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Orleans starts new program with centralized arraignments at County Jail

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Jail on Platt Street in Albion is now used as a centralized location in the county for arraignments.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 May 2020 at 11:56 am

ALBION – Orleans County has a new centralized arraignment program where people charged with crimes can be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. every day.

The new CAP uses the county jail for the arraignments. The program started about three weeks ago and has been doing about 6-10 arraignments a week. It was set up to use a larger room in the county jail for arraignments, with representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office (or private counsel) and a judge.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the off-hours arraignments are being done through Skype. The defendants are still appearing in the jail while the judge, DA and Public Defender may be offsite communicating through Skype.

The relevant documents are scanned and transmitted online to all parties.

The court system locally and state-wide is largely shut down until June 1, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CAP allows judges to do some arraignments and also issue orders of protection and suspend driver’s licenses.

“I’m glad on a limited basis we’re still doing these,” said District Attorney Joe Cardone. “We certainly don’t want things mounting up in the court system.”

The CAP means arraignments no longer need to be done at all hours at all 10 town courts. With the centralized program, town judges in the county will rotate serving as the judge for the arraignments. Kendall Town Justice Deborah Kluth and Clarendon Town Justice Tom DiFante are serving as the interim judges in the program until the end of May.

The Orleans County CAP needed approval from the state and that was granted by the New York State Unified Court System.

During regular court hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., County Court Judge Sanford Church will handle the arraignments.

One goal of the CAPs is to ensure defendants have counsel available during the arraignments. The CAPs also were intended to ease the burden on the town courts.

Sheriff Chris Bourke said the system is off to a good start.

“It’s a whole different world with the way we are dealing with everything,” he said on Saturday during a joint call with other elected officials. “It is going pretty smoothly now with the transfer of documents, and the judge, DA and public defenders all in different locations.”

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