Cuomo approves Piercefield non-resident judge bill

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill designed to increase the pool of candidates for town justice in a small St. Lawrence county town.

The legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, allows Piercefield residents to elect a justice who is not a resident of the town, provided the person lives in St. Lawrence or an adjoining county, like Franklin or Hamilton counties.

In March, the Piercefield town board adopted a resolution that says no registered voter in the town has run for town justice for several years, according to a press release from Little’s office. As a result, a justice who lives outside of Piercefield – town and village of Tupper Lake justice Leonard Young III – has had to be appointed temporarily by the district administrative judge.

“I’ve been there almost four years,” Young told the Enterprise Friday. “The 4th Judicial District has had to appoint me every year.”

The legislation “will allow the town of Piercefield to select the most qualified person to be the town justice of the town of Piercefield, regardless of his or her residency status,” reads a memo supporting the bill. “Without this legislation, the town of Piercefield would be limited to only being able to choose a town justice from within the town itself.”

Young said the population in Piercefield – 310 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census – is so small that the town hasn’t been able to find anyone to run for the position. The pay for the job, $5,000 a year, and the amount of training involved may also discourage people, he said.

“I’m probably going to throw in my name for it,” now that he can run for the position, Young said. “I’ve been a town judge in Tupper for 13 years and I’ve been doing the village for the past year.”

Little said she was pleased the governor signed the bill into law, noting that Piercefield is a town she’s only represented for a short period of time following redistricting that took place last year.

“The new law provides an exemption that ensures the town can meet an important need for its residents,” Little said in the release.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or