We learned last week that the state supreme court has rejected the appeal of local attorney Barry Schreibman after he lost his lawsuit against the village and New Venture Assets over the new Aldi coming to Cazenovia. Schreibman’s lawsuit was thrown out by a state supreme court judge in April. We also learned that the Aldi lawsuit, along with another lawsuit against the village over its rezoning of the Western Gateway district (brought by Ledyard Avenue residents, represented by attorney Schreibman, which was also thrown out by a judge only last month), have cost the village approximately $21,000 in legal fees. According to Mayor Kurt Wheeler, the cost was $12,400 for the Western Gateway lawsuit and $8,600 for the Aldi lawsuit (that cost was only part of the entire cost, which was split among the village and the other defendant, New Venture Assets).
These costs are interesting to know, given that they are paid with our tax dollars. We know judges and lawyers will say that everyone is due their day in court if they feel sleighted or oppressed; we also know that others — including us — believe at least one of these two lawsuits was frivolous, and the village should sue for repayment of its legal expenses by the plaintiff (who acted as his own attorney). Wheeler said to do so would cost more than the remuneration itself.
On the other side of the issue, we know many residents feel the village never should have approved the two rezoning/redevelopment laws, and the village board is to blame for the $21,000 cost to taxpayers.
In an overly politically correct age in which litigation is threatened and filed on a whim or in a fit of pique, we find this entire situation frustrating and depressing. Sometimes lawsuits are the last resort of desperate people; sometimes they are simply tools of malice and personal aggrandizement. But what can we do? Is this simply the cost of modern-day governing? We certainly hope not.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.