I had the privilege of being able to sit as a judge for a day in the Town of Mamakating Court in Wurtsboro, N.Y.
When you walk into a courthouse, it can seem overwhelming. The first thing you see are members of the Sheriff’s Department and court officers. It is the court officers’ job to protect the judge and clerks and to ensure order in the court.
In the Town of Mamakating, I sat with the Honorable Cynthia Dolan, or Judge Dolan for short. She was elected to her position by the community and is serving her second term in office. Her court meets two days each month. In one session, she can oversee 75 vehicle and traffic cases, 70 criminal cases, a number of summary proceedings and any number of additional civil matters. In addition, there are numerous hearings that help gather evidence on a particular case. Each criminal case is named the People of the State of New York vs. the last name of the defendant.
Sitting on the bench, I realized it is not scary at all. A lot of time, the court is there to help people who have made mistakes and need to get their lives back on the right track. There’s a lot of negotiating and compromising, and it is mostly always civil.
Judge Dolan told me that the best part of being a judge is being able to help people. The decision a judge can make on one individual’s case can have a positive impact on the entire town.
Here are Judge Dolan’s tips for being a Judge: a) Study hard, b) Learn the law, c) Be a good listener, d) Be respectful to everyone, e) Be fair.
Roland Clark’s seventh-grade English class, Merrick Avenue Middle School