In the season 6 episode "Goliath", Novak states that she is a big supporter of the U.S military. She explains that her father was an M60 Door gunner on a Huey during the Vietnam War. His helicopter crashed three times and he received a Purple Heart.[4]

Novak lives in an apartment in the Upper West Side of New York City. She is Catholic.[1] She used to work serving tables in order to pay for her college tuition.[5] Sometimes, she rides her bicycle to work.[6]

Novak is a redhead, although she had her hair dyed strawberry blonde and blonde for some of her appearances. She is also an avid softball player and a batter. She plays on a team called the "Sex Crimes."

SVU prosecutor (2003–08)[edit]

Novak prosecuted white collar crimes before being assigned full-time to the 16th Precinct in October 2003, after Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March), thought to be dead, transfers into the Witness Protection Program. During her first case, Novak has a hard time dealing with it as it deals with children, but ultimately helps solve the crime herself, coming along in the search for the victim to see if she could handle it, helping to figure out where the perpetrator went and finding and rescuing the young girl herself. Following her first case, Novak asks District Attorney Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson) to reassign her because she feels she could not handle the intensity of prosecuting sex crimes, especially those committed against children. Branch refuses, saying that he had been eying her for the job for some time, and thought that she was a perfect choice for the position.[7]

Novak arrives on the scene with guns blazing, intent on leaving her mark on the bureau, and immediately antagonizes detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson by taking a hands-on approach, second-guessing their detective work and interfering with their interrogation of a suspect. Her intuition leads to the rescue of a child locked in a cooler on her very first case, and wins her the respect of the squad.[7] She remains aloof and demanding with the detectives, however, until Capt. Don Cragen (Dann Florek) has a candid conversation with her about the necessity of working as a team, as she had previously worked with different cops in each case.[8] By the sixth season however, she has a good relationship with the SVU detectives, particularly Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Stabler is especially enraged when she is attacked and beaten up, and risks his career by threatening the man he believed to have done it.[9]

Novak has an adversarial relationship with her former supervisor and mentor, Elizabeth Donnelly (Judith Light). Novak often finds herself at odds with Donnelly, sometimes they have a common friendship with each other. And in one case, Novak forces her (acting upon a directive from Branch) to recuse herself from a case.[10] Occasionally, she finds herself opposing attorneys with whom she has worked before. Like her predecessor, Alexandra Cabot, she has, at various times, run afoul of stern and by-the-book Judge Lena Petrovsky (Joanna Merlin).


Towards the end of the ninth season, it was announced that Diane Neal was departing the cast. Days later, it was rumored that she had been fired from the series; Neal noting that she "did talk to the crew" about her departure, however she declined to say whether she was fired. "Rumors are rumors [...] I love the crew. The crew loves me. We've really gotten along and bonded over these past five years. And they're always looking out for me and watching my back."[11]

I've lasted longer by several years than almost any other ADA [in the Law & Order universe]. So every year I've been like, 'Is this going to be the one when I leave?' Dick Wolf is known for replacing his cast regularly. And the truth is, I'm really looking forward to the future.

—Neal on her departure from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in April 2008[11]

In the Season 9 finale "Cold", Novak violates due process by violating the Brady rules while prosecuting a corrupt police officer who raped two 14-year-old illegal immigrants, killing one. She is called to Judge Donnelly's chambers and informed that the DA had declined to refile charges against the defendant because of her actions. Donnelly informs Novak that she is facing a minimum of a year's censure or suspension by the Bar.[12]

In the second episode of Season 10, it is asserted by ADA Kim Greylek that Novak was disbarred for the violation.[13]

Return to SVU (2011–12)[edit]

Novak returns to SVU in the Season 12 episode "Reparations", and reveals she was not disbarred but rather simply censured - having her license suspended for three years. In her first case after being re-hired by the District Attorney's office, she finds herself at odds with Law & Order: Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Joe Dekker (Terrence Howard), who is the defendant's lawyer as well as his cousin. Dekker cites Novak's previous misconduct several times throughout the episode. When the case goes to trial, the presiding judge is Lena Petrovsky, whom Novak lied to in the Season 9 finale. When Dekker's cousin goes against the deal in place at the allocution hearing and says he only broke into the woman's house and did not rape her, Petrovsky asks Novak if she is trying to railroad another defendant into custody; a shocked Novak replies that both the defendant and his attorney agreed to the deal. In the end, Novak and Stabler realize that the accuser made the rape story up because her grandfather told her to and Novak subsequently makes a deal with Dekker for his cousin's breaking and entering charge.[14]

Novak, along with ADA Alex Cabot, returned to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for its 13th season.[15] She is first seen in the season's third episode "Blood Brothers", in which the SVU squad is investigating the teenage son of a high profile political couple. She gets into a heated argument with Benson after she tells her that she is "off," to which Benson replies that Novak and her office have "lost their nerve."[16] Novak is the prosecutor in four episodes during Season 13, sharing the ADA duties with Cabot, Michael Cutter (Linus Roache), and David Haden (Harry Connick, Jr.) She is last seen as the lead prosecutor in "Valentine's Day", in which she goes up against Defense Attorney Marvin Exley (Ron Rifkin), who is defending a woman who seems to have fabricated her own abduction.[17]


Neal has been credited in 112 episodes of SVU (appearing in 105) as Novak,[18] making her the longest ADA in the Law & Order franchise history. Additionally, she appears in a 2005 episode of Law & Order: Trial by Jury, bringing her total episode count to 113.

Seasons Years Episodes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
5 2003–04
6 2004–05 ×
7 2005–06 × × ×
8 2006–07 ×
9 2007–08 × ×
12 2011
13 2011–12
Seasons Years 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Haystack". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 8. Episode 15. February 27, 2007. NBC. 
  2. ^ "Influence". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 7. Episode 22. May 16, 2006. NBC. 
  3. ^ a b "Blinded". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 9. Episode 7. November 23, 2007. NBC. 
  4. ^ "Goliath". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 6. Episode 23. May 24, 2005. NBC. 
  5. ^ "Class". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 7. Episode 17. March 21, 2006. NBC. 
  6. ^ "Abomination". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 5. Episode 8. November 11, 2003. NBC. 
  7. ^ a b "Serendipity". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 5. Episode 5. October 21, 2003. NBC. 
  8. ^ "Coerced". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 5. Episode 6. October 28, 2003. NBC. 
  9. ^ "Night". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 6. Episode 20. May 3, 2005. NBC. 
  10. ^ "Rockabye". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 7. Episode 9. November 22, 2005. NBC. 
  11. ^ a b Ausiello, Michael (April 17, 2008). "Exclusive: Were Dourdan and Neal (Gulp) Fired?". TV Guide. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Cold". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 9. Episode 19. May 13, 2008. NBC. 
  13. ^ "Confession". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 10. Episode 2. September 30, 2008. NBC. 
  14. ^ "Reparations". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 12. Episode 21. April 6, 2011. NBC. 
  15. ^ TV Line:Law & Order: SVU Scoop: Stephanie March, Diane Neal Heading Back to Court
  16. ^ "Blood Brothers". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 13. Episode 3. October 5, 2011. NBC. 
  17. ^ "Valentine's Day". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 13. Episode 18. April 18, 2012. NBC. 
  18. ^ Casey Novak — IMDb