By Bill Parry
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced Wednesday that he will not seek an eighth term in the office he has held since Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed him in June 1991.
In the ensuing years, Brown elevated the Queens district attorney’s office to be “without a shadow of a doubt … the best prosecutor’s office in this great nation,” but at age 85 and in failing health, he had been rumored by court-watchers to step away for some time.
“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 Jan. 9 statement. “It has been an honor and a privilege to have served the people of Queens County — the most ethnically diverse county in the world — for these many years as district attorney. I am greatly appreciative and humbled to have had the trust and confidence that they have expressed in me by electing me to seven full terms in office, and in the process, making me the longest serving district attorney in Queens County history.”
Prior to his appointment in 1991, Brown had been a member of the state judiciary. In November 1977, Brown was elected a Justice of the Supreme Court in Queens County and in 1982 we was designated by Governor Hugh Carey as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division.
“When I was first appointed District Attorney by then Governor 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. Whatever success I have attained over the years is due in large measure to the fact that from the beginning I have surrounded myself with the most talented, capable and dedicated professionals imaginable — men and women of exceptional ability and commitment.”
Brown thanked his staff for their loyalty and service and thanked his partners in law enforcement for contributing to the city’s historic reduction in serious crime.
“Apart, however, from our historic reductions in violent crime and auto theft to name but a few, I am proud of our many innovations that have improved not only our criminal justice system, but our entire community,” Brown said. “I am grateful that the many specialty courts we pioneered — like having one of the State’s first Drug Courts, as well as Mental Health Court and Veterans Court — have enjoyed enduring success and have been duplicated around the nation.”
Brown also praised other programs such as the Queens Court Academy, where young offenders are not only spared incarceration, but are given the chance to complete high school and avoid rearrest. The Queens Treatment Intervention Program or QTIP, to address the scourge of the opioid crisis, and he is proud of institutional technological changes that allow the office to process arrests more quickly.
“We have been a leading advocate for improvements in criminal justice legislation, including measures to ensure the recordings of interrogations, enhanced identification procedures and for the sealing of old convictions,” Brown said. “As I finish my tenure as Queens District Attorney, I will continue to seek innovations to help all of our 2.5 million residents and ensure that I leave my office dedicated to the standard of excellence which has been our hallmark.”
City Councilman Rory Lancman, retired Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz have announced they will run to replace. Brown and his wife Rhoda have three children and two grandchildren.
“While it is difficult to say goodbye, I am comforted by the knowledge that I leave a legacy of accomplishment, excellence and government at its best, for which anyone can be proud,” Brown said. “On behalf of my entire family, I offer my best wishes and warmest thanks.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr