Clarkstown Town Justices Craig Johns and Scott Ugell are running against
challengers Adam Garth and Ed Kallen in the Tuesday, Nov. 5th General Election.
Challenger Garth is appearing on the Democratic and Green Party lines. Incumbent
Johns is running on the Republican, Working Families, Independence and
Conservative lines. Challenger Kallen has the Democratic and Green Party lines.
Incumbent Ugell is running on the Republican, Working Families, Independence
and Conservative lines.
Patch sent questionnaires to each candidate, who provided the following responses.
1. Why did you decide to run for election?
Both incumbent judges have been in office for 20 and 22 years respectively. It is time that the Clarkstown Justice Court receives new ideas and modes of operation, and it is about time that Clarkstown received the judicial representation the taxpayers deserve.
Additionally, I will make certain that any community service to which someone is sentenced be performed here in Clarkstown. Since those infractions occurred here, it is the responsibility of that defendant to make amends to the community against which that infraction was directed. Many charitable organizations and municipal departments can serve as a place for these defendants and would be pleased to have the help.
I have held the position of Town Justice since first elected in 1993. I believe the experience I have gained during these last 20 years gives me the ability to serve the people of Clarkstown for another term. The Judicial Screening Committee of the Rockland County Bar Association found me to be “Well Qualified.” I am the only candidate to receive this honor.
I decided to run for Clarkstown Town Justice because I believe in public service and as a Clarkstown resident I’m concerned about the Clarkstown Justice Court. It needs transformation and rejuvenation.
I also decided to run because believe in Term Limits -- even for judges. “We are a nation of laws, not men,” wrote John Adams. Currently the two incumbent judges have each been in office over 20 years. That’s too long. I’m concerned that the court has become ‘stale’ and it has become more about the men in office and not enough about serving the law. That concerns me.
I also believe that a regular ‘turn-over’ of judges (or any elected official) creates a healthier flow of diverse talent and results in ongoing and fresh examinations of the office. New ‘eyes’ seeing things differently always leads to positive changes. A new office holder creates an opportunity to scrutinize the status quo. Turnover every so many years would bring in new people with new approaches to court issues.
I am running for re-election because I have been able to make a difference in the lives of those people and matters I have presided over my 22 years as Clarkstown Judge.
2. What personal or professional experiences qualify you to serve as a town judge? Have you run or held elected office previously?
I have never sought nor held elective office in the past.
Currently, I serve as the Principal Law Clerk to Hon. Catherine M. Bartlett, an acting New York State Supreme Court Justice assigned to Orange County, New York. I performed similar functions for the Hon. Lewis J. Lubell in 2006. As a law clerk, I am the judge’s chief legal advisor on all matters.
Not only do I draft all decisions, orders and memoranda for the judge’s signature, but I am responsible for conferencing cases, preparing jury charges and reviewing all submissions made to the judge. Moreover, I am the principal party responsible for conducing settlement conferences with the attorneys on all matters, leading to the highest case disposition rate by more than 50% compared to other judicial parts in Orange County and running one of the most efficient parts in the entire Ninth Judicial District (comprised of Rockland, Westchester, Orange, Dutchess and Putnam Counties).
I bring many years of practical legal experience to the judiciary which affords me the ability to effectively and efficiently dispose of a vast range of matters while at the same time dispensing due justice to the litigants. Both plaintiffs and defendants regularly seek out my participation in the resolution of pending matters.
Previously, I was employed at several law firms in various capacities both as a litigation attorney and managing attorney responsible for the day to day management of the firm’s professional and paraprofessional personnel. I was also responsible for a complete overhaul of the structure and protocols for several firms, and referred to as the “lawyer’s lawyer”, having provided an avenue for the firm’s attorneys to consult on a regular basis. My talents include achieving sizeable recoveries for individuals suffering from catastrophic injuries, as well as representing individuals and corporations with a variety of legal disputes.
In addition to my legal career, I established, owned and operated a retail business, giving me great practice in managing the demands of the public as well as understanding the challenges presented to local businesspersons.
My practical and business skills will be of great benefit in assisting the citizens of Clarkstown as one of their town justices. The judicial system is a venerable institution in our society, and I believe my background has earned me worthy of this judicial stewardship.
I have been an attorney for 34 years. My background is trial law in a number of areas of law. I am a former Rockland County Assistant District Attorney. I have also been a Washington based corporate attorney and was a partner in a NYC law firm, before leaving to return to Nanuet where I opened my practice in 1989.
While a Clarkstown Justice, I founded and presided over The Rockland County Drug Court. This was an alternative court for addicted individuals that reduced recidivism and, accordingly saves tax dollars. We passed legislation enabling me to do so from the Clarkstown Justice Court bench, whereby all other municipalities transferred appropriate cases. This was additional time consuming work which I accomplished at no additional compensation. Eventually, this responsibility was recognized to be so successful, it became part of the County Court.
I have been a practicing lawyer for over 35 years and I’ve handled cases in virtually all courts of the State of New York. I have the unique distinction and honor of twice being appointed as a Principal Law Clerk to a New York State judge. (Most lawyers don’t ever have that opportunity). Bringing that ‘behind the bench’ experience to the Clarkstown court will help the court become more efficient.
I teach law. The Judicial Screening Committee of the Rockland County Bar Association scrutinized my qualifications and found me to be ‘Qualified’ for the office of Town Justice. I have not previously held elected office.
22 years judicial experience and civic involvement in charities and the like.
3. How do you differentiate yourself from your opponents' platforms?
Both incumbents tout the savings they have provided the taxpayers, but the majority of the claimed savings are not only illusory, but were not initiated by them. They each claim it took 14 years to implement security measures in the justice court and they received monies from the town to do that. However, such grants have been readily available from the Federal Government which would have not cost the taxpayers of Clarkstown the amounts they expended locally for those needed measures.
Both incumbents claimed to save money by implementing a digital voice recording system in the local courts thus doing away with court stenographers in justice court. In fact, they had nothing to do with that. The State implemented that program.
Both incumbents claim that they saved money for the Town by not replacing approximately 5 court clerk employees who retired over the past 22 years. What both judges fail to tell the public is that they are not responsible for hiring those individuals, but rather the Town Board. If they claim that they now can do more with less, the question must be asked why they advocated to have more personnel in the first place.
These are just several examples of the problems of institutional incumbency. Those in such positions begin to believe their presence actually initiated results, when the results had little if anything to do with that participation.
Both incumbents also tout their many years of experience in their respective positions. Judge Ugell, however, had only five years of experience as an attorney upon graduating law school before assuming his position as Town Judge, but he failed to explain how that minimal level of experience at that time qualified him for the position he has held for the past 22 years.
My record of success as a litigator, law clerk and mediator demonstrates a proven track record of delivering results to the taxpayers, and I will utilize those skills to give the people a hardworking, fair, compassionate jurist and save the people money in the process.
The above 20 year history of accomplishments on the bench and experience gained thereby differentiate Judge Ugell and myself from the other two candidates. I am endorsed by the Clarkstown, Rockland, and NYC PBAs; the NYC Detectives Endowment Assoc.; Sheriff’s Deputies; Building and Trades Unions; Central Trades Unions; Local 363 IBEW; and Asian Americans of Rockland.
The office of Town Justice is a part-time job. If elected, I intend to work full-time without outside employment or practice. My opponents continue to practice law while employed as Town Justices.
I believe the town would save if there were two full-time judges rather than the four part-time judges we currently have. I am in favor of eliminating two judgeships (even my own, if necessary). My opponents, for obvious reasons, don’t want to change the status quo.
I have 22 years experience as town justice the others do not!
4. If elected, what would you like to achieve over the course of your term?
I will provide attorneys and litigants the opportunity to receive a fair and respectful hearing of their disputes or cases. Parties will receive my complete attention and practical approach to resolving issues and cases in both an efficient and effective manner at the least cost to the taxpayers.
I would like to accomplish the continuing success of the Clarkstown Justice Court in contributing to keep Clarkstown one of the safest municipalities in the US for its residents. I will continue to initiate and work on improvements in the administration of justice. I will remain available to residents and the police to carry this out. I will continue to visit local schools and colleges to volunteer my time in teaching students about the court and making them more aware of their community and the law.
A reputation for being a compassionate, impartial and fair judge who is known to be tough on crime.
I will work to continue to improve the court.
5. Incumbents: Do you have other employment or own a business in addition to your elected post? Challengers: What is your current employment and will that change if elected?
I am currently employed as the Principal Law Clerk to an Acting Supreme Court Judge in Orange County. I will be keeping that position and have received permission from the Unified Court System to retain my current position plus perform my responsibilities as a Town Judge. My vacation time from my current position will provide sufficient time for me to perform the work of a town judge during the daytime hours I am assigned to work in the town court, and much of the work is performed in the evenings after my day job has concluded.
I maintain a law office in Nanuet.
Currently, I teach law and I am a self-employed attorney practicing in New City.
I have a law practice that focuses on helping consumers in foreclosure defense, loan modifications and solving debt related issues for consumers and small businesses in Federal and State Supreme Court. I also focus on matrimonial and family law.
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