Democrat Photos | Ted Waddell
IN WHAT IS turning into the biggest race this election season, Cindy Barber, is challenging Incumbent Judge Burton Ledina, for the justice seat, which is a ten-year elected position.
Age (Is) Not An Issue In County Judge Race
Ledina Touts High Ranking By His Peers
By Ted Waddell
ROCK HILL October 16, 2007 Judge Burton Ledina wants to be re-elected to the Sullivan County bench as County Court Judge and Surrogate, after serving the last 11 years in the position.
He is running on the Republican ticket.
Ledina has been a practicing attorney-at-law in the county for 43 years, and has 38 years’ worth of judicial experience wearing the black robes: current County Court Judge & Surrogate, Acting Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge, Acting Sullivan County Family Court Judge, Town of Thompson Justice (1977-96) and Village of Monticello Justice (1969-78).
Asked what the law means to him, Judge Ledina replied, “The rule of law is the basis of our democracy. We have these rules that govern our conduct and our dealings with one another, and when people can’t agree on how they should deal with one another or overstep their bounds, we look to the law to decide, and tell us what the proper conduct is.
“All of these are criminal and civil matters that have adversaries, a victim who has been injured or otherwise harmed and a defendant who is accused of [causing] that harm.” he added. “The penal law determines how we are to govern ourselves in respect to our fellow man.”
Judge Ledina, 67, was born in Elizabeth, NJ and moved to the area at the age of six.
He graduated from Monticello High School in 1957, Syracuse University in 1961 and in 1964 from New York University of Law.
“Law was introduced to me in college, and when I concerned myself with career choices because I had to make a living, gravitated toward law… and I haven’t been sorry,” said the former English major who has several relatives in his family tree who served as town or village justices.
Judge Ledina started practicing law right after college and for 27 years served as a judge on the local justice court level while conducting his practice in Monticello.
In 1996, Sullivan County Court Judge Anthony Kane was elevated to the NYS Supreme Court, a move that created a vacancy in the county court system, and Ledina was appointed in July to the position by then NYS Governor Pataki.
He was defeated by Judge LaBuda in the November election, but served until the end of the year.
“In 1997, after I’d gone back to private practice, the [state] legislature created a second judge’s position while we were conducting our campaign,” recalled Ledina. “And Governor Pataki appointed me to the second court position.”
Running for the judgeship in November, 1997, Ledina defeated Stephan Schick, who now serves as executive director of the Sullivan County Legal Aid Panel and president of the county’s bar association.
During his 11 years on the county bench, Judge Ledina presided over both jury and non-jury trials to verdict.
In addition, he has presided over pre-trial hearings, probation violation cases, and cases related to family offenses, child custody, divorce, personal injury, medical malpractice, real property, and commercial disputes.
Ledina has twice received the highest judicial rating of the Sullivan County Bar Association and was rated as “highly qualified” by the NYS Bipartisan Judicial Screening Committee.
On two separate occasions, Judge Ledina has been unanimously confirmed for judicial office by the NYS Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As of press time, Judge Ledina’s endorsements include: Sullivan County Sheriff Michael A. Schiff, Undersheriff Eric Chaboty (both formerly with the NYS Police), NYS Senator John Bonacic, the Town of Fallsburg PBA and Local Union #373 U.A. Plumbers & Steamfitters.
Judge Ledina is a member of several bar associations (American, New York State and Sullivan County), the State Magistrate’s Association and subscribes to the State Trial Judge’s Judicial Section of the American Bar Association and NYS Bar Association.
He is past president of the Sullivan County Bar Association (1984-85), and is a member of several local organizations including the Elks, Lions, Shriners and Masons, and a member/supporter of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA), Catskill Arts Society (CAS) and Sullivan County Historical Society (SCHS).
Before his beloved wife Harriett passed away several years ago, the couple was married for 41 years.
They have three children, Michelle, Andrea and David, and five grandchildren “who I love dearly,” said Ledina.
Asked what he finds most rewarding about sitting on a bench, Judge Ledina said, “Providing my services to resolve the disputes that bring people into court. That’s what judges do, that’s what they’re there for, to resolve disputes that people can’t resolve themselves and do it efficiently and in accordance with the law.”
While his opponent has raised the issued that if re-elected to a 10-year term as county court/surrogate judge, Ledina must step down in three years when he reaches the retirement age (and raised the spectre of a governor’s appointment to fill the position) the incumbent dismissed the issue as “ludicrous”.
“There is a constitutional provision for a term of a judge to expire, on [the] December 31st he or she turns seventy, and just as any term expires, there’s an election in the November before,” said Ledina.
If elected on November 6, Judge Ledina will have to retire from the county bench during his 70th year, “a forced term expiration by reason of age.”
“If I’m elected, my term will expire in three years [because] of a constitutional provision,” he explained of the state requirement that a judge can’t serve after a certain age.
According to Ledina, the only time the governor can make an appointment is to fill a vacancy “created by death, resignation or removal, and I don’t plan on any of those.”
“I’m campaigning on the platform of being the most qualified and experienced of the candidates, and my record reflects that,” said Judge Ledina. “I hope and trust the voters will recognize that. I think the voters expect to have the best qualified and experienced judge, and I think they’ll choose that one… I’ve been doing a good job for eleven years.”
“It is easy to accuse, more difficult to prosecute, and even a greater task to judge fairly with an open mind,” he said.
Judge Ledina’s campaign slogan for the upcoming election is “Judicial Experience You Can Trust.”
Barber Cites Ability To Serve Full Term
By ted Waddell
WHITE LAKE “I want to take the court into the future,” said Cindy Barber, who was nominated by the county’s Democratic Committee and the Working Family Party Line to run against incumbent Judge Burton Ledina for the position of Sullivan County Court Judge and Surrogate.
The current Town of Bethel Justice enters the upcoming election with backing from the New York State Police Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department PBA.
“The patrolmen all endorsed me,” she said. “I was so honored to have that endorsement because that tells me they appreciated what I’ve done in the past twelve years. When they called me in the middle of the night, I was there.”
Barber said when she took the bench at the Town of Bethel Justice Court, she made an agreement with herself.
“I promised myself I would answer the phone, and go out day or night,” she said of showing up in local court for arraignments.
“When I took the bench, I knew that part of the job was to go out on arraignments, day or night, rain or shine… and I’ve done that for the last twelve years,” she added. “I’ll always be there for the cops.”
Barber was born and raised in Neversink, one of 13 children (five sisters and seven brothers), and was first of her siblings to attend college, after her father, a heavy equipment operator, was injured in an accident and “then became a jack of all trades in order to support his family.”
Barber graduated Tri-Valley High School in 1975 and two years later married her husband Ed.
After high school, Barber worked for about a decade in the insurance industry, starting out as a typist, advancing to a casualty property underwriter and manager of a special risk department.
“Then I told my husband I was missing something, and went back to school,” she recalled.
Calling it “the best move I ever made… it saved me thousands and thousands of dollars”, Barber enrolled in the liberal arts program at Sullivan County Community College (she was the top student in her graduating class), later transferred her credits as a junior to Syracuse University and then was accepted into to Syracuse College of Law, where she graduated summa cum laude.
She came home and for the next couple of years worked for a law firm in Monticello before “going out on my own and at the same time running for the Town of Bethel Justice.”
“I went door to door, and beat out a Democratic incumbent and a Republican challenger as a Conservative and political unknown,” said Barber.
In order to challenge Judge Ledina, Barber yielded the local bench, and if she loses on November 6, she’s “no longer a judge… [but] everything in life is a big risk.”
Asked why she decided to become an attorney, and later a local justice, Barber replied, “Early on in my life, I seemed to be fighting for the rights of everybody, even in high school, and if I felt something wasn’t right, I was always there arguing for the underdog… I always knew I was interested in the law.”
Why does she want to be a county court judge?
“First and foremost, I can serve a full term because the laws were set up so the political process didn’t interfere with the judicial process,” replied Barber, 50, referring to the fact that her 67-year-old opponent, if elected, must retire at the age of 70.
“We don’t want county court and supreme court judges running every couple of years… these rules were made by other judges and lawyers, not lay people deciding seventy was a good mandatory retirement age.”
“To run for re-election and step down after three years is a costly process and it’s not good for the litigants, and to add another election back into the mix two years from now, cases will be put on hold or shifted around, [and it would be] costly to the taxpayers and not good for the court system.”
“I’m a strong believer in a smooth, uninterrupted flow in the court system, and God knows, it needs help as it is,” she added.
If elected, Barber could theoretically serve for two 10-year terms as county court judge.
According to the challenger, if her opponent is re-elected, “the possibility exists under current county law, Section 400, Sub-Section 7, that the governor may appoint a successor if he steps down, if there’s a vacancy in the seat… it leaves the door open to political maneuvering.”
“I was concerned that the people wouldn’t get a choice, the governor would make the choice as he did with our county clerk and as he’s done before,” she said.
In 1996, Ledina was appointed to county court by former NYS Governor Pataki, and after losing the ensuing election to Judge Frank LaBuda, Pataki created a second county court seat which was filled by Ledina.
“So my opponent is no stranger to governor’s appointments,” noted Barber. “If the governor appoints, we lose and if they hold a special election, a very small percentage of Sullivan County residents will actually come out and vote.”
Barber served six and a half years as confidential secretary to Sullivan County Family Court Judge Mark M. Meddaugh.
“As a confidential attorney, I researched all the law and cases for him, and helped him with jury selections,” said Barber.
“I feel uniquely suited for this [job] because of that experience and I’ve been a judge (town justice) for twelve years,” she added. “I think I have a lot to offer the court… I’m very organized and goal oriented. If I see an obstacle, I confront it. I don’t run away from it. If you make it harder for me, I work harder.”
What does the law mean to Barber?
“A judge was created to be the voice of the people,” she said. “Basically, if you go back to where this all started, we couldn’t meet in the town square and argue over who did what and why, and how we should treat them to keep chaos out of society… judges have to be there to apply the law and be the voice of the people.”
“I strongly believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that means everyone who comes into my courtroom is treated with respect,” said Barber.
“My platform is a very simple one,” replied Barber. “I’m a qualified candidate, and I’m the only one who can serve the full term.”