Interview with Oliver Cipollini Continued

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Would you approve a judge you thought could be unbiased if their background could give the public doubts about their impartiality?

I would have to sit down and talk to the nominee and get a true feeling for why the public might have their doubts about their impartiality. The right questioning and research by talking to members of his local bar, court officers, probation officers and other members of the community will give me a pretty good understanding of where in his background questions about his or her impartiality emerged and if there is they still exist.

In a June 27, 2010 Sunday Parade Magazine article, Judging the value of Redemption, the author, Linda Himelstein, writes a great article about an ex-con and former drug addict who is now an attorney. He is a potential candidate for a judicial nomination by the governor. Attorney Rick Dyer, 58, will have a chance to sentence defendants who engage in substance abuse if nominated and confirmed. Will his impartiality be at issue?

Dyer credits his transformation in life to the late Charles ”Chick” Artesani, a judge who has never given up on him. “Though Artesani repeatedly sentenced Dyer to prison, he also recommended drug treatment or psychological assessment over jail whenever it was an option.” Maybe the ‘torch’ can be passes to Dyer if the Governor’s Council sees him as a good nominee?

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One of the functions of the Governor’s Council is to advise the governor on pardons and commutations of sentences. Under what circumstances are a pardon or commutation is justified?

This is a tough one and I would take this assignment especially seriously. I would need a lot of convincing when and if I would vote for a pardon and commutation. A lot would depend on why it is being initiated, why at this time, who is initiating it, what is his/her report card while serving time. A very important variable in this equation would be how long the inmate was sentenced for and what the full statue of the law allowed and what was the reason why the individual was sentenced?

The victim and the victim’s family would have a great impact on this decision. My vote will also be influenced by the Parole Board’s recommendation as well as expert testimony from corrections, parole officers as well as statements from mental health officials if this is relevant to his/her release or reduction of sentence. If the inmate is asking for a pardon or commutation with only a short time to live. Then this might influence the Council and my vote in deciding.

It is unlikely that I will support a lessening of time or clemency to a serious crime such as murder, rape or home invasion where someone was injured. This assignment will be taken very seriously and I will make sure it is done right. The Governor’s web page has a thirteen page ‘Guideline’ outlining the steps that have to be taken for Executive Clemency.

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The current 209A restraining order law, and the new anti-stalking law gives judges a huge amount of discretion in deciding on restraining orders in ex-parte hearings where they don’t get to hear both sides of the case. What characteristics should a judge have to be able to apply the 209A process fairly?

A 209A has always been a whirlwind tool that is very hard to enforce and has been used and abused. In the juvenile court world when an order that a juvenile should not come in contact with another juvenile for say 100 feet and if there is a meeting the juvenile should avoid the other juvenile with no verbal or non-verbal exchange. This is almost impossible in this day and age where children meet other children in schools, sports, after-school organized activities, etc. Same is true in the adult world. Strained relations meet in the supper market, places of worship, at the local coffee shop etc.

A judge has to hear an individual’s ex-parte request for a restraining order and determine with only the “victim’s “ request that the reason a restraining order is needed. This is when a judge’s sense of logic, good listening traits and gut reaction takes over. The judge has to listen to the story whether it is presented by an attorney or by the victim and listen, watch and decide. Many times, restraining orders are heard during the heat of the moment and the complainant does not dress in attire that one would expect to see in the courtroom or in the judge’s lobby. The judge must see the whole picture and understand what might have proceeded the request.

Earlier in the year, the legislature passed an anti-stalking law (268e). This gives the judge more discretion and another tool. It allows a person suffering from harassment to file a complaint to seek relief from abuse, harassment and contacting the plaintiff as well as remain away from the plaintiff’s household or workplace and pay the plaintiff monetary compensation for the losses suffered as a direct result of the harassment.

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