The Manlius Village Board voted unanimously to support non-attorney New York State judges at its July 24 meeting. The vote revealed a significant difference of opinion among the trustees.
Trustee Eric Krause expressed concern toward supporting judges with little or no experience in the field of law.
"I don't think we should have someone without law experience making judgments," Krause said.
Another trustee, Natalie Miner, said that New York State has implemented several resources to adequately prepare non-attorney judges for the bench.
"The state is starting to beef up judge training state-wide. There is a desire to have non-attorney judges, I'm aware of several communities without them," she said.
Both judges in the village are attorneys.
"This is a training issue; the state is starting to give more equipment, technology, and resources," Miner said. "This resolution is saying, philosophically, that we support non-attorney judges. I'm very pleased that the state is training."
The board voted to support the resolution joining North Syracuse, among other municipalities, which have given their support to non-attorney judges.
The movement to ban non-attorney judges began following a New York Times series that ran at the end of 2006. The series uncovered several errors and abuses within the lower court system. Only 28 percent of the 2,000 lower court judges in New York State are attorneys.
The State Office of Court Administration is planning several major changes to the justice court system, including increasing the amount of training for non-attorney judges from one to seven weeks. Other planned improvements include equipping courtrooms so that all proceedings can be recorded, and upgrading security measures.
Board to choose property purchasing method
Village Attorney Jeff Brown proposed three different methods for the purchase of property that would be in the village's interest.
The first method would be for the village to create an Industrial Development Agency, or IDA. An IDA would encourage economic development, but Brown stated that this method would be "out of the question" because an IDA would have to be approved by the New York State Legislature, and is a more difficult method to adopt compared to the other choices.