From the Mayor's Office
By Mayor Mary Marvin
January 22, 2024
Our Village Justices, William Primps and Natasha Nordahl presented their yearly State of the Judiciary report at the January Board of Trustees meeting. It was so informative and, in some cases, eye opening even for those of us in government service with them that I knew residents would find it equally illustrative.
The Judges were kind enough to share their comments in the following paragraph form.
“As I think most Villagers know, we have a Village Court that sits on a weekly basis at Village Hall, with jurisdiction over all disputed parking violations, moving violations under the state Vehicle and Traffic Law, and all criminal misdemeanors. What I think many Villagers may not know are the many areas where our court, staffed by Village Justices William Primps and Natasha Nordahl, has jurisdiction of matters going beyond the metes and bounds of the fairly well-known limits stated above.
First, our Village Court has jurisdiction of all Village landlord tenant matters without regard to financial amount. During the recent Covid moratorium on rent payments, our judges saw cases involving past due rent that exceeded $100,000 in amount. Now, with the moratorium over and residential rents skyrocketing, our Court is seeing an increase in landlord tenant filings.
Second, while the criminal jurisdiction of our Court is limited to misdemeanors (essentially cases in which the most severe penalty is a year in prison), our judges preside over indictments for all crimes committed in the Village, including felonies. Fortunately, we do not experience very many of these serious charges that eventually would need to be tried in White Plains, but as is true with every case, the Village Court must handle these more serious matters without error prior to their assignment to a higher court. Similarly, our local court must hold felony hearings to determine if there is probable cause that a felony has occurred within the Village. Another element of jurisdiction that goes beyond mere misdemeanor level crimes occurs when our local police make arrests of out of state felons who are arrested and detained in Bronxville, prior to being sent to our County jail in Valhalla for extradition. In the past year, our judges have presided over several of these felony and extradition related matters, often in off-hours settings when arrests are made in the evening or early morning hours.
Another area of activity relates to our court’s issuance of temporary orders of protection in cases of domestic violence or other forms of harassment. During the past year, our judges have intervened in four or five cases where these orders have been necessary, again, often on an “off-hours” basis.
As one can see, our local court has worked hard to meet a number of recent challenges. In these endeavors our judges have been helped immeasurably by our very talented court clerks, Chief Clerk Kelly Glover and Assistant Clerk Yecenia Tovar. The talents of our clerks has been recognized County-wide and State-wide with Yecenia being designated in 2023 as one of the Forty Under Forty outstanding individuals by Westchester Magazine, and Kelly receiving the statewide Clerk of the Year award three years ago.
Finally, Village residents should be aware of two challenges to our local court’s functioning that exist in Albany. First, in June of 2023, the State Bar Association entered a report calling for the abolition of Village and Town courts throughout the state, largely because of the existence of non-lawyer judges in many rural areas in upstate New York. What the Bar Association is proposing is the substitution of more centralized District Courts for the present localized system. I believe our roster of highly qualified local judges in the New York suburbs should not be replaced by a system that has no local ties, especially when the justification for such radical change is based on a condition (unqualified judges) that does not apply in our area. Second, Albany seeks to create a Centralized Arraignment Part (“CAP”) to address the issue of after-hours arraignments when no prosecutor is available. Such a court would likely be located in the White Plains area and would mean that any person detained in Bronxville (or any other area in Westchester County) would have to be transported by the detaining authorities to White Plains for an arraignment rather than calling in one of our two Village justices to perform the arraignment. While this presents a potential benefit to our local Village justices who would no longer need to be “on call” at all hours. While on duty, there are some questions as to what this would mean to the Village as far as police staffing and costs.
Also concerning is the continued inability of our legislature in Albany to review amendments to prior enacted restrictions on the setting of pretrial conditions designed to assure the attendance of criminal defendants at proceedings subsequent to arraignment. Changes to our laws that would allow judges to take into account public safety concerns in determining whether the posting of bail is appropriate, or possibly the use of ankle bracelet technology, could achieve the same goal of assuring defendant participation in criminal proceedings, without excessive use of pretrial incarceration.”
As is clear, our Village court is in many ways a microcosm of some trends nationwide. Our justices also work on a 24/7 basis with uncommon dedication. We have an incredibly talented duo of Justices who work seamlessly together resulting in an extremely professional and efficient court system and their report was both gratifying and reassuring.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I extend our thanks to Justices Primps and Nordahl on behalf of a very grateful Village.