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Judges, above all, must obey the law

Friday, March 21, 2014
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Princetown Justice William Reynolds hasn’t been convicted of anything, but what he’s been accused of are the kinds of things that would disqualify him to continue serving as a judge.

State police assert that he fired a shotgun at some deer near his home in a residential neighborhood Monday; moreover, that he was uncooperative when they arrived to investigate and resisted efforts to arrest him.

Incidents of this sort aren’t that unusual in rural upstate New York: People get fed up with nuisance deer and try scaring them off; others flat-out thumb their noses at the law and hunt out of season. The alleged motive here is unknown, but irrelevant, really. All that matters, if indeed an incident occurred, is that it was dangerous and illegal.

A judge should not only know the law, but is obligated to comply with it. How could he ever hear a case in which a defendant was similarly charged? Ditto, for that matter, for the obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest he was also charged with?

In fact, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a town justice in Keeseville, Essex County 30 years ago for illegal deerhunting and fraudulently obtaining a license. It merely admonished one in Piermont in 2001, but that was for a seemingly lesser offense — firing a gun in the air to scare off a wild turkey that had been pestering motorists.

The circumstances behind what may (or may not have) happened here are unclear at this point, but if it turns out Reynolds is guilty as charged, he, too, should be removed.

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