DA wants to study district courts, centralized code enforcement in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 December 2020 at 11:15 am

ALBION – District Attorney Joe Cardone is leading an effort to gather information and study whether it makes sense to have district courts in Orleans County, rather than 10 town courts.

Joe Cardone

Joe Cardone, the district attorney the past 28 years, is gathering information from the 10 towns on how much they spend annually for their justice courts, with salary and benefits for judges and court clerks, as well as other costs – security utilities and equipment.

Cardone said the data could show the court system locally could be more efficient and offer better service with district courts, which might be set up with one court for western Orleans, one in the central towns and one on the eastern end.

“This is something we’re looking at as a possibility,” Cardone said during a recent meeting with local elected officials at the village, town and county level. “I think we should at least keep our eyes open to the different possibilities.”

Orleans municipalities have already taken steps to make the courts more efficient. Albion and Medina about a decade ago abolished their village courts, with the function handled by the towns. Shelby and Ridgeway use the same building – the Shelby Town Hall – for court. Many of the towns have also eliminated one town justice position and have one person in the role, with agreements with neighboring towns to fill in when needed.

If the local municipalities decided to have a multi-jurisdictional district court, they would need state approval, Cardone said.

The study should show how many judges and support staff would be needed for a district court, and whether the community would be best be served with the existing 10 town courts, or one, two or three district courts.

“We want to study the issue,” Cardone said. “I don’t think we’re doing our jobs if we don’t study it.”

The DA also is compiling information on code enforcement in the local towns and villages to see if it would be better to have centralized code enforcement through the county.

The DA’s office is gathering the data from the local municipalities on the code enforcement budgets for 2020 and 2021, with the salary and benefits of personnel, as well as other expenses.

Some counties, such as nearby Wyoming County, run code enforcement through the county, where there is a full-time presence. In Orleans, most of the municipalities have part-time code officers.

“Right now with codes we are lacking standardization and consistency,” County Legislator Ken DeRoller said at a recent meeting with the Orleans County Association of Municipalities.