Town Loses Another Round in Battle With Former Judge

Town Loses Another Round in Battle With Former Judge

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The Town of Turin has once again lost in its battle to force a former town justice to repay thousands of dollars.

The latest loss came from the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, of state supreme court. 

At issue: whether former town justice James E. Chase should be forced to repay $38,000 in money collected in fines.

An audit turned up the $38,000 shortfall.

At the time, Judge Chase claimed the shortfall was because he was using money from fines his court collected to pay the state's share of fines levied by his predecessors.

Under scrutiny by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, Chase resigned in 2011 and agreed to never be a judge again.

His resignation ended the investigation.

However, the town sued Chase, saying he's liable for the missing funds because handling money and balancing accounts were not part of his job as judge.

State Supreme Judge Hugh Gilbert disagreed. Gilbert ruled in 2016 that the handling of public funds is part of the job and Chase has judicial immunity.

The town's suit was dismissed.

And in a decision Friday, the judges of the Appellate Division agreed with Judge Gilbert. They wrote: "We conclude that defendant's alleged improper actions and omissions were cloaked with judicial immunity inasmuch as the handling of fines and fees, and the keeping of books and records related thereto, are duties of a town justice..."

Chase was represented by Lowville attorney Mike Young.

Watertown lawyer Mark Gebo, who represented the town, said he's reviewing the decision and will consult with the town board on what, if any, appeal they plan to make.

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