Palm Tree elects write-in justice candidates

The Town of Palm Tree appears to have its first elected judges: two lawyers from outside the Hasidic community whose names were written in at the Nov. 5 election with the endorsement of the Anash political party.

Richard Croughan got 683 votes and Stephen Hunter got 676, according to the Orange County Board of Elections’ unofficial results.

Neither lives in Palm Tree – the town formed this year by separating the Village of Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe – but were eligible to run because Palm Tree passed a law waiving the usual legal requirement that justices live in the towns that elect them to preside over municipal court. That law came too late for Croughan and Hunter to petition to get on the ballot, but Kiryas Joel’s main political faction put their names as write-in candidates on sample ballots that were distributed to voters outside polling stations on Nov. 5.

Town officials opened the field to non-residents because no one from Palm Tree petitioned last year or this year to be a judge, forcing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to distribute Palm Tree traffic tickets and other local court matters to neighboring towns and villages. State law requires towns to have two elected justices.

Croughan and Hunter will serve four-year terms. Palm Tree still has no courtroom for them, but town officials are considering building a small courthouse on land that Kiryas Joel owns off Larkin Drive in Monroe and uses for a park. They say it could take until next summer for Palm Tree Court to come to order if that plan comes to fruition.

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