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Judge declines to recuse himself in voter case; board of elections determination submitted

Assistant county attorney Tom Cawley talks with reporters about the case of the challenged Bloomingburg voters.

By Fritz Mayer
March 31, 2014

The court case about the legitimacy of more than 100 voters in the March election in Bloomingburg got off to an surprising start, with an attorney for one of the candidates asking the judge to recuse himself because of the judge’s wife’s social media activities.

The judge, Stephan Schick, is married to Donna Schick, who is a secretary and committee person in the Sullivan County Democratic Committee.

The attorney, John Ciampoli, said that Donna Schick had made some social media entries that seemed to endorse a DVD that portrayed members of the Jewish community in a negative light. (This case is about members of the Hasidic community and whether they improperly registered to vote before the election, but the discussion did not reveal whether the DVD in question targeted the Hasidic Community.)

Ciampoli argued that knowing that Mrs. Schick left these posts, which the judge described as one-word reactions to the DVD, would make a “reasonable person” question the court’s impartiality in this case and thus result in the appearance of a conflict.

The judge disagreed; he said that Ciampoli, who was interpreting the matter in a way that would benefit his client, was not a “reasonable person” in this instance.

He also said that he himself does not use social media, but this is the 21st century, and women and wives have the right to express themselves on social media. He said that if any judge with a relative who ever posted something negative on social media had to recuse himself, then no judge would be able to hear a trial. The judge denied the motion.

The main purpose of the day’s proceedings was to have the Sullivan County Board of Elections (BOE) enter their determinations as to which registrations would stand and which would not. More than 100 voter registrations have been challenged, and it’s clear that if those votes are included in the tally, the Bloomingburg Strong candidates for mayor and trustee positions, who support developer Shalom Lamm and his 396-unit townhouse development will win, and if those votes are blocked, the Rural Heritage candidates, who opposed the development will win. The Rural Heritage candidates issued a statement on social media that the BOE had ruled in their favor.

Judge Schick has said he wants to make a decision in the case before April 7, when the new village officials take office, but Ciampoli asked the judge to dismiss the case, because, he argued repeatedly, the BOE improperly made their determination about the voter registrations after the vote, and that was not allowed.