Insights Into How the Criminal Justice System Operates

Article by Gary Kent

Our criminal justice system is designed to have built in checks and balances. These have evolved from hundreds of years of practice, as well as judicial interpretation and precedent. In important ways, they enjoy Constitutional sanction.

Law enforcement is reined in principally by amendments 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Amendment 9 should not be forgotten in this regard, though its importance is often overlooked.

Warrants issued by a judge limit searches under amendment 4 and protect people from potential police abuse of privacy. If law enforcement can establish probable cause to conduct a search, a judge may grant a warrant allowing the search. Searches are supposed to be “reasonable” and specific as well.

Amendment 5 provides protection against self-incrimination. Precedent has added the so-called Miranda warning before other than routine questioning. Under amendment 5, once someone is found innocent, a prosecutor cannot give it another try on the identical charge. Amendment 5 requires “due process” before anyone may be deprived of “life, liberty, or property.” Following due process involves providing the accused all the protections and procedures provided under the law.

Numerous important protections for the accused are contained in amendment 6. Among these is the right to counsel. Under amendment 6, an accused is entitled to subpoena witnesses in his/her behalf. This amendment safeguards people against overzealous prosecution.

The Constitution requires an indictment process. Prosecutors must convince a grand jury to indict a person suspected of breaking the law. Only then may the accused be forced to go to trial before a judge and jury capable of deciding guilt or innocence. Trials are supposed to be “speedy.” Precedent and law have helped define what “speedy” means.

Law enforcement and prosecution are typically separate in order to permit each to limit the other. A district attorney (prosecutor) can wish to take someone to trial for loss of “life, liberty, or property,” but cannot do so unless he/she can get a law enforcement agency to make an arrest.

Similarly, without an indictment from a grand jury, the arrested person cannot be put at further risk in a trial before a judge and jury. In this way, a prosecutor can restrain law enforcement (the police). In practice, it is fairly rare for a grand jury not to indict. A district attorney may decide not to even seek an indictment, thereby checking, and often frustrating, law enforcement.

For the system we have to work properly, each human component of it must behave even-handedly and ethically. In practice, abuse is difficult to determine. If it was ever in doubt, the 14th amendment made it clear that justice must also be “blind.”

Most independent are federal judges and those state judges who are appointed. District attorneys and sheriffs have to face elections, though, in many instances, the public may fail to hold them accountable due, in part, to politics and political party enrollments.

A question about the Major Felony Crimes Task Force came up during the S.C.O.P.E. forum. Two of the candidates indicated no problem with having this law enforcement arm under the direction of the prosecutor (district attorney). Coincidentally, or not, the candidate who won the election thought the Major Felony Crimes Task Force should be run by the sheriff.

The problem with the way it is now is that putting a law enforcement “arm” under the prosecutor’s direction circumvents the system of checks (limits) described above. A district attorney who controls an important part of the enforcement mechanism is no longer being kept separate from law enforcement. In this case, there is less control over the district attorney’s power.

While, in fact, they normally work closely, appearances are also important in order for the public to have confidence in the system. For the system to work effectively, keeping law enforcement and prosecution separate provides important limits on both and can contribute to much-needed public confidence.

Thank You to our Democratic Candidates

Thank you to the Democrats who had the courage and fortitude to step forward and run for an office. Yes, we lost several of the races but be proud and hold your head high. We ran a clean campaign and gave it our all.

We also owe thanks to our supporters who had faith in us and for family and friends.

We congratulate Randy Bower and wish Tom Drennan success in the future.

Jeanne Crane
Chairwoman of Orleans County Democratic Party

The Political Landscape, Part 2

Article by Gary Kent

Voter Registration:

In order to vote in a primary, such as that held by the Republican Party on September 13, you must be enrolled and registered as a member of the party holding the primary. Only registered republicans were permitted to vote in the September 13th republican primary for Sheriff. To vote in a democratic primary, you would have to be a registered democrat.

Though more and more people are registering with other parties, doing so often means you have less say in who gets a major party line on the November ballot. When we look back on 2015, we may conclude that the September 13th republican primary was the key to the November election. Election day is set by the Federal Constitution.

As of April, 2015, there were approximately 10,100 registered republicans and 5,300 registered democrats in Orleans County. About 6,600 were registered with other parties or as “blanks.” In every town, there are hundreds of unregistered potential voters. Recall that, in the republican Primary in September, Randy Bower defeated Tom Drennan by 21 votes!

Even so, though registering to vote takes about three minutes, many people believe voting doesn’t matter, so they do not register. If the idea that voting doesn’t matter is your excuse, you won’t matter—to many of the legislators who decide whether, or not, for example, the sales tax on home heating fuel should be responsibly eliminated.

One of the best ways for you to influence the political process is to get on a political committee. There are towns in Orleans where the Democratic Party has no committee. Though people are needed in every town, the need is greatest in Yates, Ridgeway and Murray. In nearly every town there are openings for interested democrats who wish to contribute to more representative government. Taking a little time to get involved in the process of finding and electing the best people to run for elective office is not really asking too much of ourselves. The level of your involvement and the amount of time you spend is up to you. Committee persons from the various towns get together at County committee meetings. County meetings are normally monthly, but attendance is not mandatory at this point.

Would Marco Rubio have thought the following question was out of line? How can you expect voters to take you seriously when you said during the first republican candidate debate that democrats take the position they take on climate change because, “they want to destroy the economy”?

Meet & Greet

Monday, November 2, 6 to 8 PM: A Meet & Greet will be held at the Lincoln Post 1483 VFW at 216 East Center Street in Medina.

Thursday, October 29, 6 to 8 PM: Don Organisciak, Democratic Candidate for Sheriff, will hold a Meet & Greet at the Pullman Church in Albion.

Wednesday, October 28, 6 to 8 PM: Don Organisciak, Democratic Candidate for Sheriff , will hold a Meet & Greet at the Community Free Library in Holley.

Saturday, October 24, 4 to 7 PM: James White, Democratic Candidate for Legislator at Large, will hold a Meet & Greet at the Hoag Library in Albion.

All are invited to attend.

2015 Democratic Endorsed Candidates

County Sheriff Don Organisciak, Jr.
Legislator at Large James White
Legislator, Dist. 3 Fred Miller
Albion Town Clerk Sarah M. Basinait
Councilperson Anthony Jake Olles
Councilperson Darlene Benton
Highway Superintendent Michael F. Neidert
Barre Supervisor Cyndy Van Lieshout
Town Clerk Maureen P. Beach
Councilperson Joe Grabowski
Councilperson Richard V. Bennett
Highway Superintendent Dale A. Brooks
Gaines Supervisor Patrick Swiercznski
Councilperson Bill Lattin
Councilperson Pete Toenniessen
Highway Superintendent Ronald L. Mannella
Kendall Councilperson Margaret Lynn Szozda
Shelby Town Clerk Darlene A. Rich

The political landscape in Orleans County – Part I

Article by Gary Kent

Orleans County has seven legislators. Four are elected from districts. District 1 consists of Clarendon, Barre, and most of Shelby. District 2 is comprised of Ridgeway, Yates and a small part of northwest Shelby. District 3 is Albion and Gaines and District 4 is Carlton, Kendall and Murray.

Three legislators are At-large, meaning they are elected by the voters of the entire County. One must come from one of the western towns (Shelby, Ridgeway and Yates). Another must come from one of the central towns (Carlton, Gaines, Albion and Barre). The third must come from one of the eastern towns (Kendall, Murray and Clarendon). Hence, the terms At –large west legislator, At-large central legislator and At-large east legislator. To be an At-large central legislator, one must live in one of the central towns and be elected by the people of the entire County.

Legislators serve on various committees and take turns auditing the bills on a monthly basis. Most of what takes place in Legislature sessions is decided in advance in committee. They run on schedule and are supposed to be open to the public. It is extremely rare for the public to attend. Typically, the monthly sessions of the Legislature involve little “drama.” Monthly meetings take place in the later afternoon and are often concluded by the time most people get out of work.

Bill Eick is the District 1 legislator. Lynne Johnson is the District 2 legislator. Fred Miller is the District 3 legislator and Ken DeRoller is the District 4 legislator.
Dave Callard is the At-large west legislator and Legislative Chairman. Donald Allport is the At-large central legislator and John DeFillips is the At-large east legislator.

All legislators are up for re-election every two years.

The only ones facing challenges this year are Johnson and Allport. Paul Lauricella is running for Johnson’s seat in District 2 and James White is running for Allport’s At-large central seat.

A Chief Administrative Officer, C.A.O. works to research issues, make recommendations, and carry out the will of the Legislature. This person is appointed by the Legislature. The position is not supposed to be political. The C.A.O. at this time is Chuck Nesbitt. He has several other titles and duties related to the operation of County government as well. His immediate predecessor was Stan Dudek. Depending on who is C.A.O. and who holds the Legislature Chairmanship, the C.A.O. may assume a greater, or lesser, role in actually running the show. A strong Chairperson, such as Marcia Tuohey, can run the show if she/he chooses. Her C.A.O., Stan Dudek, deferred to her and put his emphasis on being a support person/ researcher/recommender who kept out of the political fray.

The elected County Treasurer is Susan Heard. She plays a major role in handling the receipts, paying the bills, and working with the C.A.O. and the Legislature on the budget. The Treasurer is also, like the C.A.O, the County Attorney, the District Attorney and the Sheriff, supposed to be professional and apolitical. She is present during budget meetings to offer her perspective on the process and is available to provide counsel to the Legislators and C.A.O. The Treasurer is supposed to give a report at the start of monthly Legislature meetings.