Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Democratic town justice candidate Adam Kagan’s statement: ‘I partnered with court staff to modernize our local court and prepare it for future challenges’

Editor’s note: This candidate statement was provided by the Pelham Town Democratic Committee. The Pelham Examiner publishes statements in the form received as a service to the community.

I’m grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me to serve as Town Justice for the last four years, and I’m asking you to re-elect me on Tuesday, November 7th. When I was elected in 2019, our local Court was struggling to keep up with the 21st century. My predecessor (my opponent in November) had served for 8 years and it was surprising to me that our local Court relied on fax machines and documents completed by hand (on carbons). Translation services were outdated and inaccessible for those who needed them most. Email was the exception, not the norm. In addition, New York State had just enacted bail reform, changes to discovery laws, and significant housing-law changes. Just a few months into my tenure, the pandemic forced our Court to adapt quickly to a digital, remote-meeting world.

I’m proud of the improvements we’ve made, ensuring that the Town of Pelham Court was among the first in Westchester to implement remote appearances and re-open regular Court sessions. I partnered with Court staff to modernize our local Court and prepare it for future challenges by:

  • Adjusting Court hours to allow for earlier morning appearances, reducing the amount of time residents spend waiting and limiting exposure to COVID during the pandemic;
  • Enhancing and strengthening security measures to better protect those who need to appear;
  • Diversifying our staff, including the first female Court constable in 15 years;
  • Expanding the pool of attorneys available to handle cases and increasing representation among people of color;
  • Increasing accessibility by adopting a new translation service that accommodates 41 languages, including American Sign Language, on-demand, at a significantly lower cost. The previous service only accommodated 1 language and was available only if requested in advance;
  • Adding common forms to the Court section of the Town website to make it easier for residents to navigate the Court system.

But there is still more to do. In the next four years, I want to continue this important work by:

  • Streamlining payment processes because the Court still accepts forms of payment inconsistently;
  • Improving clerk availability. Currently clerks’ offices are in separate offices in different buildings;
  • Providing space for Judges to conference cases, perform legal research and write decisions;
  • Digitizing file notes because we still handwrite almost everything.

Being a Judge is an important role in our community, and I take it very seriously. In Pelham, we average over 100 cases each week (3,381 charges last year), and Judges are on call for arraignments and warrants 24 hours a day, every day of the year. We also serve as weekend/after-hours backups to New Rochelle and Mt. Vernon courts and as ‘Accessible Magistrates’ for adolescent and juvenile offender cases county-wide. Six different police agencies have cases heard in our Court. The Villages of Pelham and Pelham Manor Police departments for local crimes, vehicle, traffic, and parking, Westchester County Police for incidents on the Hutchinson River parkway, New York State Police on Interstate 95, the MTA police for issues on the train and its right-of-way, and the Department of Environmental Conservation for environmental violations. We also hear landlord tenant and small claims cases as well as violations of Village ordinances.

Despite the significant volume and velocity of cases, I’m proud our Court remains focused on respectfully administering justice fairly, impartially and efficiently. I am running for re-election as a Town Justice to continue modernizing our local Court, while ensuring it remains fair and accessible to all who need it.

Please vote for me for Town Justice on Tuesday, November 7th.

About the candidate: Melissa and I moved to Pelham in 2008. Our children Henry and Josie are at Pelham High School now and they’ve often campaigned with me over 12 years as a Pelham Village Deputy Mayor, Trustee and Town Justice. They’ve learned the importance of serving their community and hopefully they’ve seen me learn and grow as a person and a Judge.

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