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December 22, 2019 - 12:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Court, batavia, video, Durin Rogers.
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On Friday, Durin Rogers was sworn in as the new full-time judge Batavia City Court and David Saleh was sworn in as the new part-time judge.

November 1, 2019 - 4:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Durin Rogers, City Court, batavia, news.

A local attorney representing a woman accused of hitting her child with an object is asking a Family Court judge to disqualify Durin Rogers, and the County Attorney's Office, from prosecuting the case in Family Court because of a perceived conflict of interest.

Thomas A. Burns, representing Niasia Jiggetts, filed the motion Oct. 22 alleging that because Rogers is a sitting, part-time Batavia City Court judge, and Jiggetts is also facing criminal charges in City Court, it opens up an apparent conflict of interest in Rogers access to City Court documents and his interactions with other members of the county's criminal justice system.

If the motion was successful at removing both Rogers, who is also a deputy county attorney, and the County Attorney's Office, the Department of Social Services would need to hire another attorney not affiliated with county government to represent the agency in this case in Family Court.

"As this court is certainly aware, and as DCA Rogers should be aware, a judge is obligated to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities and a judge is obligated to respect and comply with the law and is obligated to act at all times in a manner that promotes the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary," Burns wrote in his motion. "As this court is also aware, the judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all of the judge's other activities."

The Batavian contacted Rogers, a candidate for the full-time City Court Judge office, on Wednesday and offered him an opportunity to respond. Rogers said before replying he needed guidance from the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center.

In a request for an interview or statement, Rogers provided the following statement:

As a City Court Judge I cannot comment on pending city court matters, even when it is a case that I am not presiding over. The motion you forwarded to me is directed to me as an attorney. As an attorney with the County Attorney’s Office handling neglect and abuse matters in Family Court, I cannot and will not discuss the specific allegations of such matters due to laws regarding strict confidentiality. As to the motion, it is scheduled in the regular course of proceedings. Based on the Ethics Opinion that I sought and received from the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics when I first took the bench that ethically permits me to hold both positions, the motion has no merit and I am confident that it will be denied.

He also provided a link to the January 2015 opinion.

In response to the statement from Rogers, Burns said the 2015 opinion is not a ruling and was issued in response to questions posed by Rogers about serving in two capacities in general, not to actual overlapping roles of a specific case.

"The facts present in my client’s case were never considered in the opinion he cites," Burns said. "He is well aware that the opinion does not provide him with the authority to hold the position of both judge and prosecutor in the same case and to suggest otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the opinion he cites and a total lack understanding of the ethical obligations he should have assumed when he sought the part-time judge position."

Burns added that Rogers' statement doesn't address the rights of his client nor the direct conflict raised by his duel capacities.

"I also find it troubling that he suggests that he cannot comment on a pending City Court case when he continues to argue the case in front of Judge Adams and Judge Balbick as a prosecutor," Burns said.

Jiggetts was arrested in September for an alleged incident on June 10. She is charged with assault in the second degree. Since the case involves her minor child, there is both a criminal case pending in City Court (because it's a felony, it could be referred to County Court later) and a case in Family Court. The Family Court case also alleges neglect of her child from March through April 2017.

She has pled not guilty.

Burns alleges Rogers has a conflict of interest because he shares chambers with Judge Robert Balbick, the presiding judge in Jiggetts' case, with desks only 10 feet apart and they confer frequently. Also, even though the case isn't assigned to Rogers, he could be asked to sit in for Balbick, if Balbick is unable to make court on any particular day. Rogers also has unfettered access to all City Court documents.

As a City Court judge, Rogers also interacts with many of the people involved in these cases for a variety of reasons, including deputies, social workers, child advocates, attorneys and prosecutors.

As an example, Burns stated, when Jiggetts appeared in City Court on Oct. 1, the assistant district attorney handling cases in City Court that day, had to call Rogers to confer with him about the status of an order of protection issued in Family Court and to "remarkably" seek the input of Rogers about a possible order of protection signed by Balbick. Rogers, Burns said, "consented" to a no offensive conduct order of protection.

"The assistant district attorney should not have to be put in a position of conferring with the associate Batavia City Court judge relative to the status of a proceeding in this court with respect to the matter pending before the senior Batavia City Court judge," Burns wrote.

Burns said in his motion, Rogers' position as both a county attorney and a part-time judge has put a number of people in local criminal justice in "extremely uncomfortable and ultimately unethical positions."

"The appearance of impropriety under these circumstances is clear and results from the unwillingness of DCA Rogers to acknowledge the fact that he cannot prosecute a neglect proceeding involving a pending criminal court charge in the Batavia City Court where he is appointed to act as a part-time judge," Burns wrote in his motion.

While Rogers has been both a deputy county attorney and a part-time city court judge for some time, and Burns said he's had concerns in the past, this is the first time, in his view, there has been a clear conflict of interest.

"There are many cases that overlap but I have never seen one that is so over the top obvious as this one," Burns said in response to an emailed question. "I simply cannot understand the unwillingness of the County Attorney's Office to acknowledge the conflict present here."

Asked for a statement, County Attorney Kevin Earl said, "I cannot comment upon the specifics of any allegations, but I know that during my tenure as the Genesee County Attorney as his immediate supervisor, Durin Rogers has always conducted himself exhibiting the highest professional and ethical standards."

Rogers is being challenged for the full-time City Court judge position by attorney Ben Bonarigo. Burns attended Bonarigo's campaign kick-off event last year.

October 28, 2019 - 12:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Court, news, Ben Bonarigo.

Residents of the City of Batavia will select a new full-time City Court judge in the Nov. 5 General Election. The candidates are Durin Rogers and Ben Bonarigio. We sent each candidate a series of questions about their views of the law. We are publishing their written answers verbatim. Here are the answers from Ben Bonarigo.

Among the current members of the U.S. Supreme Court, which justice do you admire the most and why?
Of the current members of the U.S. Supreme Court, I identify with and admire Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg the most. Justice Ginsberg was raised in a working-class family in a rented apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y. She was a voracious reader and spent a good deal of her early years in the public library. She attended and graduated from public schools. Tragedy struck when her mother died from cancer a week before Ruth graduated from high school.

Earning a full scholarship to Cornell University, the seeds of legal activism and gender equality were planted. She believed very firmly in the idea, and correctly so, that women should be, in all respects, treated equally as men were under the law. This ideal was “firmed up” in her years at Harvard and Columbia Law where she graduated with her law degree at the top of her class. She left Harvard after the Dean asked her (along with her 8 other female classmates) why they were taking up the class seats of men at Harvard Law School. She transferred to Columbia Law School the next year.

After graduation, she became a law school professor and strenuously pursued significant gender-based discrimination cases. Many of those cases she successfully argued before the Supreme Court. After a stint on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which commenced in 1980, she was appointed, and confirmed in 1993, to become the second female to ever sit as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsberg has distinguished herself as a Justice who faced gender discrimination at almost every step of her education and legal career. She used that discrimination to fuel her desire to help women who, like her, were being improperly discriminated against in this country. Although I don’t always agree with where she comes down on her legal opinions, I have the utmost respect for this diminutive lady who has worked her way to the top bench through some very adverse circumstances. She tenaciously fought legal battles for all women to reach equality. She also fought hard for inequalities of other types in her illustrious career before becoming a judge.

She is living proof, and a beacon for all, to show how hard work, a thirst for knowledge, having a passion for what one believes and intense perseverance can propel them to the apex of their chosen field. 

Do you view the Constitution as a living document or would you define yourself more as a strict constructionist, and if neither of these terms fit your view of the Constitution, how do you view it as a point of Constitutional philosophy?
As a City Court Judge, the issue of constitutional philosophy would rarely, if ever, come up, being more the domain of appellate justices or the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. To view the Constitution as a living document is to say that the words on the document evolve over time, and they must be interpreted in light of the changes and adaptations of the people that they govern in the current day. In other words, current-day meaning must be read into the words of the Constitution. When interpreted this way, the words are easily stretched to extend the Constitution to meanings that may never have been intended by the Framers. This occurs as a function of judicial interpretation as opposed to Constitutional amendment or the legislative adoption of a law allowing or prohibiting the conduct described.

The ability to interpret, so as to create law, is the reason that the appointment of federal judges has become such a political hot point in America today. If the justices view the document as a “living document”, it politicizes their appointment because they will sit a lifetime on the bench, potentially creating law for decades. This happens no matter what the political affiliation of appointing powers be at the time. I, for one, am tired of all the political wrangling between the nominating President, and confirming Congress, as it places too much emphasis on politics in what is supposed to be an independent, fair and impartial bench beholden to nothing.

On the other end of the spectrum is the view of the strict constructionist, which is sometimes referred to as the “originalist” perspective. An originalist views the Constitution as a law, giving the law the meaning that its words were understood to mean at the time of its adoption. I wouldn’t interpret the Constitution as a living document nor from an originalist position either. I see myself more in line with the late Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, who was a self-defined “textualist”. Justice Scalia felt that it was not important to look to the Framers' original intent when they set the Constitution up as our national mission statement but to look to the actual words of the document as being the law. Stated a different way, what the words comprising the Constitution meant when it was adopted are what they mean today, not what we think our founding fathers meant when they chose which words to use.

As time and society’s views on the law and policy change, there is an amendment process built into the Constitution that has been exercised many times throughout history since its original adoption. Therefore, the meaning of the document doesn’t change as a result of our changing society. If there needs to be an amendment, then take the steps to amend it. Admittedly, the steps for the amendment process are burdensome and time-consuming; however, not insurmountable as history dictates.

To view the Constitution in any other way than as a “textualist” renders it meaningless. Why have a Constitution at all if a judge or group of judges can change its meaning because of the way the wind is blowing politically or socially? If a “living document” view is taken, this is accomplished by simply stretching the words of the Constitution to fit the desired result, and if by a strict constructionist this is done to add meaning to the Framer’s intent to find the desired result. I might add here, that a “living document” philosophy is not Liberal, as opposed to Conservative, because given the opportunity to ply the Constitution to fit their needs no matter where they fit on the political spectrum if the opportunity arises it will be seized upon.

Justice Scalia referred to it as a modernist view (a living document) versus the traditional view (textualist) and I for one consider myself traditional. While in taking this view I understand that amending the Constitution is a long, laborious and, at times, a politically charged endeavor. Nevertheless, in construing the Constitution in this manner the hope would be that it would take the judiciary out of creating legislation where it may not ever have been intended. It would leave the act of creating law to the elected legislative branch instead of the appointed judges, and amendment of the Constitution to the citizenry of this great Country.

What three books related to the law have influenced your thinking the most about legal philosophy and why?

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This novel was written in 1960 and is set in the American Deep South in the Jim Crow era of the 1930s. I read this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in my first year of college. Atticus Finch is a white lawyer who is assigned to represent a black man, Tom Robinson, who is wrongfully accused of beating and raping a white woman. Sadly, justice doesn’t prevail as the all-white jury convicts Robinson irrespective of his innocence, which was commonplace in this time and place. Moving beyond the racial injustice, this book stands for much more. I was moved by the high moral standards and ethical behavior displayed by Attorney Finch in his representation of Robinson. Finch, after a slow start, but after realizing that Robinson was wrongfully accused, provides him with a stellar legal defense even though it made Finch unpopular in his own community. To me, this is what stands out most in this novel, and which has left an indelible mark on me. The idea that no matter how unpopular the criminal charge or the accused is, that he is entitled to the best defense the lawyer can put forth on behalf of that person. Indeed, during my 37-year career as a trial lawyer, I was asked countless times “how can you represent that person?” I would respond that as a matter of my legal ethics that if I undertake the representation of an accused individual, I must do so zealously and adequately despite how you or others might feel about the cause. Moreover, what if ever lawyer were scared away from representing individuals in difficult cases. What would happen to justice in our courtrooms? More probably, I thought to myself what would Atticus Finch do or say in this circumstance as he became a symbol, albeit fictional, of what equal protection and justice means in American Jurisprudence.
  2. The Concept of Law by H.L.A. Hart. I read this book as a 1st-year law student and I must admit that it almost scared me away from pursuing a career in law as it so philosophically written. Hart was both a lawyer and a philosopher, and I struggled to find any practical application from it at the time. I thought it important to come to an understanding of what the law was, as I had chosen to embark upon a career in it. I read this book after speaking to one of my Professors. It took me several reads before I came away with what Professor Hart was saying. In this dissertation, Hart defines the difference between rules of law and orders. Orders, refrain people from doing or direct them to do, certain acts with a sanction for non-compliance. Thus, acting as a guarantee that individuals who obey will not be sacrificed to those who do not. Rules empower people to act in certain ways such as to make a will or a contract. Failure to comply with the rules, such as the Statute of Frauds, is to nullify the contract, not sanction the individual. Therefore, rules are normative in nature, molding the way society acts in certain instances. He further distinguished between rules that were “primary” and those that are “secondary”. Primary rules are those that impose duties, such as the Penal Law. Secondary rules are those that give meaning, recognition, empowerment, and enforceability to the Primary rules, such as the Criminal Procedure Law. The uniting of Primary and Secondary rules is what Professor Hart calls the “center” of a legal system. Hart makes us keenly aware that a system of law designed only by fear of coercion will never succeed. It must, in addition, be sensitive to the recognition of authority granted to the system to implement and change the rules as time goes by. Most importantly, it must be based on a sense of moral responsibility because the imposition of laws by the authority (regime as Hart refers to it) that are morally reprehensible are doomed. To me, this illustrates, the sensitive balance that a system of law resides within. When legislatures begin to adopt laws that don’t sit well with the moral public or leave them on the books longer than needed, the fear is that there will be a lack of compliance, which if extended to its logical conclusion, could result in anarchy.
  3. My Own Words by Mary Hartnett and Wendy Williams. This being a relatively new read (2016), it has inspired me to recently think about how polarized our country has become politically. This is a biography of U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I have now walked two laps around the entire City of Batavia on the campaign trail. I have found the majority of people warm and receptive to my knock despite differing political labels and affiliations but, not necessarily political views. In a few instances, that fond reception was not the case, and I was surprised by the curt treatment received. During this walk, considering myself somewhat naïve politically, it became apparent to me very early on how polarized we have become as a people; even at this level. Again, most who reject my candidacy are polite indirectly stating so or did so by politely listening to what I had to say and thanking me for stopping by. It is not those that I take issue with, it is the door slammers and name-callers that trouble me. As a firm believer in our democratic form of government, I recognize that political discourse is the bedrock of our society. I have no problem with that, however, I do have a problem with the nature and tenor of the discourse I heard on my walk. In some instances, it’s fairly clear that political civility has gone out the window on a national level and the reasons why would take up space way beyond that allotted here. Suffice it to say there is blame to go around on all sides in my opinion. It never dawned on me for a moment that this unkind treatment of one person by another based upon political affiliation would filter down to this local level for a judicial race. After all, aren’t judges to be independent thinking and insulated from all outside influences including political view? When I embarked upon this campaign, I truly thought that politics would not play into such a low-level judicial position, believing that was a feature of the loftier state and federal benches, and that votes would be cast based solely upon the candidates’ education, legal experience and commitment to the community. Obviously, for some, (thankfully not all), this is not the way they see this type of election. This race, for some, is a microcosm of what is occurring on the national level and “lines have been drawn in the sand.” Which brings me to Justice Ginsberg’s biography. She probably could not be any further away on the political spectrum from Justice Scalia, however, her book is replete with praise for the now-deceased Justice. Even though they rarely saw eye to eye on Constitutional interpretation or philosophy, they were steadfast friends off the bench and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and discourse. Justice Scalia said in a 2007 interview: “We are two people who are quite different in their core beliefs, but who respect each other’s character and ability. There is nobody else I spend every New Year’s Eve with.” Justices Ginsberg and Scalia were fond of stating: “it is ok to disagree but, it is never ok to be disagreeable.” I said to more than one person I spoke with about our general state of political affairs locally that we shouldn’t try so hard, spending so much time to find differences between us, but instead, we should find what we share in common and celebrate it. The majority of us have chosen to reside in Batavia. Some of us have raised our families here and have worked our entire lives here. Can we be that different from each other? Don’t we have many of the same values and concerns? Don’t we all enjoy the freedoms bestowed upon us by living in the greatest country on earth? I, for one, believe we do, and I want to continue working towards making our terrific city better and safer for us all!!

There is often a lot of debate around the term “activist judges.” What is your view of such debates? Is this a valid topic or a smokescreen? Is it something the public should worry about?
The term “activist judge” is now defined popularly as a judge who uses the irresponsible exercise of judicial authority. The argument goes that if judges are not bound to the words of the Constitution, we no longer have a government of laws, but of judges.

While attempts to define judicial activism have been difficult, one thing holds true: no matter where U.S. Supreme Court Justices have been on the political spectrum, at various times in history, they have selectively used judicial activism to arrive at a desired result in a case. I don’t necessarily agree with this as I am an avowed “textualist”, however, it is a fact of life.

The Warren Court, spanning from 1953 to 1969, has historically been labeled as an activist majority bench. This court decided many cases using judicial activism on a selective basis. Justice Brennan, who shaped many decisions of this era, deferred to the elected branches of government, unless doing so would allow the democratic majority to disregard the interests of an underrepresented group or, when the governing majority was stifling those that opposed it. In those instances, Brennan felt it appropriate to take a more activist view. Those cases resulted in racial integration of schools, invalidating laws prohibiting interracial marriage, prohibition against compelled self-incrimination, and the right of an accused to effective assistance of counsel, among others.

Richard Nixon utilized this judicial activist history as part of his platform for election to the Presidency. In his nomination acceptance speech, he promised that he would appoint “strict constructionists” rather than “judicial activists” to the bench; implying that he was tired of the liberal bias. Surely, over the next several decades the appointments of Justices by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush put a much more conservative look to the bench.

Nevertheless, this “conservative bent” didn’t change the court's use of selective judicial activism in many cases decided during this era. These included declaring unconstitutional certain affirmative action programs, gun control laws, restrictions on corporate political advertising, among others.

Even judges who were appointed under the guise of exercising judicial restraint (“strict construction”), the opposite of judicial activism, have become activists because in their judicial discretion they have felt it necessary, and the pull was overwhelming. Considering that courts made up of differing political views have used judicial activism at times as a means to an end, how can it be said by either end of the political spectrum that it is always inappropriate?

Therefore, there is a negative connotation attached to judicial activism by those on the other side of it. However, it seems to be used universally by the Supreme Court at various times. While, I, believe that it is a valid topic of discussion because if judges don’t consider text, sound precedent cases, and societal values and they use activism indiscriminately and without restraint as the way of deciding cases, we will become a nation run by nine judges as opposed to a nation of laws created by a representative legislature.

What is your view of jury nullification?
Deeply rooted in American constitutional democracy is the notion that a person accused of a crime must be judged by a “jury of his/her peers”. In this vein, we want our juries to be independent thinking, self-motivated people who bring their life experiences into the courtroom and deliberation rooms with them to render fair, and impartial verdicts. Individual jurors are instructed by judges to analyze the facts they hear and see, from the witness stand in an unsympathetic, unemotional, almost robotic way and to apply them to the laws applicable to the case as instructed, and directed. The determination of what law applies is up to the judge with the input of the respective defense counsel and prosecutor. In some cases, the expectant independence of jurors causes them not to follow the law as the judge has instructed them but, to find the accused not guilty despite the law.

In these cases, when jurors decide not to follow the written, instructed law and use their independent thought processes to determine if the accused is guilty or not, it can result in a verdict that is called a “jury nullification.” This means that the jurors do not limit themselves to the determination of the case’s facts but, step into the realm of deliberately not following the law provided to them by the judge. In instances of jury nullification, the jury feels more strongly about their definition of justice being served than they do about following the judicial instructions on the law.

Jury nullification may occur for several different reasons, including, but certainly not limited to: the law itself lacks support from the jurors (and the community at large) to be enforced, or the jury feels the law is being misapplied by the prosecutor in the particular case they are hearing. While some would argue that jury nullification is never appropriate, I cannot agree with this assertion. Currently, we never instruct our juries, one way or the other, about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of exercising their independence on the issue of the law, However, in certain instances, they find their own way to it anyway. The subject is taboo for attorneys to bring up in front of the jury, and jurors are not advised on the topic by the judge either.

The most significant argument against jury nullification is found in the racially motivated acquittals of those accused of lynching blacks and murdering civil rights activists in the southern states in the Jim Crow era. All-white juries routinely nullified the law in these types of cases, giving free passes to the accused despite overwhelming evidence of guilt. Obviously, these racially motivated jury nullifications cannot be tolerated nor accepted as a society. So, as I say that I believe jury nullification is appropriate in certain cases to provide a social conscience for the community, it is not without serious reservation on my part, recognizing that it may be used inappropriately as history illustrates.

In order to maintain the rule of law, it is my opinion that judges should routinely instruct juries about nullification, the seriousness of it and that it should be applied in the rarest of cases. Courts should sternly and very carefully instruct juries that nullification should never be based upon some ulterior motive, like racial hatred. Attorneys should be allowed to make counterbalancing arguments in favor of, and opposed to, its use in a given case. In allowing openness and transparency by the “system”, it recognizes jury nullification has been in existence in this country since its founding. Historically, juries have taken this responsibility seriously and have not used it in excess, except for those exceptional cases from our past stemming from hatred, racism, intolerance, and ignorance.

When a jury of our peers is confronted in a trial with a law they feel so repulsive in its design or application, and they are unable to nullify it, by finding the accused not guilty, the grave potential is that they will lose confidence in the ability of the system to be fair and impartial in every case. Inform them, put it in front of them and they will use jury nullification when appropriate, as they do now. In New York, a jury verdict in a criminal case requires a unanimous verdict, so just as history dictates, it will be used rarely.

As the full-time City Court judge, will you ensure court staff is considerate and helpful in fulfilling requests for public court documents, and that all public documents are accessible upon request, and that members of the media can make copies of documents using their smartphones in order to avoid document copy fees?
As the full-time City Court Judge, I will be bound by the rules governing judicial conduct which are set forth in New York Code of Rules and Regulations, Part 100. At Section 100.3 (C)(2) these rules state: “a judge shall require staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to observe standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge and to refrain from manifesting bias or prejudice in the performance of their official duties.” As a judge, one must conduct himself in a courteous and non-condescending manner to all individuals the court conducts business with. By virtue of the quoted rule above, the same holds true to the staff that supports the judge.

Having administered a private law office for over 35 years, I am acutely aware of client relations and the impact they have on the success of the business. Although, success may be measured differently for a court than a private law office, the same standards of common decency and dignity towards those that enter the office apply. It is a matter of creating a culture that is positive, and supportive of all team members, and allows for open and frank discussion of office procedures and policies. In this way, the entire team is included and feels worthy of delivering a first-class service to the public.

All public documents will always be made available to the requesting public upon request. In the event the documents are in the file, which may be in the courtroom, there may be some delay in processing by the staff. As for making copies of documents using smartphones, I personally don’t see a reason why that shouldn’t be allowed, but I would defer to the Office of Court Administration that sets down the rules in these matters.

October 28, 2019 - 12:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Court, Durin Rogers, news.

Residents of the City of Batavia will select a new full-time City Court judge in the Nov. 5 General Election. The candidates are Durin Rogers and Ben Bonarigio. We sent each candidate a series of questions about their views of the law. We are publishing their written answers verbatim. Here are the answers from Durin Rogers.

Among the current members of the U.S. Supreme Court, which justice do you admire the most and why?
I admire our United States Supreme Court as a whole entity. It is an integral part of our judicial system and an essential part of the checks and balances created by our Constitution to ensure that no one branch of government becomes too powerful. It is part of our American way of life and so important because its decisions can affect so many aspects of our daily lives, whether that be our right to freedom of religion, speech and press; our right to bear arms; our right to travel; our right to legal representation; and so many more.

Do you view the Constitution as a living document or would you define yourself more as a strict constructionist, and if neither of these terms fit your view of the Constitution, how do you view it as a point of Constitutional philosophy?
A Judge should never interpret the Constitution to meet their own individual preferences. As a local court judge, I have an obligation to follow legal precedent (established laws and the decisions of our New York and Federal courts). When I sit on the bench, I likewise expect that the attorneys before me base their advocacy on legal precedent. As such, it would be a rare situation for me to be called upon to interpret the Constitution and determine an issue that has not come up before. Any personal agenda to expand or narrow the intention of the law is inconsistent with the role of a judge as that would be imposing one’s own will on the bench. Instead, every decision of a judge should represent the application of the law fairly and equally to the facts at hand.

What three books related to the law have influenced your thinking the most about legal philosophy and why?
Having first read this book in law school, Roger Fisher and William Ury’s Getting to Yes was of great influence as it taught negotiating and bargaining by separating the person from the problem and taking emotion out of it.

The Federalist Papers, which are indispensable commentaries on the Constitution and the new system of government our Founding Fathers created in the late eighteenth century.

John Grisham’s The Firm was the first legal drama I read while in law school before Tom Cruise starred in the blockbuster movie. It incorporated so many legal issues (attorney-client privilege, search and seizure, probable cause, etc.) in such a great read. It confirmed my love for the law.

There is often a lot of debate around the term “activist judges.” What is your view of such debates? Is this a valid topic or a smokescreen? Is it something the public should worry about?
An activist judge may decide what he or she thinks the law should be, without regard to what it actually is. An activist judge acts as a legislator and blurs the lines between the branches of government. It is not the role of a city Court judge to render decisions that effectively rewrite laws and replace the role of elected legislators. With that being said, as a Judge, I do actively try to administer justice for our community and the people who come before the court. Lawbreakers need to be held accountable for their actions and as a Judge, my goal is to help them realize the value in being constructive members of our community. A judge can use many tools to get individuals to confront and address their problems, whether they are substance abuse issues, mental health issues, or basic issues revolving honesty while ordering appropriate and just consequences for their actions. (CLARIFICATION: On the first published version of this answer, we mistakenly left part of the question unhighlighted making it look like it was part of the answer.  It's now corrected.)

What is your view of jury nullification?
In rare situations, juries have been known to disregard the legal instructions given to them by a court when applying to facts of a particular case. As a sitting Judge, I have an absolute obligation to instruct a jury to follow the law and jurors swear an oath to do so. I have a sworn obligation to advise the jury on what the law is, and it's up to the jury to apply the law to the facts and determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence. If citizens do not like a particular law that has to be applied to a particular case, the remedy under our system of government is for them to persuade their representatives in the legislature to change the law, or to elect new representatives who will do so.

As the full-time City Court judge, will you ensure court staff is considerate and helpful in fulfilling requests for public court documents, and that all public documents are accessible upon request, and that members of the media can make copies of documents using their smartphones in order to avoid document copy fees?
In general, the media and members of the public may get copies of public documents upon appropriate request, yet they are not allowed to photograph documents. While I can certainly appreciate the changes in technology and the ease that this would allow, the decision on whether to allow photography of documents and the fees charged for copies of any documents, are policy decisions made by the New York State Office of Court Administration, not the Batavia City Court Judge. A local judge, part-time or full-time, simply does not have the authority to change these policies based on his or her own personal feeling.

June 26, 2019 - 10:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Court, batavia, news.

Durin Rogers, running to move up from part-time City Court judge to full-time, won the Republican primary vote Tuesday, beating attorney Ben Bonarigo, 644 votes to 396 votes.

Rogers also won on the primary lines for Conservative and Independence by 43-16 and 48-34, respectively.

Though Bonarigo was unable to win the Republican line for the general election in November, he will still appear on the ballot on the Democratic line.  

Bonarigo faced no challenge for the Democratic line.

May 17, 2019 - 6:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Durin Rogers, City Court, video.


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Thursday evening, Judge Durin Rogers, and one of two candidates for the full-time City Court judge position held a "coffee and conversation" event at the Holland Land Office Museum.

Since we haven't had a chance to cover Rogers at a public event since the campaign started, and we did cover Benjamin Bonarigo's campaign kickoff, including a short video interview, we wanted to be sure to provide Rogers with similar coverage.

We wound up with a 10-minute interview with Rogers and decided to post the entire interview.

Rogers hosts another "coffee and conversation" event at the Richmond Memorial Library on May 25 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

To view our previous coverage of Bonarigo's campaign kick-off, click here.

April 5, 2019 - 9:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Court, news, batavia.

Press release:

Citizens to elect Ben Bonarigo for City Court Judge are pleased to announce that the required signatures have been collected to qualify him the for Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Working Families, Green and Independence lines on the ballot for the June 25th primary election. Bonarigo submitted more than 1,100 signatures.

“I can’t thank everyone enough,” Bonarigo said. “Our volunteers and supporters carried petitions in some very difficult weather conditions to achieve our goal and they did it very quickly. We had a highly dedicated and fantastic team of individuals.”

Although our judges are elected, the job they do is not a political one. They are to remain impartial, unbiased and not beholden to any political party. Bonarigo’s willingness and determination to obtain primary ballot status for all party lines demonstrates his commitment to fairness and impartiality to all the citizens in the City of Batavia regardless of their party affiliation.

"My goal is to allow as many city voters as possible, a choice in deciding who will be their next judge,” he said. 

February 18, 2019 - 3:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Ben Bonarigo, City Court, batavia, news.


Press release:

City of Batavia Democrats announce the endorsement of Benjamin Bonarigo Sr. for full-time City Court Judge.

The City of Batavia Democratic Committee voted unanimously to endorse Benjamin Bonarigo Sr. for full-time City Court Judge at their endorsement meeting on Feb. 5th.

Of the endorsement, Chair of the City of Batavia Democratic Committee Erica O’Donnell said, “Mr. Bonarigo’s resume speaks for itself. He is beyond qualified for this position, but beyond that he exhibits a deep commitment to service in our community.”

Bonarigo said: “I am truly honored to have received the support of the City of Batavia Democratic Party and I promise to work hard, just as I have done everyday for the past 36 years of my legal career, to earn the trust and support of the voters in this election.

"I hope to live up to the faith the Democratic Party has shown in me and to make all voters proud to vote for me as the next Batavia City Court Judge. I pledge to be a fair and impartial jurist in every case, listening to the voice of every person that comes before me.”

Aside from establishing his own successful legal practice in the City of Batavia, Bonarigo has serve on many boards, committees and volunteer organizations. He has been involved in youth football, Mock Trial, Literacy Genesee/Orleans, Notre Dame High School Foundation Board and Board of Trustees, the Holland Land Office Museum, Genesee Community College Board of Trustees, and The Twenty-Five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc.

O’Donnell says, “Ben is the perfect example of a public servant and I’m honored to support him. I’m in no way shocked that he received such a warm response from our committee.”

February 9, 2019 - 4:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Ben Bonarigo, news, City Court, notify.


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Contested elections for judicial seats are rare but voters in the City of Batavia are faced with one in 2019.

Durin Rogers and Ben Bonarigo are vying for the full-time City Court judge position, which becomes open next year because of the mandatory retirement of Judge Robert Balbick.

Saturday morning, Bonarigo officially kicked off his campaign in front of about 200 supporters at City Church's Generation Center on Center Street downtown.

"I think that I've got the experience," Bonarigo said when asked about his qualifications. "Thirty-six years practicing law in the trenches, representing people every day with various civil and criminal cases. I know the rules of evidence.

"I know how to behave in a courtroom, and I know how a judge should act. I've got the right temperament, the ability to listen, the ability to hear everybody who comes before you, to be impartial and fair."

If elected, Bonarigo promised that everybody who came before his bench would be treated fairly.

To get elected, he will have to beat Rogers, who is already a part-time City Court judge and has the City Republicans' endorsement.

But that endorsement doesn't guarantee Rogers the R-line in November.

Bonarigo and his campaign team, led by Nikki Calhoun, are planning a petition drive to force a Republican primary in June. The winner of that June 25th election will win the R-line in the November election.

If Bonarigo were to lose the primary, he could still face off against Rogers in November on the Democratic line.

January 24, 2019 - 11:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Benjamin J. Bonarigo, Sr, batavia, news, City Court.

Press release:

Benjamin J. Bonarigo Sr., a City of Batavia attorney, has announced his candidacy for Batavia City Court Judge. A lifelong resident of Batavia, Bonarigo is seeking to be elected to the position being vacated at the end of 2019 by the retirement of the Hon. Robert J. Balbick, who reaches mandatory retirement age.

Bonarigo and his wife, Diane, a retired City of Batavia elementary school principal, have made the City their home, where they raised three children, two of whom continue to reside within the City with their families.

A 1975 graduate of Batavia High School, Bonarigo attended Genesee Community College, while working in his family’s restaurant, attaining an AS Degree in General Studies in 1977 and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management, cum laude, from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1979. He furthered his education by attaining his law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School in 1982 and was admitted to the practice law in New York State in 1983.

During his practice, Bonarigo has acted as the attorney for: the City of Batavia, the Town of Batavia, the Village of Oakfield and the Village of Oakfield Central School District.

At the start of his career, Bonarigo worked in the Genesee County Public Defender’s Office where he worked part-time while at the same time establishing, over the next 37 years, a flourishing legal practice, which is now known as Bonarigo & McCutcheon. He has practiced in all areas of civil and criminal law all over Western New York and beyond.

While practicing law, Bonarigo has been very committed to his profession, having been appointed to the Appellate Division 4th Department Grievance Committee for six years, during which time he, along with others, sat to review the ethical behavior of attorneys from all over Western New York.

He was also appointed to the Independent Judicial Qualification Commission for the 8th Judicial District on which he participated in the review, and rating, of candidates for judicial offices in all of Western New York courts. He is a longtime member of the New York State Bar Association to which he was a delegate representing the attorneys of Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties during State meetings.

He has been a member in good standing with the Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Bar associations, serving as president of the Genesee County Bar. During his tenure as president of the Bar Association, Bonarigo implemented an attorney-reading-with-students program in the elementary school in the Batavia City School District.

In addition to his commitment to the legal profession, Bonarigo has been highly involved in civic matters in the City of Batavia. He has been: a coach and been a member of the Board of Batavia Youth Football; a client tutor and member of the Board of Literacy Genesee/Orleans; a member of the Notre Dame High School Foundation Board; a member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees; a member of the Board of the Holland Land Office Museum; and a Mock Trial judge for many years.

Bonarigo is currently a member of the Board of Trustees at Genesee Community College, having been appointed by the Governor in 2011. He, along with his co-board members have overseen a significant expansion of the campus facilities. He is also a member of the Twenty-Five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc., which financially assists students and families within the Batavia City School District.

For his civic efforts, Bonarigo was been inducted in 2011 to the Genesee Community College Hall of Fame; granted an honorary diploma from Notre Dame High School in 2010; and was recognized as a Friend of the ARC in 2013.

“With my breadth of professional experience, love and commitment for the City of Batavia, its residents, including my family, neighbors and friends, I feel that I am uniquely qualified and I am the best-suited candidate to be elected to the City Court bench," Bonarigo said.

"It will be with great pride, impartiality, humility, and compassion that I will sit daily making judgments that continue to better our community. I look forward to the challenges ahead in this election process and look forward in the next several months as I reconnect with old acquaintances and, making new ones, as I seek your support for this position.” 

January 24, 2019 - 10:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Durin Rogers, City Court, news, batavia.

Press release:

Today Durin Rogers, attorney and City of Batavia part-time judge, announced his candidacy for the full-time Judge of the Batavia City Court post that will become vacant at the end of this year.  Judge Rogers would be running to replace current City Court Judge Robert Balbick, who will retire after reaching mandatory retirement age.

Judge Rogers has served as the part-time Batavia City Court judge for almost four years following his unanimous appointment by Batavia City Council in 2015. 

“I am excited to officially announce I will be seeking the full-time Batavia City Court judgeship this coming November...," said Judge Rogers.  “I made this decision because I sincerely believe that I have the qualifications, experience, and commitment to our community that the residents of the City of Batavia deserve.” 

During his past four years on the bench, Judge Rogers has handled all types of cases within the court's jurisdiction including civil, criminal, small claims, housing code violations and even matters in the drug court and veteran's courts. He has championed effective service to the community including cochairing the Centralized Arraignment Part Program (CAP), a program designed to assist in the timely arraignment and representation of Defendants in criminal proceedings.  He has spear-headed the efficient processing of housing code violations and established a protocol to effectively and timely deal with "zombie" properties neglected by non-local corporations and owners.

“Each of these responsibilities comes with difficult decisions that impact the lives of those before the Court and those in our community," Judge Rogers said. "A judge’s legal background and experience, commitment to the community, and character are essential to making fair and honest decisions while holding offenders accountable."

Judge Rogers has dedicated his almost 25-year legal career to public service, including volunteering with the Public Defender's Office and handling assigned counsel matters throughout the GLOW region in criminal and family courts.  He has served as an attorney in the Genesee County Attorney's office since 1995, where he was lead prosecutor for juvenile delinquency proceedings for more than 20 years; and handled all types of matters within the office including domestic violence/family offense matters; abuse and neglect proceedings; and contractual negotiations for the Genesee County Public Radio system.

Judge Rogers has extensive experience in electronic evidence particularly in admission of social media. He has been a frequent speaker in this area across New York State.

“As more and more individuals integrate this form of electronic communication into their lives, my unique knowledge of this area of law will be of great value to the Batavia City Court Bench,” added Judge Rogers.

“It is with this background, having been a prosecutor, a defense attorney and now a judge, that I believe I have the unique qualifications and legal experience to understand and administer justice in the City of Batavia so that all residents of our community feel safe and are treated fairly… I will do so with integrity, respect and the temperament that a judge must have when hearing cases fairly, each day, every day,” Judge Rogers said.

Judge Rogers commitment and passion for public service extends beyond the court system. Over the years, Judge Rogers frequently volunteered his time and commitment to coach youth sports including baseball and basketball for more than 15 years.  He assisted in bringing the "Youth Court" to Genesee County. He was a founding board member of Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County; a volunteer Budget Ambassador for the Batavia City Schools District; an appointed member of the Batavia City Youth Board; a member of the original Board of Ethics for the City of Batavia; and a member of the City of Batavia Police Facility Task Force.

Other volunteer activities included being an attorney for the Surrogate’s Decision-Making Committee (SDMC), and president of the Genesee County Bar Association (GCBA), during which time he collaborated with the Genesee Community College to bring a new program to Genesee County known as the “People’s Law Series,” a biannual symposium designed to educate and guide the public in topical areas of law.”

Judge Rogers lives with his wife, Paula, and their four children in the City of Batavia. His family has resided in Batavia for almost 18 years and are proud to call Batavia home. Rogers is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Law; and received his Juris Doctor legal degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio.

April 21, 2015 - 11:01am
posted by James Burns in batavia, City Court.

In front of a filled courtroom and his family Durin B. Rogers, Esq., was sworn in as Batavia City judge this morning.  

Genesee County Court Judge Robert C. Noonan sworn in Judge Rogers as his wife held the Bible for them.

In a brief statement afterward, Judge Rogers thanked his family, the Batavia City Council and the employees of the court system, saying “I thank all of you and look forward to seeing you soon. ... Just not in court for a speeding ticket.” 

April 2, 2015 - 1:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, County Attorney, City Court.

Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the Genesee County Legislature, and himself an attorney, wishes Durin Rogers all the best as the new Batavia City Court Judge, but also expressed disappointment that Rogers sought the job in the first place

Speaking during a Ways and Means Committee meeting Wednesday, Cianfrini said it was his impression that when Rogers took an assistant county attorney position, he was setting himself up to eventually become the county attorney.

Now he's no so sure.

"It seems to me he's using the county to advance his own position," Cianfrini said. "I'm not going to stand in his way, but I think being a city court judge hurts him when it comes time to consider a new county attorney."

Granted, the current county attorney, Charles Zambito, has no apparent immediate plans to step down, but Cianfrini said he was under the impression Rogers was given duties and responsibilities commensurate with gaining the experience necessary to eventually replace Zambito.

Zambito said Rogers has certainly filled an important role, one that should continue in his department, of being prepared to step in as county attorney if Zambito was unavailable.

Rogers was appointed City Court judge last week by the Batavia City Council to replace Michael Del Plato, a Cianfrini law partner, who retired from the judge position at the end of his term.

Rogers is on vacation and an assistant said there was no way to reach him to get his comment on the sudden controversy over his new appointment.

The discussion came up while Zambito introduced a resolution to adjust Rogers' position from full-time to part-time.

As a City Court judge, Rogers will be required to be in court at least one day a week, which means he won't be available to the county on those does.

His hours are being reduced from 37.5 hours per week to 30 hours per week. That means he will now be paid $66,494 a year by the county, instead of $83,118, a payroll savings for the county of $18,624.

State law also prohibits judges from acting as prosecutors in criminal matters. As part of Rogers county ties, Rogers has handled cases in family court involving under-age offenders and PINS (persons in need of supervision) cases, which while technically civil cases, are also considered criminal prosecutions.

Assistant County Attorney Paula Campbell will assume that case load and Rogers will take over her duties handling abuse and neglect cases and termination of parental rights.

February 18, 2015 - 4:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, City Court.

Press release:

The City Council is seeking to fill a part-time City Court Judge position. This position is appointed by City Council to serve a six (6) year term and will be effective April 21, 2015. Minimum qualifications require candidates to be an attorney admitted to practice law in the State of New York for at least five (5) years as of the date he or she commences the duties of the office and must be a resident of the City of Batavia.

All interested candidates please submit a letter of interest by Feb. 28, 2015 to:

City Court Judge

Attn: City Council President Brooks Hawley

One Batavia City Centre

Batavia, New York 14020

October 27, 2010 - 11:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Court.


More than 100 members of the local legal and law enforcement community were at Bohn's tonight to pay tribute to Linda Giambrone, who is retiring after 39 years of service as a clerk at City Court.

Giambrone started her career in 1971 and became chief clerk in 1976.

Speakers praised Giambrone for her knowledge of the court system, her memory for repeat offenders and her kindness toward all the people she came in contact with.

Above, judges Michael Del Plato, left, and Robert Balbick present her with a certificate of appreciation.

August 11, 2010 - 3:06pm


As one reporter phrased it: "She wants to plead guilty, but doesn't want to admit to the crime."

Suzanne Corona did plea guilty to Public Lewdness in Batavia City Court today, and did have the charge of Adultery dropped. But it took an awful lot of work to get to that point.

Corona entered the Genesee County Courts facility early this afternoon, dressed in a pastel green suit and stiletto-heeled sandals. When Judge Michael Del Plato called her name just before 2 o'clock, she walked up to the stand beside her lawyer, Brian Degnan.

(Recorders are not allowed in City Court; quotes hereforth from inside the courtroom are written from recollection and extensive written notes.)

Judge Del Plato asked what the status of the case was. Degnan announced that he'd acquired everything he needed from the prosecution -- and that Suzanne Corona was prepared to enter a plea. Prosecutor Robert Zickl agreed, noting the prosecution's proposal for Corona to plea guilty to Public Lewdness and be sentenced "on a no-jail basis."

Judge Del Plato then asked Corona if she was indeed prepared to enter a plea. "Yes," she said, "and I am doing so with the understanding that the adultery charge will be dropped."

Then came the plea...sort of.

Del Plato asked: "Do you admit that on June 4th, 2010, at approximately 5:15 p.m. in Farrall Park, that you did expose your private or intimate parts in a public place?"

"No, I did not," Corona replied.

Judge Del Plato seemed dumbfounded at this point. Looking from Zickl to Degnan with a slight smile, he wondered aloud: "I thought we had a disposition?"

Zickl said, "Your Honor, Ms. Corona has said that her intimate parts were not exposed in the public view. The prosecution is willing for her to admit to 'having sexual contact with another person,' which could easily be viewed by another as sexual intercourse."

After Degnan whispered something in Corona's ear, Del Plato tried again.

"Do you admit...that you did commit a lewd act with another person?"

"Yes," Corona replied. Del Plato continued, "And do you admit...that you did have sexual contact with another person?"

Corona replied, "No, Your Honor. I was engaged in an inappropriate act."

At this point, all four began talking to and talking over one another. At one point, Corona was heard to say, "I just want to say that I did not expose..."

But Del Plato had heard enough. He ordered Degnan and Corona out of the courtroom to speak with each other.

Three to four minutes later, they returned and sat together in the gallery as Del Plato heard several more cases. Returning to the stand, Degnan attempted to call Corona up beside him. Del Plato wasn't having it.

"No -- no. Mr. Degnan and Mr. Zickl, I want to speak with you first."

After a quick conference, proceedings resumed. Del Plato again asked Corona if she admitted to committing a lewd act with another person in Farrall Park.

"Yes," she replied.

"Great," Del Plato muttered, looking down.

Corona had apparently also asked Degnan to remind the courtroom that she'd remained clothed throughout the entire encounter at Farrall Park -- which he did.

Del Plato instructed Corona to return to City Court at 1 p.m. on Oct. 20 for sentencing, and with that -- save for the sentence -- Corona's legal matter was over. Outside the Genesee County Courthouse, Corona said she was happy to have the adultery charge dropped.

"I believe it's a private matter between husband and wife," she said. "And the government steps in your life in so many different areas...and everyone has a different type of marriage."

But Corona has not ruled out her prior intention: challenging the constitutionality of New York State's charge of Adultery.

"That's something we will discuss, and it's probably going to come up."

Degnan seems less enthusiastic.

"Sure, there's a challenge possible, but we were just concerned about having the adultery charge dismissed. We haven't even started preparing for that matter at this point, and we'll cross that bridge when the time comes."

When asked if she was happy to put it all behind her, it took Corona only one, sighed word to communicate it all: "Yes."

UPDATE: Just spoke to Prosecutor Robert Zickl as he walked past WBTA Studios. He confirmed that Justin Amend was offered a similar plea deal, and accepted it, contrary to what a City Court clerk told WBTA on Tuesday.

Photo: Suzanne Corona and Brian Degnan speak to reporters outside Genesee County Court.

August 10, 2010 - 4:26pm
posted by WBTA News in scott doll, City Court.

mug_scott_doll.jpgConvicted murderer Scott Doll will take his contraband case to a jury trial.

Doll appeared in Batavia City Court today, having been transported from a downstate prison. He sported a new buzz cut and clean-shaven moustache, wearing a bright white button-up shirt and khaki pants. He was handcuffed at the waist and escorted by state prison guards.

Doll is charged with Promoting Prison Contraband after allegedly trying to sneak powdered aspirin into the Genesee County Jail, following his murder conviction on July 2. Officers checking him in say they found it in a green balloon taped to Doll's buttocks.

Doll's attorney, Dan Killelea, told Judge Robert Balbick today that motions in the case have been completed, and that he and Doll are ready to take the case to trial. Judge Robert Balbick granted Killelea a date for jury selection: Monday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m.

Outside the courtroom, Killelea he believes Doll will be acquitted of the charge.

"He obviously has a right to a trial, and he looks forward to exercising that," says Killelea. "Depsite the fact that he feels, and I feel, that he was wrongly convicted this last time (on the murder charge)...he's still clinging to a hope that the system works.

"I think he'll be exonerated after a trial."

Doll's mother and son were in the courtroom today to see him. They were accompanied by their pastor, according to Killelea.

At one point, Doll's mother could be heard to say, "I don't trust anything that happens in this building."

August 10, 2010 - 11:27am
posted by WBTA News in City Court, Farrall Park, picnic table.

justin_amend.jpgTwenty-nine-year-old Justin Amend, accused of having sex on a public park bench in Farrall Park, pleaded guilty to a charge of Public Lewdness yesterday in Batavia City Court.

Under section 245.00 of New York Penal Law, in pleading guilty to the misdemeanor public lewdness, Amend legally admits only to:

"...intentionally exposing the private or intimate parts of his body in a lewd manner or committing any other lewd act (a) in a public place, or (b) in private premises under circumstances in which he may readily be observed from either a public place or from other private premises, and with intent that he be so observed."

Thus, Amend does not specifically admit to having sex with Suzanne Corona on that picnic table in Farrall Park.

A plea deal is not part of Amend's guilty plea, according to city court clerks. City Court prosecutor Robert Zickl confirms that Amend did accept a plea deal, which ensures that he will not be sentenced to jail time.

Amend is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 19. The charge is a class B misdemeanor, meaning Amend could face a maximum of six months in jail.

Alleged partner Corona is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 18 (Date was changed to Aug. 11).

July 28, 2010 - 11:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, City Court.

Peter Nasca will finally pay his debt to society.

For 26 years, the Florida resident has been tagged by Batavia City Court as a "scofflaw."

Since 1984, his New York license has been suspended and he's had an unpaid traffic ticket.

That hasn't stopped him from making his living as a truck driver, and even hauling loads through his former home state, but then he didn't know -- he says -- that he was a wanted man.

"All these years, nobody ever caught it," Nasca said after appearing in court. "Even when I do my FBI background check every year, they never caught it."

Apparently, law enforcement in Missouri is a little more on the ball. During a routine inspection of his rig, an officer said, "Oh, by the way, you can't drive in New York."

"What?" was Nasca's jaw-dropping response.

His Florida driver's license allowed him to drive in any state in the union, but New York wanted him to pay his fine, which is $180 for allegedly driving on a revoked driver's license in 1984.

Nasca, a native of Buffalo, was a Tonawanda resident at the time.

(Nasca is spelled like NASCAR, he said, "but without the money.")

Nasca did appear in City Court in 1984 and entered a not guilty plea. He eventually forgot about the charge and figured there was a statue of limitations on it. But there wasn't.

In 1984, Judge Robert Balbick was the prosecuting attorney in City Court, though he doesn't remember if he appeared on the Nasca case. Even so, he had to recuse himself, so Nasca's case was adjourned to Aug. 3, when Judge Michael Delplato can hear the matter.

As for his suspended license, he cleared that up today by filling out some paperwork. He didn't have to pay a fee because in 1984 there was no fee for a "Scoff."

City Court Clerk Linda Giambrone said there are scoff cases on file at City Court going back to the 1970s. They will never be purged and the scofflaws could still be hauled into court.

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