Passavant Comments on Judicial Race – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Passavant Comments on Judicial Race

Paul Passavant, associate professor of political science, was quoted recently in a Finger Lakes Times article about the upcoming election for a city judge seat in Geneva. Passavant, who is vice chairman of the city Democratic Committee, is quoted as saying, “On the issue of partisanship, it looks like Judge Toole is the one attempting to unseat a sitting judge.”

Passavant, the current chair of the political science department, joined the faculty in 1997 after receiving his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He earned his B.A., with distinction and high honors, from the University of Michigan. His primary areas of expertise are law and politics, American institutions and socio-political theory. He is the author of “No Escape: Freedom of Speech and the Paradox of Rights” (NYU Press, 2002), and “Empire’s New Clothes: Reading Hardt and Negri” (Routledge, 2004, co-edited with Professor Jodi Dean).

The full article as it appeared in the Finger Lakes Times follows.

The Finger Lakes Times
“Ex-judge questions race. Democrats forced election, he says”
David L. Shaw • October 17, 2008

GENEVA – Former City Court supervising judge Walter C. Gage, in a letter to the editor in today’s Times, criticizes city Democrats for forcing an election for a city judge seat this fall.

Gage, who retired at the end of 2007, said Assistant City Judge Elisabeth A. “Lisa” Toole has been an outstanding judge for 11 years and deserves to be unopposed.

Toole, a Republican like Gage, is being challenged by Democrat Bram S. Lehman. Lehman was appointed to serve as the city’s third judge by Mayor Stu Einstein, a Democrat, in February.

Former Assistant City Judge Timothy J. Buckley was elected to Gage’s supervising judge seat last fall, defeating Toole.

Toole also ran for an elected city judge position against Buckley in 1997. She lost but was appointed by former Mayor Joanne Wisor to a six-year term in the third judge position in 1997; she was reappointed by Mayor Donald Cass to a new six-year term in 2004.

But there has been some confusion over this year’s election.

Einstein said he was following the city charter when he appointed Lehman to fill what he thought was the appointed judge position. He said he assumed that Toole had automatically moved into Buckley’s elected associate judge seat when Buckley became a supervising judge.

“I found out later that a new revision in state law that supersedes the city charter that made my appointment of Mr. Lehman be to Judge Buckley’s elected seat,” Einstein said.

That would require Lehman to either run for election this year, or, as Gage suggests, not run, let Toole run alone, and ask Einstein to reappoint him in January to the appointed judge position.

Harry Salis, an official with the 7th Judicial District Office of Court Administration, concurred.

He said Toole did not automatically move into the elected associate judge position upon Buckley’s election.

Salis said Einstein’s appointment of Lehman was for the Buckley seat vacancy and Toole remained in her appointed judge seat.

“Both have the right to run for the seat this year, but there are scenarios under which both could keep their judge seats, which have the same responsibilities and pay,” Salis said.

Gage said city residents should be asking themselves why there is a contested election for city court this year.

“Judge Toole has been an outstanding judge in the community for 11 years. She is highly respected by law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, court staff, those watching the court, defense attorneys and the public,” Gage wrote.

He called Lehman an opponent who had never been in city court before his appointment by Einstein and who had to delay taking the bench for a month while he was mentored by Toole.

Gage called the election a “brazen, calculated political attempt to dump someone of Judge Toole’s character and integrity.” (See Page 7 for the full letter.)

Paul Passavant, vice chairman of the city Democratic Committee, said Gage is incorrect in saying Einstein appointed Lehman to a six-year term.

” On the issue of partisanship, it looks like Judge Toole is the one attempting to unseat a sitting judge,” Passavant said.

“Mr. Gage seems to be fostering a return to the old boy network for Geneva rather than embracing an open, free election where the voters decide,” Passavant said, defending Lehman’s experience and abilities as a judge.

Toole said she is pleased with Gage’s support, noting that he was her supervising judge for 10 years.

She didn’t want to address Gage’s objections to her facing an opponent, but said Lehman initially indicated he would not run against her.

“I was surprised when I found out he was running for the position,”she said.

Lehman said he initially didn’t want to run against Toole but changed his mind after serving as judge the past several months.

“New York state has elected judges. I am qualified and have the right to run,” Lehman said.

“And people are free to vote for whomever they think is the most qualified. Judge Gage has a right to his opinion and I respect him,” he said. “But by running, I give myself the best chance to remain a city judge,” he said, noting that his appointment was for one year.

Einstein said the Democratic Committee was not involved in his decision to appoint Lehman and would not be involved in future appointments.

“I view this position as one that should be above political patronage considerations,” he said.

He said if the situation arose where he had to make another appointment, Toole would be as strong contender, depending on the outcome of this year’s election. However, he said he will not make a statement in October that would rule any candidate in or out for a January appointment.

He said the party committee had the choices of supporting a candidate or not participating in the race.

“They made the obvious decision, which I don’t think anyone can fault,” Einstein said, adding that he has not gotten any public comments about the city judge election or appointment.