Kobre & Kim Honors Sterling Johnson Jr. on Black History Month

February 10, 2023

In honor of Black History Month, Kobre & Kim is reflecting on the unique contributions made by African Americans both inside and outside the legal industry. Today, we celebrate Honorable Sterling Johnson Jr, a former United States Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In support of the 2023 Black History Month theme of Resistance, we are honored to recognize the career of Judge Johnson as a pioneer of resistance and representation of Black Americans in the highest courts of justice in the country. 

Sterling Johnson Jr. received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brooklyn College and his Bachelor of Laws from Brooklyn Law School. Judge Johnson was dedicated to public service, serving in the United States Marine Corps from 1952 to 1955 and the New York City Police Department from 1956 to 1967. He persevered at a time when the nation was resistant to change and the representation of African Americans in public service. Judge Johnson continued his career of service as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, as an executive liaison officer of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, as the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York and a Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission. 

Judge Johnson was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 to serve as on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Judge Johnson assumed senior status in June of 2003 and served in his position until his death in October 2022.  

During Judge Johnson’s time as a federal judge, he was notably recognized for ordering the closing of a Guantanamo Bay detention facility holding Haitian refugees and for ruling that the City of New York failed to adequately assist poverty-stricken residents diagnosed with AIDS. Additionally, Judge Johnson was long involved with the National Black Prosecutors Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the President Drug Advisory Council and many task forces dedicated to promoting minority representation and equity in the judiciary.