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Bronx DA Robert Johnson Says He's Planning to Step Down to Become Judge

By Murray Weiss | September 18, 2015 4:27pm | Updated on September 20, 2015 9:24pm
 Bronx DA Robert Johnson.
Bronx DA Robert Johnson.
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Amy Sussman/Getty Images

BRONX — Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson — New York's first African-American DA — is thinking of ending his 26-year run as the borough's top law enforcement officer at the end of the year to pursue a judgeship.

Johnson, 67, dropped the bombshell on his top staff Friday afternoon, alerting them that he'll walk away from being the longest serving DA in Bronx history if the Democratic party agrees to nominate him for state judge.

"It is time for a change in my life," Johnson said in a statement. "The judicial position will allow me to make a career move that provides the change that I seek without giving up public service."

Rumors swirled for years that Johnson was mulling a change in position to seek the endorsement of the borough’s Democratic leadership to become a Supreme Court judge.

"We recently heard from Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson regarding his interest in moving on from his role as Bronx County District Attorney and, as with any other candidate who has reached out, we discussed the possibility of nominating him for one of the upcoming vacancies in the Bronx Supreme Court," Bronx Democratic County Committee chairman Marcos Crespo said in a statement. 

"If the Judicial Delegates who were nominated and elected by the residents of the Bronx choose to select him as one of the Democratic candidates for Bronx Supreme Court, the position will become vacant and we have a responsibility and obligation to nominate a replacement as the Democratic Party's candidate in the District Attorney race, in accordance with election law."

However, Johnson said if the judgeship failed to materialize, he would seek another term in November for DA, for which he already has the endorsement across all party lines.

A father of four and a Bronx native, Johnson was a Navy veteran, a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society, a prosecutor in the borough, and a Criminal Court judge before becoming the Bronx DA in 1989. His wife, Dianne Renwick, is also a judge.

Darcell Clark, an Appellate Division judge, is considered a front-runner to succeed Johnson.

During his stint as DA, Johnson has handled numerous high-profile cases that ranged from the recent NYPD ticket-fixing scandal to the indictment of four police officers in the death of Amadou Diallo. Those officers were later acquitted in Albany following a change of venue.