Hout unopposed for Altamont judgeship

ALTAMONT — After 25 years as a village justice, Rebecca Hout had considered making this year her last.

“I’ll be honest with you, I considered not running but … I’m tapering back my private practice and I thought, ‘Well, I’m certainly not doing it for the money,’” she said with a laugh. It’s the spirit of community service associated with the job, she said, that compelled her to run again.

“I still think I offer something to the village by doing the job,” she said, adding, “if they want me to continue.”

An Altamont resident for 38 years, Hout will be running on March 19 as part of the Altamont First slate along with trustee candidates Nicholas Fahrenkopf and Michelle Ganance.

“I think the slate represents three dedicated people to the village,” Hout said when asked why she chose to run as part of a slate. She added that she had run on the Altamont First line in her last election.

An alumna of Albany Law School, Hout these days primarily deals with real-estate closings, estates, and wills. After graduating from law school, she said, she worked in the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, followed by criminal-defense work, and “then there was a time I was also doing family law.”

Issues and perspectives

On Monday, Hout spoke with The Enterprise about her views on issues that may come before her in village court.

Asked about her judicial philosophy, Hout said, “I can’t really say that; my job is to make sure justice is done.”

Her job, she said, is to go by what the law says and to ensure that “justice is done” in both the interest of the defendant and the interest of the community.

Rarely has Hout had a case where she has had to recuse herself. “I’ve had clients that might have rental properties and the need to evict a tenant bring a summary proceeding,” she said offering an example of recusal.

If there is an instance where she would have to recuse herself, Hout said, the case would be placed on the docket of her fellow village judge, James Greene. And, if Greene should have to recuse himself, the case would be reassigned to another jurisdiction, Hout said, adding, “That hasn’t happened in a very, very long time.”

A proponent of community service, Hout told The Enterprise when she ran four years ago that it can be a “great tool” in cases where young people are charged with minor offenses. If she can keep a young offender from having a record, if it’s appropriate, and if the prosecution and the defense all agree, she said, “Then we’ll very often in those cases give community service, so that, if they complete it, the charges will be dropped.”

With the full implementation of the Raise the Age law happening in October, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be treated as adults. For Hout, that means the only cases that involve 16- and 17-year-olds she will be hearing are traffic infractions.

Sixteen-year-olds, she said, go to special arraignment courts, where judges have been designated to hear those charges. If a 17-year-old were to come before her now for, say, vandalism, criminal mischief, or trespassing, and considering that the law is almost fully implemented, Hout said, “That’s something I’d have to look at.”

For Hout, repeat offenders are becoming scarce.

“I just had this conversation with my court clerk,” she said. “I said, ‘Geez, we haven’t had some of the old names.’ There were people that had very bad driving records in this village; I’d see [them] time after time. But they’ve grown up, I guess, because we don’t see them anymore.”

Asked if those repeat offenders should receive a harsher punishment, Hout said that first, the district attorney and defense lawyer negotiate a deal. “And it’s up to me to decide whether I think it’s fair or not fair,” she said, but generally speaking, the penalty for a repeat offender is “stiffer.”

With bail, again, a recommendation is made, usually by the district attorney, she said, based on arrest history or ties to the community. “But we go into deep depth as far as what their ties to the community [are, and] the nature of the crime,” Hout said of deciding on bail. “There’s a lot of questions you have to ask.”

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