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Croton Dems Nominate Watkins for Village Justice Seat

January 31, 2006

Two Village Trustee seats are on the March 21, 2006 ballot as well as the Village Justice post. In addition to nominating Trustee candidates for the upcoming Village election on the March 21, 2006, Croton Democrats considered two local attorneys who sought the nomination for the post of Village Justice. The Republican incumbent, Guy Adami, was elected Village Justice for the first time in 1982. Adami has held the seat for the past 24 years. The Croton Democrats last challenged the incumbent justice in 1990—sixteen years ago.

The Village Justice is elected for a four-year term and presides over a “local court,” overseeing a diverse array of cases, including both civil and criminal matters. The Village Court arraigns defendants charged with felonies, (i.e., defendants are formally notified of the charges, read their rights and, if indigent, assigned an attorney). This court also hears misdemeanor cases. The Village Court also hears local code enforcement cases, small claim matters (up to $3,000.00) and traffic and code enforcement violations. The Justice oversees a court staff of four and is helped by an appointed Associate Justice. The position is a paid a modest stipend.

Both attorneys, Sam Watkins and Rick Turner, seeking the nomination for Justice received an energetic endorsements from friends and neighbors. Caucus chair John Harbeson steered the attendees through its first contested caucus in recent memory. Instead of the usual show of hands, the caucus used private paper ballots and tallied by three counters, appointed before the vote. At the conclusion of the noisy voting, Chair Harbeson announced the winner, Sam Watkins, but did not— per prior agreement— announce the candidate totals from the 64 ballots cast.

George Fletcher of Cedar Lane nominated attorney Frederick W. (Rick) Turner of Morningside Drive, stating, “Rick has the ability to tell is like it is, even if it is not the answer I wanted to hear.” Fletcher went on to describe the motivation for a change in the Village Justice, “ I went to court for what turned out to be bogus parking ticket and found the experience frustrating and intimidating. I had to go back 3 times losing 3 days of work, just for the principle.” Fletcher added, “Because the parking restraints in the village and the flooding at the station we seem to have anger building up. The village court system seems to causing a certain amount of this anger and it reflects poorly on the village.” Fletcher went on to describe two innovations that Turner proposes, establishing alternative dispute resolution mechanism to allow residents to mediate among themselves, instead of the judge picking one winner and one loser, and opening a night session for small claims courts to convenience villagers for whom the day time court hours mean lost work hours.

Amy Attias of North Ledge Loop seconded Turner. Ms. Attias, an experienced criminal defense attorney, stated, “Up until two weeks ago, I was also a candidate” and continued “But now I could not be more certain that Rick would be the best village justice.” Attias went on to explain that Turner’s criminal and civil trial record as well as his prior experience as a judicial hearing officer in the Town of Greenburgh meant Turner would not be “a local judge who has no clue” as she has experienced elsewhere.

Maia Watkins placed her father, Sam Watkins, in nomination. She read a statement prepared by Mr. Watkins, who was out of town on a trip planned a year ago.

“My wife, Bonnie, and I have lived in Croton for 27 years where we raised our two children, Jared and Maia. Both were educated in the Croton School System. I have been involved in the community on a continuous basis and would like to continue that involvement in the position of Village Justice.

I am a practicing attorney with my own firm in White Plains, specializing in matrimonial and real estate law. I was educated at Yale University for undergraduate work, and received my law degree from Boston University in 1972. I appear regularly in the Courts, both Supreme and Family Courts in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Bronx, in litigated matters concerning mostly Family Law. I believe I have the background, interest and temperament to be an excellent Village Justice.

I have been involved in many village activities while residing in Croton, most notably as AYSO Soccer Coach for 9 years and have served as a Village Trustee for 8 years. I currently serve as a member of the Phelps Hospice Advisory Board and work as a volunteer at Blythedale Children’s Hospital.

I ask you for your support to obtain the nomination for this position. I believe I have the capability to carry out the many tasks required of this position and the focus to do it in the spirit that must be brought to a serious judicial position.”

Georgianna Grant seconded the nomination of Watkins, commenting, “Sam has an infallible logic to analyze possible solutions” as she learned from sitting beside him for 8 years during Watkins’ terms as Trustee on the Village Board.

The caucus closed with the naming of a vacancy committee, that would serve to appoint a replacement candidate in the event a nominee cannot stand for election. Georgianna Grant was initially named to the vacancy committee. In an unusual move, Mrs. Grant urged that Rick Turner replace her, noting “because it is important to add a new voice, instead of all us folks who have been up here for 150 years.” As a result, Robert Elliott III, Paul Rolnick, and Rick Turner will staff the Democratic Vacancy Committee for 2006.

— Village Justice Nominee Sam Watkins
Home: 30 Lounsbury Road, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520 | 914-271-5675
Office: Watkins and Cherneff, 701 Westchester Ave # 315W, White Plains, NY 10604-3019 | 914-949-9000

Education:

  • Yale University, BA, 1966
  • Boston Unversity Law School, JD, 1972
  • US Army, 1st Lt. in Colorado 1967 and Vietnam 1968, honorable discharge

Present Community Service:

  • Member, Phelps Hospice Advisory Board
  • Volunteer, Blythedale Children’s Hospital

Past Community Service:

  • Village Water Control Commission 2 years
  • Village Trustee, 1993-2001
  • Search for Change (former Chairman) - support for recovering mentally ill patients
  • Member Croton Community Land Conservancy (preservation of open space)

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This press release was sent to Crotonblog by the Croton Democratic Committee. please contact Leo Wiegman at 914-980-9437 or 212-790-4329 for additional information.



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