The town of Johnsburg court is located at the Wevertown Community Center.
The recent retirement announcement by Johnsburg Town Justice James French put the Town Board in a predicament at its board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 21 as it tried to decide how to proceed in replacing French.
The board had a few options, Supervisor Ron Vanselow explained, adding that he had mixed feelings about all the options.
The board could select someone to replace French right away. That person would need to immediately enroll in a week-long, state-mandated justice training course that begins on Monday, Nov. 26. Once trained, the appointed justice would serve until Dec. 31, 2013. If that individual desired to continue beyond that date, he/she would need to file petitions and run in the November, 2013 election.
The board could leave the position vacant and the state would assign a temporary justice who would fill in until the next general election.
The board could attempt to arrange a sharing situation with a neighboring municipality. Vanselow said the town thought it had a sharing arrangement with the Town of Chester but found out that it only applied to situations where a judge had to recuse himself because of some sort of conflict of interest.
Or the town could take more time and decide on a replacement and the appointee would begin serving after the next week-long, state-mandated justice training course scheduled for some time in the spring.
In the interim, the state would have to assign a fill-in and given that there are four court jurisdictions in Warren County that are in the same position as Johnsburg, all attempting to deal with the retirement of a justice, Vanselow explained that the state would prefer the town to appoint someone sooner rather than later.
Some on the board expressed concern about having to make a decision so quickly.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think we’ve had adequate time to consider this,” Councilman Arnold Stevens said.
Vanselow reminded the board that anyone appointed would still have to stand for election in a year.
“But they would have the power of incumbency,” Vanselow said.
After some additional discussion, the board coalesced around the notion of appointing someone right away.
The town had a formal letter of interest from Vincent Schiavone, who wrote of his experience working with the court system and also his tenure as a law instructor at the college level.
Both Stevens and Councilman Eugene Arsenault remarked favorably about Schiavone’s legal experience and his service to the town, particularly with the Youth Commission. Vanselow said he was pleasantly surprised by the extent of Schiavone’s experience working with the court system.
A second individual, Drew Hayes, attended the meeting and read his own letter of interest to the board. After reading the letter, Hayes explained that he doesn’t have any formal legal experience but that he is an Eagle Scout, has served on the Youth Commission and is a graduate of the Junior Leadership Program.
“I’m very active in the town,” Hayes said. “And I love the law.”
After some additional discussion, Stevens put forth a motion to appoint Vincent Schiavone to the position of town justice to serve until Dec. 31, 2013 and the board approved the motion unanimously.
Vanselow urged Hayes to stay involved in service to the town and suggested he file petitions and run in the election for the town justice position. Vanselow offered to assist Hayes navigate the petition process if Hayes so desired.
The Johnsburg Town Board will meet next at 7 p.m., Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at the Wevertown Community Center.