After years of winding its way slowly through federal court, a civil suit against censured Vienna Town Judge Shirley B. Herder and state Trooper Peter J. McCadden may finally be coming to trial. A jury is scheduled to hear the case Feb. 19 in federal court in Utica.
Earlier this month, Herder's appeal for summary judgment dismissing her as a defendant on grounds of judicial immunity, was denied in District Court. She is appealing that decision to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
The suit, filed July 7, 2005, by Eckel Road resident Martin Droz, seeks punitive damages and recovery of legal expenses against Herder and McCadden for their roles in his arrest and two-week confinement in the Oneida County Jail in August 2002.
It all started July 29, 2002, when then-Vienna Codes Enforcement Officer John C. Anderson issued Droz a ticket for installing a septic system without a permit. According to Droz's neighbor, Michael Dixon, Droz was merely putting in drainage to divert water away from a building.
When Herder instructed Droz at his first court appearance to get "whatever" permits Anderson required, Droz refused. Anderson, who has since died, then issued Droz additional tickets, and when Droz showed up at court two weeks later with a shopping bag containing a tape recorder and notepad, Anderson intercepted him and demanded to know what was in the bag.
Again Droz refused.
The state police were called, and Droz was arrested and charged with second-degree contempt of court.
That's where things got messy.
In 2004, Herder was censured by the 11-member state Commission on Judicial Conduct for the way she handled the Droz case. The commission found that "[Herder's] gross mishandling of proceedings involving Martin Droz constituted an abuse of judicial power and conveyed the appearance of bias."