Guilderland board courts third justice idea

Guilderland Town Board members are discussing the benefits of adding a third town justice, but the issue was tabled at a Tuesday, March 3, meeting to allow time for more research.

Town Supervisor Ken Runion said the discussion is slated to continue at the Tuesday, March 17, meeting.

The proposal was raised after state Supreme Court Third Judicial District Administrative Judge George B. Ceresia Jr. sent a letter to the town recommending they consider hiring another judge to help handle the nearly 11,000 cases the town court sees each year.

His recommendation was based on a study from the Office of State Court Administration, according to Runion.

The Town of Guilderland has a population close in number to the Town of Bethlehem's around 34,000 however Guilderland processes twice as many cases each year, Runion said, "principally because of the [Crossgates] mall."

Runion said although the justice's salary would be an expense, the town will see savings in other areas.

"If we hire the third judge, we could run a daytime session of our court once a week," Runion said.

Runion said this would cut down on the overtime needed to pay police officers to appear in court after hours. Often officers will be asked to appear in court for five minutes, he said, and the town will need to pay them for three hours overtime to wait their turn.

He also said the backlog of cases the town faces would be processed faster, increasing revenue each year.

He added that consolidating the court with the state might also be an efficient way to handle the matter, and said he supports any effort to make the process run more efficiently.

"Maybe some of the local courts should be district courts, rather then town courts or village courts," Runion said.

Town Councilman Warren Redlich said he has some reservations about the cost effectiveness of hiring a third justice, and he is actively seeking more information about how other municipalities operate, such as Bethlehem, Clifton Park and Rotterdam, three towns that generate more revenue each year from their courts than Guilderland.

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