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City Seeks Home Rule To Make Both Judges Elected Positions

Local residents may one day have final say in who takes the bench in Jamestown City Court — though it may take a decade before they get the next chance.

The City Council on Monday discussed home rule legislation for bills in the state Assembly and Senate that would ensure both City Court judges are filled by an election.

At present, one of the judge positions is filled by an election held every 10 years. The other 10-year post is handled by appointment from the mayor.

“This would now make that even so they both would be elected positions within the community,” City Council President Tony Dolce, R-Ward II, said after Monday’s voting session. “We only had one (elected judge) before and the state granted the mayor the power to appoint. This will now put them both on the same playing fields so that both City Court judges would then be elected by the general public at large.”

Judge John I. LaMancuso was sworn into office this past January after running unopposed. His father, John L. LaMancuso, previously occupied the bench.

The appointed judge post has been around for a decade.

Fred Larson was nominated for the bench in 2014 by Mayor Sam Teresi after New York state decided that Jamestown needed two full-time judges. At the time, John L. LaMancuso was the lone full-time judge with Panebianco serving in a part-time capacity.

Panebianco declined to be appointed in 2014, wishing instead to continue working as a local attorney. Teresi eventually tapped Larson, who at the time was a Chautauqua County legislator.

“I strongly believe that Mr. Larson is eminently qualified, as demonstrated over the years through a whole variety of community service endeavors (and) his commitment to making our city a better place,” Teresi said.

If approved at the state level, the appointed judge position would move to an elected one the next time there’s a vacancy.

According to WRFA radio, Panebianco’s term expires March 31, 2024. However, due to the timing, the position will likely be appointed again, with a term to run through 2034.

For several years, State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, has introduced legislation to amend the uniform city court act regarding the appointed judge position. Similar bills by state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, have been introduced as well.

The City Council supported home rule legislation in 2021.

Goodell said the bills need to pass both chambers and be signed into law by the governor. That’s not likely to happen by the end of next month.

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