PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Reginald Johnson was appointed Wednesday as Peekskill City Judge, but the legal battle over his appointment is far from over.
Johnson was voted in by the Democratic majority of the Peekskill Common Council at the city's annual reorganization meeting. The three Republicans on the council abstained since they didn't have enough time to consider any candidates for the position, which carries a 10-year term. Johnson is the first African-American judge in Peekskill history.
Mayor Frank Catalina also abstained since he still if licensed to practice law in Peekskill though he praised Johnson as a judge.
"I am very excited for Reggie and very happy for his family," Catalina said. "I think he really understands the significance of this appointment. It's a historic occasion that's been long overdue. I feel the city court is in good hands. Justice will be well served."
The previous Common Council was barred from voting for a new judge after lawsuit was filed by former City Judge William Maher, who had served as judge for 25 years.
Maher's lawyer John Hersh said Susan Cacace, a Westchester County Court judge, will decide whether a restraining order still exists against the four Democrats.
"It's a complicated issue," Hersh said. "It's a difference of interpretation between our office and the corporation council. This is a thorny issue that hasn't come up for a long time."
Councilman Darren Rigger said the city's corporation council gave them the okay to appoint Johnson.
"We wanted to start off the New Year with a full staff in place," Rigger said. "Reggie is extremely qualified for this position, I think he will do a terrific job."
Catalina said he has enjoyed his first two days as mayor of Peekskill having met with department heads.
"I explained my philosophy," Caralina said. "I do not want to be a city manager, I want to be the head cheerleader for the city. I'm going to take a Ronald Reagan approach. We have excellent people appointed and they are free to do their job without interference from the mayor or council."