The family of the late Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown gathered in Albany Sept. 26 as a building was dedicated to his legacy.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) held a ceremony and celebration of Brown’s life at their landmarked headquarters at 107 Columbia Street.
“Judge Brown’s legacy will forever be a part of the fabric of every prosecutor’s office in this state,” DAASNY President, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said. “We all learned so much from DA Brown about interacting with our communities, partnering with law enforcement and making our neighborhoods safe and welcoming for all of our residents. I am proud to stand here today with DA Brown’s family, friends and colleagues and officially dedicate this building in his honor.”
Brown served Queens for nearly 28 years as its top law enforcement official beginning in 1991 when he stepped down as a Justice of the Supreme Court and was appointed Queens district attorney by Governor Mario Cuomo. Brown was re-elected seven times and held the office until his death in May 2019.
Brown was 86 years old and had been battling complications of Parkinson’s disease for several years. He announced last March that he was taking a leave of absence and handed over his duties to his top deputy, Chief Assistant John M. Ryan, who is currently serving as acting Queens district attorney.
“My longtime friend and mentor, Judge Brown, who was a past president of DAASNY and long term chairperson of its New York Prosecutors Training Institute, was a proud member of this organization for too many years to count,” Ryan said. “He loved being a prosecutor and dedicated his life to public service. Naming this historic building for Richard A. Brown would please him immensely because it relays the utmost respect and honors him and his work and commitment to excellence.”
Brown was part of DAASNY at a time when the role of district attorney was evolving and he was able to transform his role as a prosecutor and his office to meet the new expectations. He pioneered specialty courts for drug issues, mental health issues, veterans and sex trafficking and he hired staff that reflected Queens, the most diverse counties in the nation.
Brown was also a vocal advocate for improvements in criminal justice legislation and procedures, always trying to balance the concerns of victims and rights of defendants.
Last April, Ryan admonished several of the “progressive” candidates, who were running for Queens DA in the contentious June Democratic primary, for distorting Brown’s record.
“To hear some of the candidates running for Queens district attorney, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the Queens DA’s office was stuck in the 1970s, with no programs for defendants, no treatment programs, no alternative sentencing options and no specialized courts,” Ryan wrote in his first report to the people of Queens. “Running a district attorney’s office is not about snappy slogans and the latest fad. It is hard work. It is risky work. It is not about releasing career criminals from jail solely for the purpose of further reducing the population in a city that has already slashed those in custody by more than 42 percent over just the last 10 years.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz ultimately won the Democratic primary and will face Republican nominee Joe Murray in the general election in November.
“District Attorney Brown set the example of what a prosecutor and public servant should be,” said past DAASNY president Albany County District Attorney David Soares. “Judge Brown was a vocal advocate for improvements to the criminal justice system and led the way for prosecutors across the state to expand best practices inside and outside of the courtroom. Judge Brown also focused on creating diversity in his office and within all the organizations he participated in. His legacy will carry on in so many ways in so much of what we do.”