Four lawyers, two with wives employed by the town and one who once ran for mayor, are on the ballot in a primary for Aurora town justice that doesn’t include an incumbent for the first time in 21 years.
At 67, current Justice Douglas W. Marky said he wants to retire and spend more time with his family now that the prolonged and controversial Beth Lynne Hoskins horse-mistreatment case he handled is nearly closed.
“It just felt like the right time,” he said.
The candidates are seeking the four-year, part-time, $31,000-a-year position in Thursday’s primary. All four are running on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence party lines; some also competing on the Republican, Working Families and Green party lines.
Last week, the election heated up with allegations of stolen signs and the mailing of an anonymous accusatory flier.
The judge who eventually wins will be in charge of Wednesday night hearings and sentencings in misdemeanor cases such as drunken driving, traffic violations, drug possession and shoplifting.
“Judges have a lot of discretion and ability to do good,” said James F. Granville, who has the Democratic endorsement and also is running on the Independence, Conservative and Republican, Green and Working Families lines.
His wife, Claire, has been court clerk for almost eight years. The couple, married for two decades with three teenage sons, believe that they would work well together.
“It would be a wonderful situation. … She has a good sense of what’s going on in the court,” said Granville, 50, who grew up in Amherst, lived in East Aurora for 15 years and is a graduate of the University of Detroit Law School.
He admires the tailored court approach for offenders with addictions and would like to set up something similar in Aurora and collaborate with nearby suburbs. He also would like to set up a court for veterans and a court-monitored community service program.
“I think the instant consequence is something that’s effective for many people. They take it seriously,” said Granville, a former assistant district attorney whose practice of criminal and car insurance defense included municipal courts throughout Erie and Niagara counties.
Candidate Anthony DiFilippo IV grew up in East Aurora and practices commercial, business, criminal and estate law from a Main Street office with seven other lawyers.
DiFilippo, 53, a graduate of the University at Buffalo Law School, has an adult son and daughter and a long-time connection to the community, coaching youth hockey, basketball, baseball and football.
His grandfather, Anthony DiFilippo Jr., was an East Aurora mayor in the 1960s.
DiFilippo is president of Aurora Ice Association, which owns the Healthy Zone Rink. His wife, Dawn, is a part-time employee in the Recreation Department. He was endorsed by the Conservative and Republican parties and also is running on the Democrat and Independence lines.
For him, becoming town justice would be a natural progression of his law career and volunteering. He said he would use his knowledge of people in the community to factor in personal history as he comes up with sentences.
“I know how most of the people in the Town of Aurora think and what they would like done for local justice,” he said.
Candidate Michael S. Deal, 49, a North Carolina native who started his career in Ohio, sees his experience and newcomer status as advantages.
“People like the idea that I may be more objective and fair than someone that’s been in town for all their lives,” said Deal, who went to law school at Ohio Northern University, has two children and has lived in East Aurora for four years. “It’s a great community. I’ve loved every minute that I’ve lived in the village.”
A year ago, Deal, a defense attorney, opened a private practice based in the Buffalo offices of DeMarie, Schoenborn & Betz. He was a partner at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, where he worked for 13 years.
He started out in Ohio as a municipal court prosecutor and went on to become assistant prosecuting attorney in a county court, an equivalent to assistant district attorney here. For almost a year, he was a “mayor’s court magistrate,” similar to a town justice.
“I’ve prosecuted everything from speeding tickets to murders,” said Deal, who is on the Democrat, Independence, Conservative, Green and Working Families lines in the primary.
“I learned how to be fair and impartial. I learned how to deal with people,” he said. “They just want a fair sentence. They don’t want to be treated as if they’re some inconvenience to everyone else. I think everyone who goes into a courtroom should be treated with respect and dignity.”
Candidate Gerald E. Paradise III, 34, has a general law practice, with offices in West Seneca and Buffalo. He first ran for mayor in 2000 when he was a freshman at Canisius College. At the time, he was troubled that the incumbent had no competition.
“A lot’s happened in the last 15 years,” he said. “Now, it’s time to give it another shot and hopefully get a better result.”
Paradise, a graduate of East Aurora High School, earned a master’s in architecture and urban planning and a law degree from UB. To him, town justices have an important opportunity to help people.
“You’re not dealing with murderers and rapists. … It’s people who generally have made a mistake in life,” said Paradise, who is on all six ballot lines. “The role of the court at the local level is to help people get their lives on track. … Most people are generally good at heart. If they are given the right resources and support, they can turn their lives around.”
Paradise was critical of the prolonged Hoskins trial as handled by Marky.
“I think it’s important in the Town of Aurora that the court be run in a more efficient manner,” he said, adding that it is a judge’s responsibility to make sure that attorneys don’t manipulate the court.
“It makes people question the efficiency and validity of the justice system,” Paradise said. “As much as a judge can control the operation of his courtroom, it should be done.”
Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.