By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — Voters in western Orleans County will have the option Tuesday to approve Yates joining Ridgeway and Shelby’s cross-jurisdictional court system, a move that is favored by town governments and various county departments.
If voters in all three municipalities approve the measure Nov. 6, Yates would be able to join in some of the benefits of Ridgeway and Shelby’s centralized court without having to physically move their court system to Salt Works Road.
Each town would have a single, locally-elected justice who has the authority to serve in the arraignments and other court procedures in the three-town area.
That’s been the case for the better part of a decade in Ridgeway and Shelby, where Shelby Town Justice Dawn Keppler and Ridgeway Town Justice Larry Sanderson coordinate services in what was then a groundbreaking move.
Keppler said each justice focuses on cases within their town, but share court equipment and personnel in an efficient manner.
“We have a system where we trade off,” Keppler said. “We keep separate books and report our finances separately, but we share copiers, server costs and law books.”
The two towns, which share a court facility and jointly oversee the village court’s duties since Medina dissolved its court in 2011, have cross-appointed clerks. That allows for a consistently available court clerk’s department for residents without heightened costs.
“It’s worked out very well for us,” Shelby Supervisor Skip Draper said. “We each eliminated one justice and shared court costs.”
Yates would continue to maintain a single-justice court at the town offices in Lyndonville, with the main benefits felt financially due to there being less judicial personnel. The Shelby/Ridgeway court system would see no change.
“With Yates, all we’re doing is changing the jurisdiction, Draper said. “It doesn’t effect our costs, but it’s the right thing to do.”
District Attorney Joe Cardone said the decreasing of different court jurisdictions in the Medina are has provided an enhanced continuity of justice for litigants, law enforcement, the county probation department and public and private lawyers.
In his 21 years as the county’s lead prosecutor, the number of judges in Orleans County has been reduced from 23 to 16 due to the dissolution of village courts and reductions in several towns to just one justice.
“This is a good model for other levels of government,” Cardone said. “We don’t need as many judges anymore.”
Cardone feels the system could be successfully replicated in the central and eastern parts of the county. “Ridgeway and Shelby haven’t missed a beat.”
Yates sought to reduce the number of town justices to just one and join the cross-jurisdictional system last year, but full integration was delayed while the town sought approval from Albany.
The move towards increased shared services was approved by each municipality’s governments earlier this year. The measure is also backed by the County Legislature.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.