Ranking the ADAs of SVU
More than a dozen ADAs have made their mark over the last 19 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, from the beloved — Cabot, Barba — to the reviled — looking at you, Paxton. Check out our ranking of the SVU ADAs.
13. Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) — Season 11
One of the most reviled Executive ADAs in the show’s history, Sonya filled in for Cabot across a handful of season 11 episodes, immediately clashing with SVU, particularly Stabler, for being both cynical and ambitious. That was only made worse when she not only botched a case, but showed up to court the next day drunk, landing her in rehab and on a redemption tour that never quite stuck. Though she eventually showed some latent vulnerability, Sonya was murdered by a cold case killer suspect, biting him before she died so SVU could catch her killer.
12. Kim Greylek (Michaela McManus) — Season 10
The fourth ADA to team up with SVU after Carmichael, Cabot, and Novac, Kim Greyleck was nicknamed “The Crusader” at her previous job with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. Her introduction was rocky, since her ADA predecessor, Casey Novak, was censured over a misstep at trial, but she proved her might — and her trustworthiness. She has since returned to Washington, D.C.
11. Jo Marlowe (Sharon Stone) — Season 11
Jo Marlowe, Elliot Stabler’s former partner, didn’t have long as the ADA, but her presence in the courtroom is unforgettable. She struggled with cancer — and her lover left as a result — but managed to persevere when hired temporarily by Jack McCoy. Marlowe left her post after a hostage situation nearly took the life of M.E. Melinda Warner.
10. Gillian Hardwick (Melissa Sagemiller) — Season 12
As Mikka’s replacement, the tough ADA transfered from Brooklyn because she revered Stabler and Benson, tending to side with the latter on being more lenient and compassionate toward small-time offenders.
9. Mikka Von (Paula Patton) — Season 12
This short-lived, albeit memorable ADA appeared in only one episode, in which she offered opposing council a vacation as a stall tactic, and was immediately fired by the DA.
8. Sherri West (Francie Swift) — Season 12
Cool, collected, and precise, Sherri West commands the courtroom — even when dealing with that grey area of justice. Taking over as ADA after Gillian Hardwicke, she had to deal with a woman who claimed to have been raped by the same man all over the country, a teen predator accusing Elliot Stabler of assault, and a rape victim murdered right before she was supposed to testify.
7. Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) — Season 13
Following the major exit of original star Christopher Meloni, SVU needed the fill the void with a few familiar faces, hence adding flagship star Roche alongside returning fan-favorite Stephanie March in the season 13 premiere. So, Cutter briefly joined SVU as the Bureau Chief after being demoted by Jack McCoy.
6. David Haden (Harry Connick Jr) — Season 13
Haden, an executive ADA temporarily assigned to the Manhattan DA’s office, was secretly dating Olivia. After the verdict in one of Olivia’s past cases was overturned, Haden was assigned to a committee investigating past convictions, causing a conflict of interest and forcing them to break up.
5. Abbie Carmichael (Angie Harmon) — Season 1
Before Alexandra Cabot came to claim her ADA crown, Abbie Carmichael — a familiar face from Law & Order proper — provided her courtroom talents to the SVU gang. After handling a college murder and an odd brotherly relationship, her final case in the debut season involved the death of a salesman. It’s almost poetic.
4. Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) — Seasons 14-19
The no-nonsense ADA first joined the ranks following a revolving door of ADAs that included Cabot, Novak, Haden, Cutter, eventually landing a permanent slot in season 15. Where past ADAs found camaraderie with SVU, the scrupulous Barba was always determined to win his case, even if that meant contending with everyone from the victim to Olivia & Co. After becoming the longest serving ADA on the series, Barba resigned amid his controversial decision to pull the plug on a braindead child.
3. Casey Novak (Diane Neal) — Seasons 5-9
Casey was always going to have big shoes to fill, taking up the mantle of ADA in the wake of Cabot’s supposed death — she actually went into the Witness Protection Program. Casey was a tenacious ADA, relentless in her quest for justice, causing her to regularly clash with SVU until she learned how to be a team player. Novak was eventually suspended for misconduct, later replaced by Kim Greylek.
2. Elizabeth Donnelly (Judith Light) — Seasons 3-6
This is where our No. 1 ADA, Alexandra Cabot, gets her ferocity. Before scraping off New York scum from the judge’s chair, Cabot’s mentor Elizabeth Donnelly made a name for herself as a district attorney, racking up victory after victory. Though, one loss haunted her for years and clouded her judgment when the perpetrator finally resurfaced.
1. Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) — Seasons 2-5
Neither an assassination attempt nor the Witness Protection Program can keep this ADA down. Alexandra Cabot is a fighter, tackling everything from complex war crimes to dismantling the typically lecherous (and fictional) Hudson University. Even when she’s bending the rules, it’s for a good reason. Too good for us all, she eventually took a job prosecuting sex crimes in war-torn countries.