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Haitian American lawyer Cassandra Johnson bids for Civil Court judgeship in Queens

Cassandra Johnson, Esq (Pavan Carter Photography)

Haitian American lawyer Cassandra Aimée Johnson, a lifelong Queens resident who has built her life’s work around helping others, says she is ready to sit as a judge in Civil Court in Queens.

Johnson – the daughter of a Haitian immigrant, currently works as a referee at the Supreme Court of Queens and, for the past 11 years, has conducted trials, settlement conferences and mediations. She’s also written over 6,000 judicial decisions.

“I believe that a judge plays an integral role in supporting justice and is a position of service to the community,” Johnson told Schneps Media. “I want to help people resolve their everyday disputes and make a real difference in their lives for the better.”

Raised in a union household in southeast Queens, Johnson said her parents instilled in her the values of hard work, respect for others and public service.

“These values are at the core of my call to serve Queens residents,” she said. “For me, it is important that we have representation on the bench that is as diverse and reflects the people of our borough of Queens.

“Equally important is that the judicial system regains the public’s trust and confidence to provide access to justice and ensure justice is served,” she added. “To that end, an environment that supports open dialogue on complex and difficult conversations; and implementing and expanding unconscious bias education and training to help restore that confidence in equitable jurisprudence are changes we need to see.

“That is why I am running to represent our community as a Democrat for Civil Court Judge for the 4th Municipal District,” continued Johnson, stating that her main points of emphasis or campaign planks are to bring competence, justice and fairness as a Civil Court judge.

“I want to help make the court less intimidating,” she said. “I think it’s important to treat people fairly and respectfully. I realize that cases do not appear in court, but rather people come to court as a last resort for a resolution to disputes. So, it is incumbent on the judge to make sure the parties understand what’s going on and feel like they’ve been heard, particularly as we come out of the pandemic and begin to reopen.”

Johnson she would like to educate people on the impact courts have on their communities and inspire young people of color to become attorneys and judges, believing that a judge’s role is to create new and innovative ways to resolve disputes and provide access to justice.

“I believe the work I do in my current role, as a court attorney referee, will prepare me to meet the challenges a Civil Court Judge would face,” she said. “Particularly, the work I have been doing in Supreme Court, Civil Term through unprecedented times has been especially challenging.”

But, despite these challenges, Johnson said she’s learned to adapt and create ways to make the virtual courtrooms accessible and have educated attorneys throughout the New York State on how to appear in court virtually for conferences and trials.

In addition, Johnson said she also brings years of work for the City of New York and in private practice, “which provide me with a diversity of expertise, experience and perspective”.

Johnson said she is working hard every day, attending events, hosting meet and greets, phone banking and personally knocking on doors to let people know that she would like to serve. She said she is also proud to have the support and endorsements of many elected officials, civic, faith-based and community leaders.

“With the efforts of friends and family, I am cautiously optimistic about my prospects for success but will continue to work hard to earn the votes and support of Queens residents,” Johnson said.

She expressed appreciation of the support and nomination of the Queens County Democratic Organization under the leadership of chairman and Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks.

“I am thankful for the support of Congressman Meeks and the many district leaders who made it possible for me to have this opportunity,” she said.

“I am also appreciative of the support I have been blessed to receive from my family,” Johnson added. “My dad, a Vietnam veteran, and my mom, a Haitian-immigrant and attorney, have been with me on the campaign trail every single day.  They both have taught me to live life in the moment but also be prepared, be kind always, help others and put service above self.”

As a certified mediator for civil and commercial matters, Johnson said her goal has been to preserve and repair relationships between parties and assist them to settle their disputes equitably and amicably. She said her experience and the work that she’s done during the past decade and a half have prepared her for the role of judge, giving her the skills to oversee matters that come before the court.

Being raised by her parents in a Haitian American family, with a strong passion for justice and civic engagement, Johnson said she initially sought a career in engineering due to her love of math, but, following her mother’s footsteps, eventually chose a career in law and public service.

Johnson attended St. John’s University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, where she was on the Dean’s List, a member of Pi Mu Epsilon National Honorary Mathematics Society and a math tutor.

She then attended St. John’s Law School for her Juris Doctor, and was an editor and member of a law journal.

While at St. John’s Law School, Johnson said she completed internships at the NYC Transit Authority and at the Office of Capital Defender’s, and participated in the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation clinic, where she represented low-income elderly Queens residents in cases involving deed thefts and other deceptive business practices.

She also gave presentations at senior centers on financial literacy and predatory lending.

Johnson has been admitted to the New York State Bar since 2007 and the Connecticut State Bar since 2006. She began her legal career in private practice working mostly with the Caribbean community in Brooklyn and Queens.

Johnson spent two years working in the private sector before moving on to work in the litigation department of the NYC Human Resources Administration, where she received awards for her outstanding work performance, integrity and professionalism. She said she has been steadfast in her commitment to the community, taking the time to participate in organizations that foster engagement and mentorship for youth and seniors.

Johnson is a member of the United for Progress Democratic Club and a longtime member of the Guy R. Brewer United Democratic Club, where she has participated in educational forums and mentored young people interested in pursuing careers in law and government.

In her personal capacity as an attorney, Johnson said has given back to the community by presenting at the Youth Conference at Eglise Baptiste de la Parousie, a Haitian church, where she encouraged young participants to become future lawyers.

She also spends time volunteering as an arbitrator in Small Claims Court, assisting litigants to resolve their dispute in an amicable manner and avoid costly legal fees.

Additionally, Johnson is a member of numerous volunteer service organizations, where she continues to dedicate her time and resources.

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