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Article — OP Bee | May 23, 2018

Court system can be difficult for newcomers to understand

JORGE DE ROSAS

On January 3, I was honored to be sworn in as Orchard Park town justice. As a lawyer who has practiced in courts from the smallest villages to federal court, I was confident in my ability to preside over the Orchard Park Town Court. After all, having prosecuted and defended cases at the highest levels, how difficult could Town Court be? It was soon to become apparent.

Presiding over a court with more than 50 cases on the docket for an evening requires stamina and attention to detail. Although challenging, my familiarity with the justice system made the transition to the bench more manageable. Yet the experience made me think about how the average person may feel walking into court for the first time.

Just as lawyers who never leave the security of their offices might find a courtroom daunting, a stranger to the court system could find a busy night in court altogether overwhelming. Part of this fear may be due to a lack of knowledge of what the court does and how it functions.

The Orchard Park Town Court, like any other town court, is a court of limited jurisdiction presiding over minor civil matters, small claims actions and evictions. However, the bulk of the cases the court handles are misdemeanor and violation level offenses of the penal and vehicle and traffic law.

The court also deals with felonies through arraignment and preliminary hearing, when necessary.

Court is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and the nights are divided between those dedicated to traffic offenses and those dedicated to more serious criminal matters.

Traffic matters are typically resolved in a single appearance and usually involve a fine. Criminal matters take longer to resolve as the stakes are higher. A defendant convicted of a class A misdemeanor could be sentenced to as much as a year in jail. An attorney will typically appear on behalf of a criminal defendant as everyone charged with a crime has the right to be represented by counsel.

If you have any questions or concerns about appearing in court, or are just interested in seeing how your Town Court works, do not hesitate to contact us. The court’s Web address is OrchardParkNY.org/content/courts.

Our court staff in Orchard Park is second to none and always works hard to make the courtroom experience as pleasant as possible.