Lake Placid judge quits; board again mulls dissolving village court
LAKE PLACID — Village Justice David Chapman has resigned, and the Lake Placid village board is discussing the possibility of bringing court dissolution to voters once again.
The board accepted Chapman’s resignation, effective Oct. 31, at its last board meeting Monday. He wrote that his reasons for stepping down were personal and unrelated to the job.
Mayor Craig Randall is now tasked with appointing a replacement until a special election can be held. He said he will be “entertaining expressions of interest” for the position in the coming weeks. One candidate has already reached out to him.
Whoever is appointed to the seat will be required to attend mandatory training in Albany before serving. The next class is being offered in December. After Chapman’s last day, until a replacement can be found and trained, North Elba town Justice Dean Dietrich is expected to fill in.
The upcoming vacancy prompted discussion among board members about the feasibility of dissolving the village court, a proposal that has gone to voters by permissive referendum twice in the past five years, and was shot down both times.
The first time the village put the question to voters of whether to dissolve their court and shuttle cases to the town of North Elba court was in 2016. It was put to the public only after Bill Hulshoff, the village justice at the time, circulated a petition calling for a referendum on the question. Voters shot down dissolution, 104 to 72. The second time it was put on the ballot, Hulshoff was again a vocal opponent of the plan, and the dissolution was defeated in the subsequent election by a vote of 132 to 114.
Randall said if the village were to reconsider dissolving the court again, he would want to see strong support from the Lake Placid-North Elba Development Commission before moving forward. The development commission, which is lead by Dietrich, was a large proponent of dissolving the court the last time the proposal was put to voters. The commission was also the source of the proposal: In 2014, during a discussion of ways for the village to be more cost-efficient, one of its subcommittees identified court dissolution as a way to slash expenses.
“I think we’re looking to the development commission to give this board some support,” Randall said.
Lake Placid isn’t the only village to have considered court dissolution. The village of Saranac Lake court took its last case on March 17, 2014, after its Board of Trustees voted in 2010 to kick-start the dissolution process. When that dissolution was finalized, cases were directed to the courts of the three towns in the village: Harrietstown, North Elba and St. Armand. The village of Rouses Point, in Clinton County, also dissolved its court two years ago and redirected cases to the town of Champlain court.
(Correction: The spelling of Bill Hulshoff’s last name has been corrected.)