September 17, 2023
I’ve always believed that it is preferable for judges to be appointed through a vigorous, non-partisan vetting process than to run for the position. In both New Hampshire and Vermont, judges are appointed by the Governor after a screening process and, by and large, the results are pretty good.
New York elects its judges. And it shows.
Case in point: Judge Robert Putorti, who had served as the justice in the upstate town of Whitehall since 2014, was ordered to step down last year following an investigation into 2015 incident in which he quickly took out and pointed a handgun at a litigant, then boasted about the incident in news articles and in front of other judges and court personnel, describing the defendant in racial terms, exaggerating his height and calling him “a big Black man.”
Oh, and he also was found to have acted inappropriately by holding fundraisers for himself and the Whitehall Elks Lodge in 2019 and 2020 without properly identifying himself as a judge. And he had previously brandished a gun at somebody who had approached him and his grandfather while they tried to retrieve a stolen car. On yet another occasion, police officers in Virginia reported that he carried a firearm into a convenience store at three o’clock in the morning.
What’s puzzling is that it took seven years from the 2015 incident for Judge Putorti to be removed.