Hon. David S. Gideon
My Fellow Judges-
I am truly humbled and appreciative of the trust that you have all placed in me to guide our great organization in its endeavors throughout the forthcoming year. I anticipate a year where we will face many challenges requiring our strong advocacy. Lest it be overlooked, the Town and Village Judges represent the largest judicial contingency in the New York State judicial system – We are the “Courts Closest to the People” serving a vital role in the administration and delivery of fair and impartial justice throughout our great State.
The New York State Magistrates Association is me, it is you and it is all of us together. United we are a voice to be heard, a voice to be taken seriously. Divided we will surely fall. So this year, I will be reaching out to each of you and our County Associations asking for your assistance as we tackle the important issues in this forthcoming year. Your elected officers of the New York State Magistrates Association are but your representatives, each of you working collectively are the true power. To parallel what President John F. Kennedy once said, “ask not what your Association can do for you, ask what you can do for your Association”.
Over the past several years your Association has increased its lobbying efforts at the State Legislature with regular visits to the hill. Our reception has been cordial and welcome and our input appreciated. We have called upon each of you to support our Association positions and to write to or talk to your State Legislators and you have risen to that occasion and our legislators have heard.
But our voices can be louder, stronger and our numbers multiplied by including the valued members of our New York State Association of Magistrates Court Clerks within our ranks. Gillian Koerner, the President of the New York State Association of Magistrates Court Clerks was a welcome addition to our conference and I have extended my invitation to her to attend all of our meetings. It is about time that our Associations start working together.
At my first Executive Board Meeting I presented the executive board member assignments to the respective committees of our Association. For your reference, these committee assignments are posted on our Association website. I have included members from the New York State Association of Magistrates Court Clerks to sit on and be an active part of the Legislative Committee, the Training and Education Committee, the Consolidation, Court Reform and Counsel at Arraignment Committee and the Site Selection Committee. All, in my opinion, are crucially important committees as we address the issues before us, together, for the ensuing year.
To be sure, we are facing many challenges this year. While we all may not agree all of the time, we must all work together to ensure our continued existence as the “Courts Closest to the People”; able to administer justice in its purest sense.
As early as election day this year on November 7th, we faced the vote to decide whether or not there would be a Constitutional Convention on the ballot; a vote which could have determined our very existence. The New York State Bar Association advocated for a “Yes” vote, making it clear that in their opinion there should be no non-attorney judges; that somehow only attorneys are in the unique position to administer justice. Our Association strongly disagreed and advocated for a “NO” vote and each of you rose to the challenge and advocated to your family, friends and acquaintances to vote “NO”; that a Constitutional Convention would surely have resulted in significant changes to the law, the legal system and/or to the administration of justice.
This year we will also face changes in the delivery of justice as we all struggle, county by county, to provide the assistance of counsel at each and every arraignment and court proceeding as guaranteed by the Constitution. Whether through Centralized Arraignment Parts or otherwise, our Association welcomes and acknowledges these fundamental rights, but one size surely does not fit all. The delivery plan must be made county by county using a common sense approach to determine the best way to deliver.
Finally, funding and discussions concerning consolidation will continue to increase and we must be ready to bring reasoned and intelligent input to the table lest hasty decisions will be made. I have asked the committee to develop regionalized advocacy teams to assist our local county associations in addressing proposed consolidation plans; to advocate for plans that make sense, not just plans for the mere sake of consolidation.
Each of you and the involvement of your county associations will be crucial in our endeavors to bring reasoned and intelligent options to the table as we face these important issues this year and in to the future.
Personally I will endeavor to be available by either e-mail or by telephone and I welcome your input as we face these many challenges together.
This year, our Executive Board Meetings will be open to all of our membership that wishes to attend and observe how our Association operates. Traditionally our Executive Board Members arrive on Friday evening and get together on an informal social basis before the work session on Saturday. Of course, if you would like to join us, please feel free. I would ask that you please let the Association office know, however, of your plan to attend so that we can properly acknowledge your attendance and fill you in on all of the details. A schedule of the Executive Board Meetings is posted on the Association website for your reference.
President Theodore Roosevelt said it best many years ago, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man or woman who points out how the strong man or woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man or woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself or herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his or her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I look forward to working side-by-side with all of you. From my heart, I thank you all.