It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to be president of the New York State Magistrates Association for 2019- 2020. Our organization of more than 2,000 town and village justices is devoted to rendering impartial justice for all who come before us. Since revolutionary times, and before, the justice courts have been the bulwark of defending the rights of the average citizen. Our mission is to continue to do that, now and in the future.
We are blessed to have a vigorous and talented legislative committee, led by Hon. Bob Bogle and Hon. Gary Graber, who walk in the corridors of power and share our positions with the legislature.
We are fortunate to have an outstanding public relations committee, the brainchild of past-president Hon. David Gideon and led by him in the coming year, to make the public at large aware of the important part of their live is their local justice court. With the public on our side, the legislature will surely follow.
We offer our judges an excellent array of judicial courses thanks to our education committee chaired by Hon. Ed van Dewater and our conventions are located in superb locales, thanks to the hard work of our site selection committee, led by Hon. Amel Jowdy. We encourage every judge to join us next year for our conference in Syracuse.
There are many other committees that are active in our association, composed of dedicated judges work tirelessly for you on a daily basis. These committees are composed of our amazing board of directors.
Of course, the real secret of the success of our Association is no secret at all. We have an incredibly energetic, talented and dedicated staff led by our executive director Hon. Tanja Sirago.
There is an ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” We are about to enter very interesting times. With the immense changes in the bail and discovery laws, and summary proceedings (landlord/tenant law), our day to day lives on the bench will change. Whether that change will be for the better remains to be seen. You can look to your New York State Magistrates Association to be you advocate for better training and more support to cope with this and other unfunded state mandates.
When the fate of Britain at the start of the second world war was in doubt, Winston Churchill, shortly after he became Prime Minster said “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”
Although I assure you that I am no Churchill, you have my solemn pledge that I have not become your president to preside over the liquidation of our association and the end of our justice court system.
Our profession is under attack by those who do not know what we do and do not know whom we are. They automatically assume that we are ignorant of the law, that we are contemptuous of constitutional protections, that we are a throwback to the old west and the days of Judge Roy Bean.
These same people would like to do away with our courts, the courts closest to the people, the courts of common sense. With the backing of our board of directors we will be vigorous in our defense of the town and village courts.
But this is a job that we can not do alone. We need each and every judge throughout this great state of ours to be our eyes and ears. When you become aware of a potential problem that needs our attention, please call or email Judge Sirago at our office at (800) 669-6247 or (518) 439-1087 or NYSMA1@gmail.com. We will give your issue our prompt attention. Your Board and your Association are here for you.
In closing, I look forward to visiting your county association during my year as president. To arrange a visit, please contact Judge Sirago at the office.
Finally, I have many people to thank for being your president, but none more than my wife of 46 years, Ellen. Her love and support make all things possible.
Thank you one and all, and best wishes to you all for the coming year.