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Judges caretakers of history

Clifton Park Town Justices James F. Hughes and Robert A. Rybak see themselves as judges, certainly, but they also believe they hold a much more important title: caretaker.

I think it's important to recognize we are really caretakers of the office. Sooner or later, we'll be replaced and I like to think just as people added to the court before us, Jim and I are doing the same, said Rybak.

Hughes and Rybak take their role of caretaker so seriously that they decided to find a way to help the public understand just how important that role is, and to remember (or learn for the first time) the history that shaped what being a town justice means today.

To do that, they recruited Town Historian John Scherer and the town clerk and got to work discovering, organizing and compiling a history of the Clifton Park Town Court.

"A lot of what we do is based upon our predessessors and it's interesting to find how many folks served as town justices, when, how many years," said Rybak. "Basically, we recognize that they're part of the court and are trying to figure out where our history was. It's similar to what a family trying to find out who their ancestors are."

The simple goal was to discover what the jobs before them entailed, who held them and what types of cases did the court handle in the past.

"The more we looked into it, we found the cases we're hearing today weren't much different than back in the 1800s. By and large, they were handling community disputes between neighbors," said Rybak. "Vehicle and traffic cases are about 60 percent of our caseload, 20 percent is probably criminal and 20 percent is civil we handle around 10,000 cases a year between both judges."

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