haitian judges race
Judge Dweynie Esther Paul (left) and Cassandra Aimee Johnson (right) ran for judicial seats in New York City this month. Campaign photos

In this month’s New York City elections, Cassandra Aimee Johnson has won her Democratic primary for Queens County Civil Court, according to early Board of Elections results. 

“We are excited about Johnson’s victory,” said District 33 state Assembly Member Clyde Vanel in southeast Queens. “It is important for us to support and promote well-qualified, and fair lawyers to the bench.” 

Johnson beat opponent Devian Shondel Daniels in the primary, capturing 80% of the vote, per the BOE. There was no Republican primary for Queens County Civil Court of the 4th Municipal District, which encompasses Jamaica and Queens Village among several neighborhoods.

A lifelong resident of Queens, Johnson attended St. John’s University, where she earned her undergraduate and law degrees. Since 2007, she has held licenses to practice law in New York and Connecticut. After working in private practice for two years, Johnson worked in the litigation department of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, where she received awards for outstanding performance, according to her website

Legal professionals said that having judges who are fair-minded, culturally competent and who can understand the immigration implications of certain offenses, can benefit the larger Haitian community in New York. 

Earning a judicial seat is one of the highest honors for an attorney, said Sherbune Paul, president of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALANY). Although she did not know Johnson personally, she said it is “wonderful” to have more Haitian-American representation on the bench. 

“As Haitian attorneys we don’t often see people like us on the bench,” said Paul. “It’s a huge signifier for us that you can go as far as you want to go.” 

In Brooklyn, the race for Kings County Surrogate’s Court was highly watched.  It featured Haitian-American candidate Civil Court Judge Dweynie Esther Paul, who drew the spotlight earlier this year over a worker wage controversy. She appears to have lost to Supreme Court Judge Rosemarie Montalbano, who captured 62% of the vote, to Paul’s 37%, per the city Board of Elections.

Judge Paul had the support of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON), which made 10 volunteers available to campaign for her and another current elected leader, District 45 Council Member Farah Louis. Alix Desulme, NHAEON’s chair and vice mayor of North Miami, said the unofficial results in that race are disappointing.

“She was uniquely qualified for the position, she served the community well and she was fair,” Desulme said.

Paul, a NHAEON member, did not return a phone call requesting comment. Her 10-year Kings County Civil Court term lasts until 2026, according to Ballotpedia. 

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.