The candidate elected for town justice this November in Bedford will serve a four-year term, a state supreme court judge has ruled.
A lawsuit brought by the town of Bedford against the Westchester County Board of Elections contended that there was no legal requirement that a vacated town justice position must be filled for a full, four-year term.
Officials hoped the seat vacated by the late Judge Kevin Quaranta would be for an unexpired, three year term which they said benefits candidates by aligning justice elections with other local officials and giving them the support of a local slate.
Bedford Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts said the news about the ruling was disappointing.
"We feel that it makes no sense as far as the way local elections are conducted. We will now have a lone judicial candidate running in a presidential year election without local running mates on the ticket," she said. "It places an unnecessary burden on the local political parties by having to mobilize for a campaign three years in a row."
Democratic Elections Commissioner Reginald Lafayette—who was in favor of a four-year term because he said the state constitution provided clear guidelines for a four year term—said there was no other way the ruling could have gone.
"The law is the law," he said. "It was crystal clear and I was surprised there was ever a lawsuit to begin with."
In disagreeing with the town—and Republican Elections Commissioner, Douglas Colety, who supported Bedford's plan—Lafayette cited a 1999 case, Munnelly v. Newkirk, where the decision said a constitutional provision "clearly and unambiguously requires that town justices be elected to four-year terms."
In her decision, the Hon. Mary Smith said she agreed with Lafayette.
Smith went on to say in her decision that although the Munnelly court said "there may at times present justification for departing from the clear and unambiguous language of the constitution," her decision was constrained by the Munnelly precedent and application of constitutional law.
In a letter submitted by town attorney Joel Sachs to Judge Smith, the town has requested a motion for re-argument and reconsideration of the decision, citing Smith's acknowledgement that Munnelly does not "provide a hard and fast rule."
The decision and letter are posted with this story.
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