Re: town and village justice courts

To the editor:

The most recent issue of the New York State Bar Association’s Government Law and Policy Journal is entitled, “Rural Justice In New York State: Challenges and Recommendations.” Here are my views, having served as a village justice, county public defender and assistant district attorney.

Justice courts are convenient for the public and the police.

They are inconvenient for prosecutors and defenders.

Although town and village justices may never handle any money, they must sign their court clerks’ accountings and are personally responsible for any shortfalls. If they are charged with misconduct by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct and wish to contest same, they must appear before the commission in New York City after a hearing before an administrative law judge in Albany. Attorney representation is their own expense.

Defendants are usually unrepresented if arraigned immediately after arrest, when bail is set, although the state is beginning to address this issue by setting up central arraignment courts where both prosecutors and defenders are present.

The best part of the job is weddings, for which justices may accept up to $100 but cannot ask for anything.

Paul Herrmann

Saranac Lake