CARS HOMES JOBS

Schenectady has no room for new judge

McCarthy says no money to add space in City Hall

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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— Schenectady is getting a fourth city judge, but no one yet knows where that judge will work next year.

Mayor Gary McCarthy is adamantly opposed to the extensive remodeling required to fit another judge on the second floor of City Hall.

“That’s all local cost,” he said. “I’m telling them we don’t have that money.”

At a glance

Candidates for the fourth Schenectady City Court judgeship include:

• Jean Carney, a senior assistant public defender for Schenectady County and sister of District Attorney Robert Carney

•  Mark Caruso, Schenectady County public defender

•  Carl Falotico, the city’s deputy corporation counsel

•  Teneka Frost-Amusa, an associate counsel in the state Department of State

•  Fred Goodman, deputy county attorney

•  Diane Herrmann, an attorney who was a Schenectady school board member from 2009-12

•  Robert Hoffman, a county legislator and attorney

• Kate McGuirl, Rotterdam town attorney

He also objects to the idea of a fourth judge.

“You look at the [case]load, you should have another (Schenectady County) Family Court judge,” he said.

City initiatives have resulted in about 1,600 additional cases in City Court, he admitted.

“We have driven some of the volume by being more aggressive with code enforcement,” he said. “That’s going to be a blip as we do the enforcement and drive the bad landlords out of here.”

Likewise, he cited an investigation of city bars after police were called 1,000 times to a handful of locations. City officials got all but one of those bars closed, putting an end to the many charges from those bars for liquor-related violations, he said.

He’s hoping the new judge will eventually be sent to Family Court.

“They do reassign judges,” he said.

The big question is where the new judge will hold court. There are two courtrooms at City Hall and a third at the Police Department. To avoid remodeling City Hall, the city could seek permission to hold evening or night court there, but the city would have to pay for security and staffing needed at night, when city workers are normally not there.

McCarthy wants permission to add an afternoon or evening session in the Police Department courtroom instead. The evening judge would use the same desk and office as the morning judge, he said, although he added he expects the state Office of Court Administration to complain about that.

“If the courts are back to back, why can’t they use the office?” he said. “Somebody can use the desk in the morning, and somebody uses it in the evening.”

City officials are negotiating with the state agency on the issue, which McCarthy said might rise to the level of a lawsuit. An spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on the situation.

McCarthy said he was frustrated.

“Look, they can’t be treated any better than anyone else,” he said. “Of course they’ll say it’s against the rules. Well, then, change the rules.”

While the logistics are debated, Democrats are already jostling for the job, which pays $145,000 a year. Eight Democrats have asked the party for its endorsement, city Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Naylor said.

The ink was hardly dry on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to add a judge when calls started coming in, Naylor said.

“Frankly, I was somewhat surprised,” he said. “I was deluged by a number of people calling to be considered.”

But he was persuaded by the argument that the nominee would need time to raise money for an election campaign. Whoever is nominated would need to run for election this fall, with the position starting Jan. 1, 2015.

“We’re trying to take our time,” Naylor said. “We have more time, but everyone feels with this position, they need time to raise money.

The committee has only begun its interviews, and more will be scheduled after the committee’s interviews for the vacant City Council seat. Naylor said he hopes to have a nominee for the judgeship endorsed by mid-February.

“We’ve been very busy,” Naylor said. “Hopefully, we’ll do well by the people.”

Representatives of the city Republican Committee did not return calls seeking comment.

 
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