Governor signs law allowing Rotterdam to add third justice


ROTTERDAM – The governor has promulgated an autonomy resolution giving this city of about 30,000 inhabitants the possibility of adding a third judge, according to a member of the city council.

Demand catalyst Steve Signore said he was briefed by a staff member of MP Angelo Santabarbara on Monday evening.

Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and State Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-46th District, co-sponsored the legislation.

The resolution changes a rule for cities with less than 50,000 inhabitants to have only two judges, while communities of 50,000 and more have three.

Signore, a public defender, said the law does not automatically create a third judge’s post. The city simply asked the governor to approve the possibility for her to create a third post of judge in Rotterdam, when and if the need arises.

Whether he needs a third judge has been debated.

Signore said a third judge could have the effect of reducing the number of cases for the other two judges by up to 30%.

But justices Kenneth Litz and James Bradshaw told a meeting last month that the city does not need a third judge.

Litz had said the best step the council can take to help the city’s justice system is to hire a fifth full-time clerk. A fifth clerk retired in 2020, but returned part-time. He said the city has not added the full-time position.

Clerks are in charge of almost everything in the office – scheduling court appearances, filing notes, answering phones, and keeping in touch with various local and state agencies.

During the same meeting, Deputy Supervisor Evan Christou said he supported the hiring of a fifth clerk and that supervisor Steven Tommasone did not support the creation of another judge, but supported the hiring of a full-time clerk.

According to Signore, the subject of judges’ workload has been discussed for years, but he said he was pressured to finally press the proposal after a The two judges’ 2020 budget request, citing the income generated from their cases, called for their salaries to increase from $ 39,000 to $ 60,000.

Signore said he was concerned about the $ 21,000 increases and the accompanying increases in employee benefits.

Signore said it looks like a popular pizza place with two pizza makers demanding almost a 50% increase due to their workload and the money they generate for the business.

The owner would likely use the extra income to hire a third pizza maker, Signore said.

“Tell our judges to stop complaining about the workload and to stop asking for outrageous increases if they don’t want a third judge,” he said.

Signore noted that as the city plans to move operations to Rotterdam’s former Kmart, now is a good time to plan and design a chamber of the third judge.

“The idea being that the numbers are going up in the city and your numbers are going up in the cases you need to deal with, from simple vehicle and traffic cases to misdemeanors to felonies, whatever the case”, a- he declared.

“Even if you don’t want to do it in my career,” Signore said, adding that he had no aspirations to run for a judge. “Look four years later, look eight years later. At least create the plan for the ability to have it.

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