They are front line
of judicial system
After reading your Dec. 9 article about town and village justices, I have the following comments to make:
I have been sitting as Village of Akron justice since 1985 and as a town justice since the first of this year. Your attitude toward non-lawyer justices is apparent and understandable in a society where a college degree is considered by many to be the best key to open doors.
That degree, however, does not mean that you also acquire wisdom, compassion, understanding and concern for your fellow men and women. Just because you are fortunate enough to have gone to college and then on to law school does not mean you know the law. It's constantly being updated and changed. That's why they have law books and libraries.
Today, most attorneys specialize in some part of the law, as most of them know it's too difficult to deal with it all. A justice does not have the option to choose what type of cases may come before him.
Neighbor disputes, small claims, criminal and civil cases, dog violations, even child abuse as well as other more serious cases usually start in the local court.
We, as the first line of the system, must know and be able to deal with them all. Small communities do not have the funds to pay or equip a justice for a properly outfitted courtroom. Nor do they pay the type of salary normally associated with attorneys. Do you honestly believe an attorney would work for between $1,000 to $3,000 a year?
In order to better inform people about our court system, I have made myself available for meetings with students, scout troops and church groups. I have attended RID and SADD meetings to see and listen to the other side of the story. I have attended optional seminars on matters concerning the law and have visited other courts to learn how other justices handle cases.
I am an average individual doing the best job I can for myself and my community.
DENNIS R. FREEMAN
News story treated
the justices unfairly
The Dec. 9 Buffalo News article gave the impression that a town justice is a laid-back country bumpkin, with the power to fine and jail the accused -- all with no formal education and a six-day crash course in the judicial system.
The judges referred to were degraded in that article. In addition to staying abreast of the daily changes in laws and procedures, their good common sense and dedication have kept them in office.
The article failed to state that incompetent judges are filtered out of the system by the required yearly certification. All judges must attend a two-part training session and non-attorney judges must pass the written examination or they cannot hold court.
Judges can also be removed from office by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Removal can be for anything from incompetency to ethics. Judges at all levels are censured or removed yearly.
Town justices also are bound by directives from the chief judges of the state and the county.
The required certification and the establishment of the Commission on Judicial Conduct have resulted in improvement in the justice court system. A newly created resource center provides legal research assistance daily to all justice courts.
The highly respected dean of the town and village justices, Eugene Salisbury, has always encouraged judges to conduct themselves and their courts in a manner that will earn respect and preserve the integrity of the court system.
WILLIAM P. DISPENCE
Brant Town Justice