‘Duty called’ so Bischoff returns as town judge

Gregory Bischoff

Gregory Bischoff

RENSSELAERVILLE — Gregory Bischoff is serving again as town justice in Rensselaerville.

His appointment at an emergency town board meeting was approved by all four board members who were present — Supervisor John Dolce was absent — after the death of 51-year-old Judge Ronald Bates a week earlier.

Bischoff, 72, said that it was “kind of like duty called” when he was asked to serve as town justice.

“I wanted to help out and couldn’t leave Judge [Muriel] Frasher by herself,” he said. The town has two part-time justices.

Bischoff, a Democrat, had served as town justice from 2012 to 2016 after being asked by the Democratic Party to run in 2011, when he said he also saw it as a way of helping his local party.

Bates had been elected to a second four-year term last year. Bischoff, who is retired, said he is not sure if he will pursue re-election to keep the post this November. He said he stepped down last time because he likes to travel, and said that it is also why he may not pursue re-election now.

Bischoff has lived in Rensselaerville for around 35 years, and taught at Middleburgh High School for 27 years. He also was the principal of the summer school held at the former youth detention center Camp Cass before he retired in 2005. With a background in business education, he taught business law during his time at Middleburgh. He also took legal courses when getting certified to be a school administrator, and so serving as a town justice piqued his interest.

Bischoff also worked for AT&T for five years and served in the United States Navy from 1966 until the end of 1969.

Bischoff began serving as a town justice again on April 15, after a week of training.

“Things have changed,” he said, in the three years he’s been off the bench. He noted that more electronic recording is used and there is a different reporting system. But, he said, he still has the experience needed for the job.

Bischoff said he rarely had to recuse himself as a Rensselaerville justice though he recalled a time that he and the other town judge both had to recuse themselves and send the case to another town. He decides whether to recuse himself by determining whether he can give a fair judgement.

The most common cases, he said, are vehicle and traffic violations, followed by landlord-tenant arguments and then small claims court, said Bischoff. But he also has dealt with environmental law violations and domestic disputes, where he may have to issue orders of protection.

“You don’t like them … ,” he said, because of the situation that has caused a need for an order to be issued. But, he added, “You’re protecting someone who needs help.

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