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Lowville may not appoint judge for vacant post

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LOWVILLE — Lowville town officials may not appoint someone to fill their mistakenly vacant town judge post, so they will likely stick with a single judge through the end of the year.

“It seems a moot point to put the town or county through a special election when the results will be the same as an election in November,” said Supervisor Randall A. Schell.

An informal opinion issued Monday by the state attorney general’s office states that the one of the town’s two judge posts, which was inadvertently left off last fall’s ballot, should only be filled through a special election called by the governor. And, even if such an election were to be held, the four-year term of the new justice would not begin until Jan. 1, the same as one selected through the regular election cycle.

“Although we are advised that the failure to include the position on the ballot in this case was inadvertent, such mistakes might become more frequent and even deliberate if the result were to give the town board the power to fill the vacancy by appointment instead of election,” wrote Kathryn Sheingold, assistant solicitor general in charge of opinions at the state office.

While finding “no direct precedent” for this particular case, Ms. Sheingold suggested that an appointment could be made if the vacancy occurred due to a death or resignation, but not for a failure to elect.

“We’ll do what they recommend,” Mr. Schell said.

Lewis County Board of Elections officials in March noticed that Republican Judge John J. Youngs, who was appointed to the post in January 2004 and ran unopposed in the November elections of 2004 and 2008, 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.

All open cases have been transferred to the town’s other judge, Republican Asa J. Holbrook. And, because Judge Holbrook’s term expires at the end of this year, both judicial spots will be on the November ballot, with the top two vote-getters to earn four-year seats.

Five people have thus far picked up nominating petitions for the two seats, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they will all complete and return them by the July 11 deadline, according to county election officials.

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