Mount Vernon — The Council Chambers in Mount Vernon City Hall were filled to capacity, with dozens outside the two doors trying to look in from the corridor, for the Swearing In Ceremony of Judge Nichelle Johnson Muhammad, who was appointed by Mayor Richard W. Thomas to Mount Vernon City Court, Tuesday afternoon. Judge Johnson who makes history as the first Muslim on the bench in Mount Vernon, will serve on to the Mount Vernon City Court effective immediately, filling the unexpired term of the Honorable Helen M. Blackwood, who was elected to Westchester County Court Judge, in November. Johnson will serve the remainder of Judge Blackwood’s term, that expires on December 31 and will run for the seat in November.
“I am completely humbled, and very excited. It was a tough decision to make, cause I had to walk away from all my clients,” Judge Johnson Muhammad, who was sworn in with the Holy Qur’an and the Bible, shares BW via phone. “I made the decision after talking to several people including Brother Arif Muhammad, the Chief Council in the Nation of Islam and he said, ‘as a lawyer you serve a few, as a judge you serve many’ and that sealed it for me.”
“Nichelle Johnson is eminently qualified for the position of City Court Judge,” Mayor Richard W. Thomas shared with BW. “She has a long record of service for the City of Mount Vernon including time as Corporation Counsel and Chief of Staff to the Mayor. She has over twenty years of experience as a litigator and understands the intricacies of the legal system. She has appeared before federal, state, and local courts representing a variety of clients. I am thankful she has accepted this appointment and I look forward to her continued service to our city as a fair jurist.”
Judge Johnson previous experience as an attorney, included her own law firm, Law Offices of Nichelle A. Johnson, PLLC where she was a general practitioner who handled a multitude of civil matters for various clients and even some criminal defense. She served as Deputy Corporation Counsel under both the Davis and Clinton Administrations, 2nd Ass’t Corporation Counsel during Mayor Ernest D. Davis second term and Corporation Counsel and Acting Chief of Staff for the City of Mount Vernon during the first two years of Davis fourth and final term as Mayor. Johnson’s other experience as an Attorney-At-Law include handling family law at the Mount Vernon firm, Bozeman & Trott, LLP as well as working for the Federal reserve Bank of New York ad Kings County District Attorney’s Office.
Judge Johnson also served as an Arbitrator for Mount Vernon City Small Claims Court and was a prior Board Member of the Mount Vernon Family YMCA. A graduate from Brooklyn Law School where her honors included Moot Court Honor Society, Northeast Regional Winner Trial Competition, Recipient of Judge Edwards and Doris A. Thompson Award For Excellence in Trial Advocacy and The Order of Barristers Certificate.
The ceremony was billed The Swearing In And Phenomenal Women Awards Ceremony. Also sworn in was Shawyn Patterson-Howard who was appointed the Commissioner of Department of Planning and Community Development and Executive Director of the Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Agency, Thursday, March 17th. Phenomenal Women Awards were given to Rella Fogliano, Linda Gordon, Frances Lightsy and Patrice Wallace Moore.
“Was very honored today to be recognized in my city as a phenomenal woman along with some amazing women (Ms Linda Gordon, Ms Frances Lightsy & Ms Rella Fogliano),” Patrice Wallace Moore, wife of Lowes Moore, wrote on her Facebook page. “What was best was to see my sister friends Shawyn Patterson Howard & The Honorable Nichelle Johnson be installed as Planning Commissioner & Judge.”