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In Port Jefferson, 3 vie for 1 seat on village justice court

The Port Jefferson Village Hall is shown in

The Port Jefferson Village Hall is shown in this undated photo. Credit: Jasmin Frankel

Three Port Jefferson lawyers are vying to complete the remainder of a four-year term won last year by longtime Village Justice Peter Graham months before he died in office.

Village Justice William Glass, who was appointed to the bench in October after Graham died at age 85, faces challenges from Tara Higgins and Scott Zamek.

The winner will complete the last three years of the term that Graham had won last June. He died in October from cancer.

Port Jefferson Village Court hears cases on matters such as violations of the village building code, open-container laws and other quality-of-life issues.

Glass, 61, who has a private legal practice in the village, is a former Suffolk County assistant district attorney. He obtained his law degree in 1983 from Fordham University School of Law.

Glass, who recalled helping his father mimeograph copies of fliers promoting village incorporation in 1962, said he has enjoyed serving as a judge “more than I thought I would.” He said if elected, he would advocate daytime court sessions.

“Right now, all our sessions are at night,” Glass said. “One thing I’ve seen is that many people, many of them elderly, are not able to come out at night.”

Higgins’ connection to local history is that the village’s Tara Inn restaurant, owned by her father, Joseph Higgins, is named for her.

Tara Higgins, 50, received her law degree in 1990 from Seton Hall University School of Law and works for Islandia-based law firm Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles, where she specializes in municipal defense, insurance, personal-injury and labor cases.

She said her private practice work is “excellent preparation” for becoming a judge.

“I think I have the people skills to be a village justice,” Higgins said, noting many litigants represent themselves. “You need to have good people skills to help the litigants navigate their way through the process.”

Zamek, 55, received his law degree from Cardozo School of Law in 1986. His private practice in Hauppauge specializes in real estate and bank transactions, and landlord-tenant issues.

He said he has extensive experience in the community, having held a summer job with the village Highway Department and coaching Little League Baseball games.

“I’ve always sort of done stuff for the community,” Zamek said. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in the local government.”

He did not cite specific changes he would make at Village Court, but said he hoped to serve “as a vehicle to getting maybe my opinions or feelings about things that could be changed or improved or made better for the village residents.”

Voting is 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 21 at Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 E. Broadway.

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