Dallas attorney Faith Johnson is Dallas County's new district attorney. Tuesday morning, Governor Greg Abbott announced that Johnson, previously a Dallas County district judge and assistant prosecutor for the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, will serve the rest of the term Susan Hawk was elected to in 2014. Hawk resigned earlier this year following a series of long absences from her post to seek treatment for severe depression.
"As a former prosecutor, district judge, and while serving on the Department of Public Safety Commission, Faith has shown a commitment to law enforcement and the rule of law," Abbott said Tuesday. "She has devoted herself to defending some of our most vulnerable Texans, and I am confident that in her new role as district attorney, Faith will continue to fight for the people of Dallas County and ensure that justice is served."
Johnson spent 1982-1989 working for Dallas County District Attorneys John Vance and Henry Wade, eventually becoming the first African-American woman to serve as a chief felony prosecutor. She left the office in 1989 when she was appointed judge in Texas' 363rd District Court. Johnson, a Republican, held that post until 2006, when she was swept out of office by Dallas County voters along with every other Republican judge in the county.
Dallas' police unions and Republican elected officials lauded Johnson's selection Tuesday afternoon.
"Faith will bring new ideas and fresh leadership, seeing beyond the obvious for a brighter future for Dallas County," state Senator Don Huffines said. "I am confident in Faith’s ability to uphold the duties of this office and serve as a tireless advocate on behalf of the people of Dallas."
Frederick Frazier, the president of the Dallas Police Association, praised Johnson for her "strong commitment to the Dallas community and to Dallas law enforcement."
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"The Dallas Police Association could not be more pleased with the governor’s appointment and we look forward to working with Faith as she assumes this important role," he said.
As a judge, Johnson gained notoriety in 2004 when she threw a party in her courtroom, complete with cake and streamers, to celebrate the return of Billy Wayne Williams. Williams, convicted of choking his girlfriend until she passed out, had gone AWOL during the middle of his trial. At the time, Johnson said she felt it was appropriate to celebrate a violent fugitive being taken off the streets. Johnson was given a public admonition by the state's Judicial Conduct Committee for the party, which she explained to Abbott in her job application.
"While serving as judge of the 363rd District Court, the court celebrated the capture of a fugitive who was previously convicted and sentenced to prison for murdering his first wife. After being released from prison for that murder, the subject attempted to kill a second wife," she wrote. "He was arrested, tried and convicted for Aggravated Assault in my court. During the jury trial, the subject escaped and was sentenced to a life sentence in absentia. The subject was a fugitive for over a year and he continued to commit criminal offenses while a fugitive. Because the court celebrated the defendant's capture and return, the Judicial Conduct Committee issued a public admonition."
Abbott's appointment will last until after the 2018 election.