With five official series’ (and a sixth coming the fall), it’s no surprise Law & Order has seen a lot of characters go through their doors over 30 years.
Some are amazingly long-lasting such as Mariska Hargitay, who is going on 23 years as Olivia Benson. Others didn’t even last a full season.
Some characters were meant to be temporary as fill-in partners and didn’t make much of an impact. While the casting is usually good, it doesn’t matter if the characters aren’t well-written.
Sadly, Law & Order has seen more than its share of dud characters over the years. Some are merely polarizing, such as Serena Southerlyn. Others, however, were openly loathed by the fans, especially as the writers kept pushing them.
As much as fans would love seeing some characters return, these are 10 Law & Order characters folks weren’t that upset to see leaving the show and still regarded as misfires amid a usually strong revolving cast for the franchise.
10. Nora Lewin
Casting two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest was a major move for Law & Order. It’s a shame her character could never be worthy of her talents.
Taking up as the interim D.A. after Adam Schiff, Lewin was a former law professor and was often called “wishy-washy” by characters on the show. She seemed too detached from cases and lacked the commanding presence to put others in their place.
Nora could clash with McCoy on things like the death penalty, but it simply wasn’t believable she could achieve such a high position without seeming to be that passionate about the law.
She was gone in two years, with the explanation, she decided she wasn’t a good fit to be D.A. It’s one time the fandom was totally on her side.
9. Joe Dekker
Law & Order: Los Angeles had a rough reputation, and that rubbed off on Joe Dekker.
The first half of the series had Dekker (Terrence Howard) splitting ADA work with Morales (Alfred Molina). While the character was supposed to be a sharp attorney with over a hundred victories, he didn’t seem that dominating in court.
Howard often sounded bored in his summations and didn’t show the passion the character was supposed to have.
A crossover with SVU didn’t help, where Dekker showed a more arrogant side, mocking Novak while defending an accused attacker.
When the show did its midseason retool, Morales was a cop again while Dekker was the sole ADA, which only highlighted his shortcomings. Howard was a good actor, but the role, like the rest of Law & Order: LA, never lived up to potential.
8. G. Lynn Bishop
A few times on Criminal Intent, Goren would get a new partner when Eames was on assignment. Each one illustrated just how vital the Goren/Eames chemistry was.
G. Lynn Bishop was probably the worst of them. Samantha Buck was good enough in the role but lacked the ability to understand Goren’s quirks.
Too many of their cases were centered around her complaining about his actions and then smugly acting as if they were a tight unit. She was meant to be a temporary fill-in also made it hard for the audience to get invested in her.
Barely given a backstory or even a character, Bishop seemed a wasted persona that marred Goren’s usual fun.
7. Dale Stuckey
The point was to make this guy annoying but leave it to SVU to go too far with it.
Dale Stuckey almost looked like the show was mocking the lab techs of CSI. A crime scene worker, Dale soon annoyed Stabler and Benson with his overeager attitude and bad jokes.
Worse was how Dale would be downright eager boasting about finding a body and then going too far trying to uncover evidence.
After an error he made nearly caused a serial killer to be released, Stuckey snapped. First, he killed an innocent woman to frame that killer then realized he liked it.
He was eventually arrested and sent to jail, a harsh fate for what started as just an unlikeable character who became a monster.
6. Danni Beck
Any character trying to step into Benson’s shoes was rough, but Danni Beck was still pretty bad.
When Benson was on an undercover FBI assignment, Stabler was paired with Beck (Connie Nielsen). A tough cop whose policeman husband was murdered, Beck had a lot of darkness in her.
She and Stabler clashed a few times, culminating in sharing a kiss each instantly realized was a mistake. It was soon obvious she was too emotionally invested in the cases to handle the job.
After a rough case involving child slavery, Beck quit the unit. Her tenure was just further proof of why the Stabler/Benson dynamic worked so wonderfully.
5. Joe Fontana
If there was an actor who seemed perfect for Law & Order, Dennis Farina was it.
A former real-life Chicago cop, Farina was well known for his roles in various TV cop shows like Crime Story. Having him follow Jerry Orbach as Greene’s partner should have been great.
Yet somehow, Fontana never clicked as well as he should have. His wisecracks were lacking, and he threw folks with things like being wealthy while talking as if he was a blue-collar cop.
It became worse when Greene was shot, and Fontana’s partnership with Nick Falco was a major letdown. Even an episode delving into him investigating a crime of his past wasn’t well-accepted.
That Farina lasted barely one season with this show is a real head-scratcher.
4. Kim Greylek
After the departure of Casey Novak, the SVU team needed a compelling new ADA. Unfortunately, Kim Greylek wasn’t quite it.
The character was openly nicknamed “the Crusader” for advocating for women’s rights and being stern in a courtroom. Although, maybe she was too stern with Michaela McManus coming off all-business and not much levity.
It also became clear Greylek wasn’t that good a lawyer, lacking the capabilities of Novak and Cabot. At one point, a perp beat her down in court after Kim foolishly taunted her.
She was written out by returning to D.C. as the show never made Kim the sharp attorney she was supposed to be.
3. Chester Lake
Chester Lake seemed to be working on a completely different cop show.
He entered SVU as a Brooklyn cop suspecting a case of his was connected to one the team was investigating. Boasting his blue-collar credentials (which somehow included a stint as an MMA fighter), he and Finn were partnered up a lot.
Yet Lake seemed way too serious, even for SVU’s world, and often appeared to operate on a different mentality than the rest of the team. He and Finn clashed too much on cases.
His end was rough as he discovered a police officer was behind a heinous crime. Lake took justice into his own hands to shoot the guy and was sent to prison.
The SVU cops may bend the rules but one becoming a perp himself was too much to take.
2. Nina Cassady
Sometimes, shifting up a format doesn’t always work.
After years of only male detectives, the mothership Law & Order series tried something new by having Greene paired with Nina Cassady.
It quickly became obvious that the problem wasn’t her being a woman, but rather she just wasn’t that good a detective.
Milena Govich was clearly trying, but Nina wasn’t believable as a tough cop who was also prone to many mistakes. She was openly chewed out by Van Buren, who at one point flat-out told Nina she wasn’t cut out for this unit.
Her partnership with Greene is arguably the worst of any Law & Order cop team as they didn’t gel as a unit. By the next season, Nina was gone with no explanation.
It’s a shame a historic first as a female Law & Order cop ended so poorly.
1. Sonya Paxton
It takes a lot to make a character so unsympathetic the audience rooted when she died.
Introduced as a new ADA, Sonya Paxton quickly irritated every member of the SVU unit. Christine Lahti showed Sonya steely in court and snappish and arrogant, mocking Stabler after being thrown off a roof.
As it turned out, Sonya was fighting some personal issues that culminated in her showing up to trial drunk. This led to her being suspended but somehow talking her way back to work, still annoying as ever.
Sonya ended up being killed by a stalker, yet it was difficult for the audience to care too much given how abrasive and unlikeable she’d been with everyone.