By David Brand
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election and that he will leave office at the end of his current term.
“After almost six decades in public service, the last 27 years spent as District Attorney of Queens County, and after careful thought and consideration, I have made the decision to finish out my current term and not seek re-election,” Brown said in a statement.
Brown has served as Queens DA since 1991.
“When I was appointed District Attorney by then Governor Mario M. Cuomo in 1991, one of my chief goals was to elevate the standards of professionalism in the office by hiring people on merit, not political connections,” Brown said. “Without question, we have overwhelmingly achieved that goal.”
Before he was appointed DA, Brown served as counsel to the state Assembly and sat on the bench in Queens Criminal Court, Queens Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, Second Department.
In a statement announcing his departure at the end of the year, Brown said he was proud of major reductions in violent crime — in 2018, Queens recorded 63 murders, the lowest number since 1965 — and various initiatives enacted by the DA’s office over the past three decades.
“I am grateful that the many specialty courts we pioneered — like having one of the state’s first Drug Courts, as well as a Mental Health Court and Veterans Court — have enjoyed enduring success and have been duplicated around the nation, Brown said. “Our Queens Treatment Intervention Program (QTIP) is making great strides to address the scourge of opioid addiction by not only avoiding criminal convictions but by saving lives and providing treatment and counseling.”
Various Queens DA office policies have come under fire from criminal justice reform advocates, however.
Brown has been criticized for continuing to prosecute low-level marijuana offenses that disproportionately affect people of color, failing to institute an immigration hardship plea policy and for maintaining a “no plea” policy, which prevents defendants from negotiating a plea deal after grand jury indictment.
Three candidates have already lined up to replace Brown in the 2019 election. Councilmember Rory Lancman, Borough President Melinda Katz and former Judge Gregory Lasak each declared their candidacy for DA in 2018.
“Brown has a long and distinguished career serving the people of Queens and New York State, and I wish him well,” Lancman said in a statement. “Now it’s our responsibility to forge a new criminal justice system in Queens, one that is more fair and less punitive, and focuses on protecting people, women and immigrants.”
Katz’s thanked Brown for his “decades of service to Queens and New York State” before highlighting the reforms she would enact.
“We are entering a new era of criminal justice in Queens, and there is a national movement to bring systemic changes to our criminal justice system, from instituting bail reform to ending marijuana prosecutions to extending warrant forgiveness,” Katz said. “I look forward to Queens being an active voice and leader in that change.”