Bronx D.A. Roundly Criticized For Seeking Judgeship After Winning Primary Re-Elex Nod

In a statement released late last Friday, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson announced that he had requested that Bronx County Democratic Chairman Marcos Crespo support his nomination for a  position as a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court.

Johnson denied he had engaged in any questionable dealings related to his seeking re-nomination for re-election as District Attorney in exchange for stepping down to run for a judicial post and allowing party bosses to select his replacement.

“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. I have, over the years, enjoyed their full faith and support both personally and through many electoral processes,” said Johnson.


Office of the Bronx District Attorney

Office of the Bronx District Attorney

The Bronx Democratic Party, as well as the Republican and Conservative Parties, have already nominated Johnson to serve as District Attorney for another term.

The Bronx Republican County Committee said through a spokesman that the party would evaluate their options, if and when, the Bronx Democrats nominate Johnson for State Supreme Court. Party sources say that when Johnson came before their executive committee seeking their endorsement, he declared his intention to serve as Bronx District Attorney for another four-year term. One party official requesting anonymity said that Johnson has not called to explain his belated change of heart.

In his statement, Bronx D.A. Johnson explained,

“[That] after much inner reflection, I have concluded that I would like to serve in another capacity. 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.”

News accounts report that Associate Supreme Court Justice Darcel D. Clark is the favorite of Bronx Democrats to replace Johnson on the November ballot.  Insiders say that she has the support of former Bronx Democratic party boss and now State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie. But the decision resides in the hands of Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, the Democrat’s party leader, his district leaders and the recently elected Judicial Delegates.

Good government groups and others have cried foul. If Mr. Johnson secures the judicial nomination, Democratic leaders in the Bronx have the power to select his replacement on the Nov. 3 ballot for district attorney.

“It’s outrageous, it’s a crass political move that flouts our democracy and undermines our laws,” said Dick Dadey, of Citizens Union, a government watchdog group.

Bronx political activist and community leader, Egidio Sementelli said it was “outrageous, undemocratic and disgraceful that the public is being left out.” Sementelli won ran a losing slate of judicial delegates in the September Democratic primary alleged that it was an organized effort to deny Bronx voters an honest primary contest for District Attorney.

The Twelfth Judicial District nominating convention will be held on Thursday, September 24 at the Eastwood Manor (3371 Eastchester Road) starting at 7PM. There are four vacancies, plus two re-nominations of sitting Justices: the Honorable Associate Justice Dianne T. Renwick and the Honorable Associate Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels. Both women are jurists in the Appellate Division, First Department. Justice Renwick is married to District Attorney Johnson.

In recent memory, political observers can not recall when spouses have won judicial nominations on the same night, at the same judicial convention.

Party insiders and observers say that freshman Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda (87 District-Parkchester), who has made no secret of his desire to run for district attorney, is livid. In 2013, Sepulveda was the lone Bronx Democrat to back Bill de Blasio in his mayoral bid.  He has been counseled by advisers against rashly challenging the Democratic party replacement in the November General Election.

Sources say that Sepulveda has put out feelers to Bronx GOP leaders. One rumor circulating on Monday says the Bronx Republicans see an opportunity to capitalize on voter discontent should Johnson win a judicial nomination and decline to run for District Attorney. The Sepulveda camp declined comment.

Johnson’s declination of the Democratic, Republican and Conservative district attorney nominations would be due no later than October 1.

The Working Family, Independence and Green Parties did not nominate Johnson or any other candidates for Bronx District Attorney. Democrats hold a 11-1 enrollment advantage over Republicans in the Bronx.

Although, Johnson has told confidantes that he has since received good feedback on his decision, he noted in his Friday statement that

“Should I not be granted the nomination, I will stand for reelection in November to the position of District Attorney in order to continue to serve the people of the Bronx, a job that I love.  It is a position that allows me to secure justice for Bronx residents and the people of New York.

D.A. Robert Johnson has served 27 years as district attorney in the Bronx. Before being elected district attorney, Johnson served in the Navy, worked with The Legal Aid Society and as a criminal court judge. He is the first African-American District Attorney in the history of New York State. And, in 2005, he became the longest-serving District Attorney in Bronx history.

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