Local lawmakers react as NYS court officials press case for second Watertown courtroom

WWNY Local lawmakers react as NYS court officials press case for second Watertown courtroom

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Get out your veto pen. That’s what state court officials are urging Governor Cuomo to do. They want Watertown on the hook for the second city courtroom.

The state Legislature passed a bill to reduce the number of full-time Watertown city judges from two to one.

It’s how local lawmakers want to avoid construction of an expensive second courtroom.

But, the New York State Office of Court Administration has penned a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to veto it. (See full letter below).

The letter says Watertown needs 2 full-time judges and a second courtroom is needed for specialty courts, like drug and veterans courts. Plus the state says that the current courtroom needs updates anyway.

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, one of the bill’s sponsors, says the city doesn’t needs a second courtroom and data shows the city does not need two full-time judges.

“When you look at the Department of Criminal Justice statistics, we’ve consistently gone down in crime, which is a great thing, but that tells me that we need less judges in the city, not more,” said Walczyk (R. -116th District).

In a statement to 7 News, Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 46th District) says the comments in the letter “are clearly out of touch” and that the Office of Court Administration “discounts the impact of the construction of a new courtroom will have on the city of Watertown and ultimately the taxpayers.”

Mayor Jeff Smith supports cutting a full-time judge with the hopes that it will eliminate the need for a second city courtroom. Smith was unable to comment on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the governor confirms that his office has received the letter and the bill is under review.

See the full letter from the New York State Office of Court Administration below.

Copyright 2020 WWNY. All rights reserved.