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RACE FOR JUDGESHIP TURNS INTO ACCUSATORY SLUGFEST

Boston Town Justice Debra K. Bender has changed from the accused to the accuser in the race to keep her seat, filing a complaint about her opponent with the Bar Association of Erie County's Judicial Election Oversight Committee.

Bender's rival, Daniel Hurtubise, had accused Bender of not living within the town for the last year. But he withdrew the request for a show-cause order in State Supreme Court on Oct. 22, citing Bender's acquisition Oct. 19 of a building permit for property her family owns in Boston.

Bender and her husband had sold a house nearby a year before, and she filed to run for re-election using a Boston address. Hurtubise based his complaint in part on a copy of the Springville Country Club roster that listed the Benders' address as in Orchard Park.

In her complaint, Bender accused Hurtubise of campaign conduct inconsistent with the dignity and integrity of the court system. Bender, who was presiding over court Monday night, did not return calls seeking comment.

Among her complaints were his questioning of her ability to serve as a judge in the same kinds of cases in which she defends clients in other towns and his accusations -- which she described as false -- that she lives outside of her district with her husband and children in the Town of Orchard Park.

Bender's complaint also included Hurtubise's business card, which says "Get out of jail free card" on the back.

In his response, Hurtubise's attorney, Mark M. Jasen, said Bender neglected to quote the rest of the back of the card, which says "Valid only in your dreams."

Jasen defended Hurtubise's original complaint, which he said "involved a matter of public importance . . . as provided for in New York election law, when their spouse and children admittedly live in another town, and the only property the candidate owns in the Town of Boston is vacant land with no 'building' permit on file, for over a year to confirm a self-serving claim that they 'intend' to build."

Jasen also described the fact that Bender's Orchard Park law firm continues to handle DWI cases in other courts that she currently handles in Boston as " 'fair comment' on her qualifications."

Bender also criticized Jasen in her complaint, saying that "(Hurtubise) and his attorney made comments to the newspaper that they wanted to bring me into compliance with the law. These comments again were made to misrepresent the facts and to lead the public to think that I was not in compliance."

Bender is seeking to require Hurtubise to mail a letter to "correct his mistakes concerning my residency and right to practice law," saying that "my residency has always been in the Town of Boston, and obtaining a building permit did not change that status."
e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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