Norfolk town justice describes training process for new justices | St. Lawrence County

NORFOLK — The current Norfolk town justice said it will typically take four to five months for a new justice to be fully on board with court proceedings, and he’s ready to assist with the training.

George C. Grubee recalled his training experience this week when the Norfolk Town Board met in a special session to appoint a second town justice.

The board heard from two candidates, Jill R. Breit and Derek C. Stevenson, and appointed Ms. Breit. Her state training began Wednesday.

Ms. Breit and Mr. Stevenson have filed their respective petitions with the county Board of Elections to appear on the November ballot.

Mr. Grubee said his policy has been to start new judges slowly by taking care of traffic tickets and other smaller matters.

“The vehicle traffic law is one small section of law. … You do something as simple as that to get you into talking to the public on the bench,” he said. “That’s a very difficult thing for people to learn how to do is to talk to somebody, not just exchange words. So, learning how to communicate with the public is very important.”

Once the new justice has mastered that, he said, they can move on to bigger cases, from traffic tickets to preliminary hearings for felonies.

“So, saying what the learning curve is, there is no general rule of thumb. It’s individualized according to the learning process and how the person is picking that up. I’m sure everybody would agree that everybody learns differently. So, once you pass the basic course, the state tells you that you have the information to do the job. Once you have the information to do the job, you have to have the practicality of applying that,” Mr. Grubee said.

He said he had an excellent mentor in former Town Justice Donald G. Lustyik, who retired in 2018.

“I had a judge who was judge for 20 years prior and only left being a judge after over 35 years on the bench,” Mr. Grubee said. “I had the opportunity to be mentored by somebody who had been back in a time where judges were required to do a lot. We didn’t have the ability to have things computerized. We did everything by hand.”

He said it took him four to five months before he felt comfortable on the bench, and thanked Mr. Lustyik for his mentoring.

“He’s a great man. He started off slowly, starting off (with) the vehicle and traffic stuff and small claims stuff. It was about a four- or five-month learning curve during that period of time,” Mr. Grubee said. “I was also going to the basic class, so it was overlapping the basic class for three months. This was building on what I had learned, so there was a learning curve.”

No matter who the board appointed this week or who wins November’s election, Mr. Grubee said he will do everything he can “to make sure that they are fully equipped to handle a job.”

“If that means me coming in on nights when I don’t have a court, just to be there as a resource, I will do anything I can to help any candidate at any time,” he said.

The previous second town justice resigned in January, and Mr. Grubee took over those cases the following month. Town Supervisor Charles A. Pernice made a motion to pay Mr. Grubee double for February and March when he handled both justice positions. The board unanimously supported that motion.

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