Letters to the editor March 26 to April 1
Our town and village judges should be required to have law degrees. New York is one of eight states that allow non-lawyer judges to hand down jail sentences for misdemeanors without the right to a new trial before a judge that has a law degree.
I understand that hundreds of years ago, this was acceptable practice when lawyers were scarce, but in 2020, this raises serious questions regarding due process and the sixth amendment right to a fair trial.
A judge should have more experience than being a retired correctional officer, or a retired state trooper. A “legal background” is not the same as a “legal education,” not to mention the potential bias towards a defendant charged with a crime.
A fair and impartial judge always holds a law degree, proving that they understand the law and can interpret it correctly. Frequently, a judge has seamlessly transitioned into the role of being a judge after completing law school, taking the BAR exam, working for the District Attorney’s office and maybe even being in private practice at some point in their career.
This is an issue that is plaguing our village courts, and should be stamped out in 2020.