For the first time in six years, it appears there will be an election in East Hampton Town for the job of town justice. The East Hampton Democratic Committee “voted overwhelmingly” to nominate an attorney, Andrew Strong, for the job, Cate Rogers, the chair of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, said February 17.
Strong, 39, will take on incumbent East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana this fall, unless he is defeated in a primary, which Rogers said is extremely unlikely. Rana will be seeking her fourth four-year term.
“He is a graduate of Middlebury College and Northwestern University Law School,” Rogers said in an earlier press release, “and has worked as an assistant DA in Manhattan, as well as a human rights lawyer in The Hague.” Strong currently serves as an advocate for immigrant civil rights as general counsel to the Organización Latino Americana.
Neither major party has opposed the incumbent over the past two town election cycles. Justice Steven Tekulsky, who was first elected in as a Democrat in 2013, was unopposed by the Republicans in 2017, while Rana, originally elected as a Republican in 2007, ran unopposed in 2015.
East Hampton Town Justice Court annually ranks as one of the top two to three busiest courthouses in New York State, with Southampton frequently coming in as number one. The East Hampton Town Justice Court calendar spans three days a week, unless there is a trial. Besides East Hampton Town cases, the court also adjudicates East Hampton Village matters.
Mondays in East Hampton are for zoning matters, plus parking tickets; Wednesdays are for vehicle and traffic law matters; and Thursdays see most of the criminal cases the court handles. There is always a gaggle of attorneys in the courthouse, and on some Thursdays there are as many as 80 criminal cases on the court’s calendar.
Rogers said that Strong’s experience in the International Court in The Hague, as well as being an ADA in Manhattan, gives him the kind of background he needs to take on the job.
Strong’s name rarely appears as the attorney of record in cases on the three weekly East Hampton Town Justice Court calendars. He has been more of a presence in front of the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals as well as the town’s planning board.
Rogers said that, during the screening process, which involved the entire committee, and was open to the public, “He was very knowledgeable about what was going on in East Hampton Town Justice Court.” Rogers sees the fact that Strong is a new face with a strong background as being an asset. “We are seeing it nationally, and locally,” she said. “That is good for our town and it is good for our nation,” she said.
Manny Vilar, who heads the Republican Party in East Hampton, criticized the choice, saying that “It is very disappointing that they would politicize the job of town justice.” There are certain jobs in local government that should not be looked at through the political spectrum, he added.
He called Justice Rana an “absolute asset” to the Town of East Hampton. “She has always given so much to so many, whether they have been here for generations, or have just arrived in town,” he said.
Calls to Strong for comment were not returned.
Aside from town justice, the committee also approved a full slate of candidates, including incumbent town board members Sylvia Overby and David Lys, who are each running for a four-year term, and Peter Van Scoyoc, for a two-year term as town supervisor. The committee approved town trustee incumbents, all Democrats, Francis Bock, Bill Taylor, Susan McGraw-Keber, John Aldred, and Rick Drew. Also nominated was Republican Jim Grimes, who is an incumbent trustee. In addition, Democrats Tim Garneau, Zach Cohen, and Mike Martinsen were nominated to run for trustee.
Incumbent Steve Lynch, a Republican, was picked for highway superintendent, and Jeannie Nielsen and Jill Massa were tabbed for tax assessors.