In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power

I grew up in a small town in Illinois, where we had a Justice of the Peace.  He wasn’t a Lawyer, but he had nowhere near the amount of power these JP’s have (or perhaps he just didn’t take more power than he was allotted).

This is a great two-part article, but it is long.  You should still read it!

(Note – the link to the second page is broken – there is an extra “h” in it.  Remove it, and it will work fine, or just click here for part two.

In Alexandria Bay, where Justice Pennington presided at a metal desk in a tiny room inside the police building, a quarter-century in office did not seem to deepen his understanding of his role. Just three days after he took home the 17-year-old girl, another case raised fresh questions about his familiarity with the law, or even the world outside his court.

Eeric D. Bailey, a 21-year-old black soldier from nearby Fort Drum, was facing a disorderly conduct charge after a tussle with a white bar bouncer. Sitting three feet from Mr. Bailey, the bouncer identified him as “that colored man.” Mr. Bailey’s jaw dropped.

The soldier, who did not have a lawyer, told the judge that the term was offensive. But Justice Pennington said that while certain other words were racist, “colored” was not. “For years we had no colored people here,” he said.

The commission had heard worse. After arraigning three black defendants arrested in a college disturbance in 1994, a justice in the Finger Lakes region said in court, “Oh, it’s been a rough day — all those blacks in here.” A few years before that, a Catskill justice reminisced in court that it was safe for young women to walk around “before the blacks and Puerto Ricans moved here.”

In an interview, Justice Pennington said the commission had treated him unfairly. But he may not have helped his case when he told the commission that “colored” was an acceptable description.

“I mean, to me,” he testified, “colored doesn’t preferably mean black. It could be an Indian, who’s red. It could be Chinese, who’s considered yellow.”

Link to In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power


  1. Chris – no, I didn’t take you comment that way.  I took it more like, "Yeah, we know it’s screwed up – I just can’t believe YOU are just finding out how screwed uo it is".

    People have tried fixing it for over 80 years to no avail – I wouldn’t expect any quick fixes…


  2. Hehe, I hope I didn’t come across as complacent.  The system is screwed up and certainly should be fixed, but it is something that, after awhile, becomes accepted — which is probably why it isn’t being fixed!

  3. The article actually states it isn’t New York only – 30 states have similar systems.  And I guess it’s only "so what" if you aren’t on the receiving end of the mis justice! 😉

  4. Yeah, New York is screwed up… so what!  😀

    It’s commonplace in rural villages in NYS (I know firsthand), and I’m sure it isn’t just a New York thing.