[JK: received the following article from a source that has proven to be extremely reliable and thorough.]
The latest intrigue visited on City Hall centers on the office that, at least in theory, should be relatively immune from political machination: the City Court.
It now appears on this Christmas Eve that one of the City’s two full-time City court judges – the well regarded James Doern – will be replaced effective January 1 by a yet named appointee of Mayor Yepsen. Doern’s current term ends on December 31.
After serving 15 years as a part-time city court judge, Doern stepped into the role full-time, starting April 1, 2014, following action by the State Legislature the previous December. The legislation establishing the second full-time judgeship, for whatever reason, made it an appointive. The City’s other full-time position, currently held by Jeffrey D. Wait, is elective.
And therein is found the intrigue. You see, the mayor will appoint the other sitting judge, Jeff Wait, to the seat being vacated by Doern. This maneuver, presumably, allows Judge Wait to avoid standing for re-election when his original term would have expired at the end of 2017.
Wait will resign his current seat then be appointed by Yepsen to a full ten year term. It will be Wait’s unexpired term that the mayor will fill with a new candidate. It is reliably rumored that that that appointee may be Francine Vero from the politically connected law firm of Harris Beach. [JK: Harris Beach represented the mayor when the city’s Ethics Board found she had violated the city’s code in soliciting business from Saratoga Hospital.]
Let the community hope that whoever is appointed will be experienced, capable and independent enough to administer justice free from political influence and cognizant of the language of the original enabling statute that this court is a “gatekeeper for fragile lives held in the balance. … The court’s ability to do this wisely and creatively can often be the difference between a productive, law-abiding life and one marked by greater and more serious crimes.” The City Court is part of the State Unified Court System and under their jurisdiction. City Courts handle criminal and civil matters. They have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors and lesser offenses (that carry a term of imprisonment of no more than one year) and handle civil matters where the amount of money in dispute is up to $15,000. For administrative purposes, the sixty-two counties that make up the State of New York are divided into thirteen Judicial Districts and four Judicial Departments. The Saratoga Springs City Court is in the 4th JD, 3rd Department. So there you have it. A political manipulation worthy of Machiavelli or even Donald Trump. Too bad, Jim Doern is good and decent person.