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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 29, 2009
Two incumbent town judges set for another four-year term
By Zach Simeone
BERNE Democratic judges Kenneth Bunzey and Albert E. Raymond III will not be challenged for their seats on the bench this year.
The judges told The Enterprise about their backgrounds this week, and answered questions about issues, such as assigning community service in place of jail time, sentencing someone they know, and public access to court records.
Albert E. Raymond III
Albert Raymond, 52, has been a town judge in Berne since January.
“Some of the things I’ve learned in the past year haven’t been so pleasant, but that comes with life,” Raymond said. “I certainly have enjoyed it. It’s remarkable, and it’s an honor to serve the community.”
Now retired, Raymond had been a radiologist and a postal worker.
He said this week that he officiated at his niece’s wedding last weekend a first for Raymond.
“That was a lifetime event,” he said.
In addition to being a judge, Raymond is a licensed outdoor guide, and trains with Whitewater Challengers, a whitewater rafting company in the Adirondacks.
Raymond himself grew up in Rotterdam, where he went to Mohonasen High School. He then went on to Hudson Valley Community College, where he studied radiology. He and his family first moved to Berne in December of 1984, he said. It was a few days before Christmas.
Raymond thinks that assigning community service, where possible, can yield positive results.
“The whole idea is to rehabilitate, not necessarily just punishment, especially at our level of the people’s court,” Raymond said. “It’s to get people back on track if people make a misstep, so I’m all for that.”
But there are cases where assigning community service isn’t an option, depending on the crime, he said.
“There are certain guidelines, but we do have a bit of leverage as far as if we can keep it local, depending on what the situation is, and the nature of the crime,” he said. “But community service is always a great idea.”
Asked how he would feel about sentencing someone he knows in this small town, Raymond said that there is a chart that judges use to track their descendents, to help them decide whether or not they should recuse themselves from a case.
“With friends, it is difficult, and that’s one of the challenges of the job,” Raymond said. “That is the nature of small-town justice. Of course, you could recuse yourself, and you should if you feel that you can’t be impartial. But, again, if I’m called in for arraignment, I do ask the individual’s name to make sure that it’s not someone I know very well. Judge Bunzey and I do try to cover each other’s neighborhoods so we’re not dealing with our own neighbors.”
Raymond said that, while public access is important, and people have the right to witness justice, it is important for youthful offenders’ records to remain sealed.
“Youthful indiscretions shouldn’t label someone for the rest of their lives,” he said, “hence the sealing of certain records.”
Kenneth Bunzey, 56, has been a town justice for 17 years, and has lived in Berne his whole life. When he isn’t on the bench, Bunzey works in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School’s special education department.
He thinks his honest and judicial temperament make him a good judge, he said.
Additionally, Bunzey believes that assigning community service is useful when allowed by law, but does not think there are opportunities for community service in Berne.
“Unfortunately, our community does not have that,” Bunzey said. “We don’t have any place to send people for community service in the local Berne area. We’d have to send them to Albany, which I’m not totally opposed to.”
But, even if Berne is lacking in such opportunities, the appropriateness of assigning community service depends on a number of factors “criminal record for example,” he said.
“If they’re a repeat offender, then community service may not be the best thing, but, for youthful offenders, community service can be a good thing,” Bunzey went on. “You have to take each individual case on its merits and its criminal history.”
Being a lifelong resident and a BKW employee, Bunzey knows everyone in town, he said.
“If I have some attachment to a person, I would just recuse myself, and let the other judge take it,” he said. “But, you know, whether I like it or don’t like it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the justice court. Everyone is treated the same, whether I like you or don’t like you, and that’s what they teach you, and that’s where my judicial temperament comes in.”
With regard to public access to court records, youthful offender cases are always sealed, Bunzey said, and he would look to the law to determine the availability of other records.