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Lowville officials still awaiting state guidance on judge vacancy

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LOWVILLE — Town officials are still waiting on state guidance before deciding how to handle a now-vacant judge post.

“We’ve been in touch with the comptroller’s office and also the attorney general’s office,” town attorney Raymond A. Meier told councilmen during their meeting Thursday.

Lewis County Board of Elections officials noticed last week that Judge John J. Youngs, who was appointed to the post in January 2004 and ran unopposed in the November 2004 and 2008 elections, should have run for a new four-year term in November. Town officials had left the post off their “offices to be filled” list submitted to county election officials last year, and the omission was not noticed then.

An opinion from the attorney general’s office has been requested as to whether the situation constitutes a regular vacancy, which could be filled by Town Council appointment, or a “failure to elect” under state Public Officers Law, Mr. Meier said. Under the latter scenario, the vacancy could only be filled by a special election called by the governor, with the other option being to keep the seat vacant until after the November general election, he said.

Meanwhile, the comptroller’s office has been asked whether the roughly $1,400 in salary paid by the town to Mr. Youngs for January and February should be returned, Mr. Meier said. While that likely will be required, the town would also need guidance on how to logistically handle it, he said.

All open cases are being transferred to the town’s other judge, Asa J. Holbrook, and a few jail inmates who had been arraigned by Mr. Youngs were rearraigned to ensure valid holding orders.

About 20 people who have had traffic violation cases disposed of by Mr. Youngs so far this year will also have their cases transferred to Judge Holbrook and get letters to that effect, Mr. Meier said. However, as with any traffic tickets, they may choose to handle them by mail if they don’t wish to appear in court.

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