Family: Wife, Lois; three children, Alyssa, Daniel, Ben
Political Affiliation: Registered Democrat
Political Experience: 16 years as Harrison’s part-time town justice
Community Affiliations: Former Harrison coed little league coach from 1992 to 2006; former member of the Board of Directors of the Harrison Jewish Community Center; former president of Westchester County Magistrates Association
Years in Harrison: 29
One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: Big San Francisco Giants fan
Q: It is extremely unusual for a sitting judge to face a primary challenge on the local level. How surprising was it to hear that you were passed over for the Republican ticket and that there’d be this type of challenge?
A: I’m causing a primary challenge, and it’s very rare in this town. I can’t ever recall [that with] a Democrat. I’ve been previously cross-endorsed [by the Republicans] three times, which is quite an accomplishment. I have a lot of support throughout the community within the Republican Party and they encouraged me to run. I feel very good about my chances.
Q: What is the most unusual case you have ever presided over?
A: Not really supposed to talk about cases, to some degree, but one unfortunate case was with a Manhattanville student who was murdered by her mother. I presided over two home invasion cases and both went up to the county court; a weapons case with rapper DMX. I’ve seen high-profile cases.
Q: Why are you interested in running for re-election to the town justice position?
A: I’m running for re-election as a way of continuing to give back to the community [where] I’ve raised my kids. I have the experiences and qualities to help ensure our judicial system is administered properly with integrity and professionalism. I was a practicing trial attorney for 38 years, and I’ve tried many cases myself which is invaluable [experience] to someone sitting on the bench.
Q: What is the most difficult part of the job?
A: I don’t really find any part difficult, it comes naturally to me and I enjoy every day I get to sit on the bench. I actually try to make the whole experience interesting and I try to make it an educational experience and have people come away with a positive experience. I have enjoyed over the years students from our local schools at court, from kindergarten through high school, stopping now and again and explaining to the kids about the pitfalls to avoid, like underage drinking and using false IDs. It’s a good thing to do when the kids are young enough and to influence them in a positive manner. They write me letters and draw pictures with the judge and gavel, it’s very rewarding.
Q: What are the most important pieces of advice you have for attorneys concerning how they can improve their performance at oral argument?
A: Most important thing is to be prepared, [as] I run my court in a professional manner. I established that standard soon after I took the bench. Once you’re prepared and know what you’re talking about, you’re going to be successful in getting your case across.
Q: Should the town justice role expand to a full-time position?
A: No, I don’t think it needs to be expanded and it can be handled on a part-time basis. As a matter of fact, the Town of Harrison is a busy court and it’s a testament to our efficiency. A lot of credit goes out to our tremendous court staff, especially Jackie Ricciardi, our chief court clerk. We can more than handle it.
Q: What should the town judges be paid or, perhaps less controversially, how would one determine what the proper salary should be?
A: Not sure how to answer that; it’s how good a job they do and how big the court is.
Q: Town justices are allowed to keep other employment unlike full-time justices. Why is that?
A: Well, because it’s a part-time job, many judges would have a hard time making ends meet only working part time, so you’re allowed to do other things.
Q: What qualifications or background make for an effective justice, in your opinion?
A: Well first of all, it’s important to know the law, and as a local judge, not only criminal, but the penal code, criminal procedure, landlord-tenant law, municipal codes and rules of evidence. A good judge has to understand people and human nature. You have to come in with an impartial viewpoint and come into it fairly and let the parties verbalize their point. Be patient and know you’re there to be the judge. It’s important to treat people respectfully and sometimes you see these programs on television that sensationalize the judges and they scream, and that’s how they think judges act, but they should treat others in a respectable manner.
-Reporting by John Brandi