Clarendon, Barre will have hearing on consolidated court

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 17 June 2015 at 12:00 am

CLARENDON – The Town Boards of Clarendon and Barre will hold a joint public hearing on Tuesday, June 23, to gather public input regarding the potential consolidation of their town justice courts.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. at the Clarendon Town Hall, 16385 Church St.

The merger would eliminate one justice position in the Town of Clarendon. Currently, Justice Richard DeCarlo is the sole justice in the Town of Barre following the retirement of Town Justice John Henderson, Jr.

Clarendon has two judges, Tom DiFante and Richard H. Kemp. Kemp reportedly intends not to seek re-election.

Members of the Clarendon Town Board during their regular meeting Tuesday evening continued to discuss the possible consolidation – under which both towns would maintain their own facilities and the single Clarendon and Barre town justices would have jurisdiction in both courts.

“It’s very confusing to me and I’m sure to the rest of the board,” Town Supervisor Richard Moy said. “I worry about the court system going forward.”

Already, courts on the west side of the county – in the towns of Ridgeway, Shelby and Yates – are consolidated and Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, told town board members that it might make sense to consolidate courts in the eastern and central sections of the county as well.

Cardone made it clear that town justices have control over district attorney nights in their courts.

“The judges set the docket,” he said. “If the judge wants us five nights a week, we will be here.”

If consolidation occurs, Cardone said the towns will shape the way the courts function.

“There is no downside to the Town of Clarendon consolidating,” he said. “Revenues from what happens in Clarendon will stay in the Town of Clarendon.”

Cardone said the advantage of the consolidation is that the town would have one judge and get a second judge at no additional cost.

Clarendon Town Justice Tom DiFante also attended the meeting.

“As a judge, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me,” he told the board. “There is no huge benefit to consolidating or not consolidating.”

He noted that the court clerks in both towns have expressed concerns about additional work they might face if consolidation occurs, and added that consolidation would give him jurisdiction in the Town of Barre, which he does not currently have.

Both Moy and DiFante said they believe one justice is sufficient for the town and DiFante suggested that both towns could run their courts separately for one year with one justice and then re-visit the possibility of consolidation.

Supervisor Moy noted that $30,000 is available from the state for courts considering consolidation and another $50,000 is available if consolidation takes place.

Cardone said he would reach out to court officials on the west side of the county to see if some might be available to attend the public hearing on June 23.