A former upstate town justice cannot be held liable for allegedly mishandling court fees and failing to keep accurate books because his actions were cloaked with judicial immunity, a state appeals court has ruled.
James Chase, a former town justice in Turin, a town of less 1,000 residents in Lewis County, was performing duties within his judicial capacity when he handled court fines and fees and maintained books and records, according to an Appellate Division, Fourth Department, panel.
Justices Edward Carni, John Curran, Shirley Troutman, Joanne Winslow and Henry Scudder affirmed the 2016 decision of Lewis County Supreme Court Justice Hugh Gilbert, who had granted summary judgment dismissing the case.
The town of Turin had filed suit in 2016 seeking to recover money from Chase.
“Defendant’s alleged improper actions and omissions were cloaked with judicial immunity inasmuch as [he performed] duties of a town justice mandated by statute and regulation,” the panel wrote in Turin v. Chase, 16-02188, in its June 16 decision.
“The Uniform Civil Rules for the Justice Courts require every town justice to deposit any monies received by the court into a separate bank account pending disposition, and to maintain proper books and records,” the panel wrote. “We conclude that none of the acts or omissions alleged in the complaint were outside of defendant’s judicial capacity or were beyond the scope of his jurisdiction.”
Michael Young, of the Young Law Office in Lowville, represented Chase. Mark Gebo of Hrabchak, Gebo & Langone in Watertown represented Turin. Neither returned calls seeking comment.