On Friday, April 21, 2023, The City reported that court administrators decided to take away criminal cases from Supreme Court Judge Semaj-Williams after facing intense criticisms from NYPD officers and Bronx prosecutors.
According to the report, over the last two years, Judge Semaj-Williams’s actions raised criticisms from law enforcement officials. One of the said matters even caused Gov. Kathy Hochul to take the unusual action of announcing the arrest of a suspect in a manslaughter case, who Judge Semaj-Williams had released without bail. This is the case wherein the stepdad of the victim – Tyresse Minter – strangled his 15-year-old stepson, named Corde Scott.
The Supreme Court Judge also had an issue with the New York Police District (NYPD) after she harshly criticized a police officer involved in the arrest of C-Blu, a then-16-year-old drill rapper. Judge Semaj-Williams also earned a reputation for letting accused teenage criminals loose on the streets, even prompting rebukes from Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
According to a report from the New York Post, Judge Semaj-Williams is also under investigation for claims of unprofessional and abusive courtroom behavior. This is in relation to the incident wherein the latter objected to a prosecution plea offering a person named Sammy Santiago, a 17-year-old charged with attempted murder and criminal use of a firearm for shooting at two other young men fleeing a cell phone store, seven years in prison. After hearing the said prosecution’s plea, Judge Semaj-Williams allegedly ordered the district attorney’s supervisor out of her courtroom, calling him “a waste of everything,” Because of this incident, former and current prosecutors complained about Judge Semaj-Williams’s temperament on the bench and argued that she was biased on behalf of the accused.
In the current matter, it was reported that following the abovementioned events, court administrators decided to take away criminal cases from Judge Semaj-Williams. She will be moved from the criminal to the civil term of the Bronx Supreme Court.
Court officers union president, Dennis Quirk stated, “Court officials have discussed putting Semaj in Civil Court. It’s under consideration.”
Oded Oren, a former Bronx defenders attorney gave his opinion on the matter, “Semaj’s reassignment will have a strong chilling effect on judicial behavior, bail reform, and the fairness of the criminal legal system, the message to judges is clear: if you do not capitulate to prosecutorial interests and instead exercise independent judgment, you will risk negative media coverage and severe professional consequences from the Office of Court Administration.”
Reports tell that Judge Semaj-Williams had already applied to become the presiding justice for the Appellate Division’s First Department, which covers criminal and civil cases on appeal in Manhattan and the Bronx.
Source: The City