Supporting Judge Kulkin

Dear Editor:

An independent judiciary is one of the hallmarks of democracy. In Newburgh, Peter Kulkin serves as one of two elected City Court Judges. From my personal experience, Judge Kulkin is a fair, humane, patient jurist. Whatever our past political differences, I respect the way in which Judge Kulkin runs his courtroom and the way he treats litigants before him.

In our system of criminal justice, bail is primarily intended to insure the appearance of a criminal defendant, not to express pre-judgment of a defendant’s guilt or innocence. Prosecutors often ask for bail, knowing that indigent defendants cannot make even modest bail. This causes congestion of our jails and lock ups and deprives individuals of liberty before they have been convicted of any offense. The practice represents a perversion of our legal system.

Judge Kulkin understands the purposes of bail and has released in their own recognizance individuals who are charged with minor offenses and appear to him certain to return for subsequent court appearances is no cause to call him an \”anarchist\”.

Every judge brings his or her own perspective and life experience to the bench. Judge Kulkin has never denied that his work as a legal aid lawyer sensitized him to the life experiences of many of the defendants before him. It also has wisened him to the issues of recidivism and the need to break that tragic and socially destructive cycle. His actions as a judge have, to my observation, been intended to punish the truly guilty, but to use the court as a means of affecting positive change in individual lives. Mercy and compassion are tools available for these purposes.

While many of us may strongly disagree with judicial rulings, whether issued by a city court, a federal district court or the Supreme Court of the United States, responsible public officials should not use the occasion of such disagreements to attack the judiciary or judges personally. Civil discourse should transcend stereotypic name calling and hysteria.

Michael Sussman

Convener, Democratic Alliance

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