D.A. Johnson announces he would like to seek New York Supreme Court judgeship

The borough’s district attorney, in office for more than a quarter century, announced that he is interested in a New York Supreme Court seat.

District Attorney Robert Johnson announced on Friday, September 18 that he was requesting that Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Bronx Democratic County Committee chairman, support his nomination in the party’s Judicial Convention, slated to take place on Thursday, September 24.

He said in a statement that he understands that the decision rests solely with the judicial delegates, and that if he were not selected, he would run for another term as Bronx D.A. on the Democrat, Republican and Conservative party lines.

He stated that this is a way to for him to continue his public service in another capacity.

“I have gained tremendous satisfaction from working with this office and all its staff to provide justice and fairness for the people of the Bronx,” stated Johnson. “However, after 42 years of public service, including the U.S. Navy, The Legal Aid Society, as a Bronx Assistant District Attorney, as a Criminal Court Judge, and as the D.A. for the past 27 years, after much inner reflection, I have concluded that I would like to serve in another capacity.”

Johnson added: “It is time for change in my life; the judicial position will allow me to make a career move that provides the change that I seek without giving up public service.”

The D.A also sought to answer published reports that speculated that some sort of backroom deal was struck to move Johnson to another position.

“Contrary to what has been reported, no one, including anyone associated with the Bronx Democratic Party, has ever offered me another position, nor has anyone asked me to step down or retire as the district attorney,” he stated.

Because the Judicial Convention comes after the Democratic Primary election on Thursday, September 10, critics at newspaper editorial boards have stated that this allows a small group of party delegates to select a candidate in the general election that is almost surely to win in the heavily Democratic Bronx county.

The Democratic County Committee had no comment on Johnson at all as of press time.

Among the possible candidates to replace Johnson, according to published reports, is Darcel Clark, currently an Associate Justice of the New York State Appellate Division.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said that Johnson’s tenure in the D.A.’s office brought marked change in that he did not pursue prosecution for publicly and took his responsibilities seriously, with a cautious approach.

“When he came into office he added an air of professionalism and dignity to that office,” said Benedetto.

Before Johnson came into the office, previous D.A.s would make high profile arrests designed to for media exposure, said Benedetto, contrasting this with Johnson’s more restrained approach.

In particular case, prior to Johnson’s tenure, Benedetto recalled how people who ran a childcare center in Castle Hill were accused of child molestation. They were paraded before cameras, had their reputations and lives destroyed, only to have it later determined that the charges against them were baseless, he said.

As of press time, the Bronx Republican Party has not indicated who it would support for district attorney in November if Johnson becomes a judge.

“The chairman is waiting to hear back from the Judicial Convention on Thursday night,” said J.C. Polanco, a prominent member of the Bronx G.O.P., adding that should Johnson not be the D.A. candidate, the Republican party has alternatives.

“We have some exciting attorneys on our side…that would be great candidates,” he said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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