Incumbent Joseph Meager is the Republican candidate for Vestal town justice seat. He holds a law degree from Albany Law School and has practiced law for roughly 45 years.
Why are you running for your position? What experiences and perspectives do you bring to the table that will help make Vestal a better town?
I have been the town of Vestal judge for over 30 years and have been a practicing attorney for over 40 years. I feel that I bring the proper temperament, knowledge of the law and compassion to continue to serve as town of Vestal justice.”
In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue in Vestal and why?
Without a doubt, the most pressing issue in Vestal and the criminal justice system, is the opioid epidemic. This problem is the driver of criminal conduct affecting the Vestal Town Court including larcenies, assaults and family law offenses. We now have many tools available to the courts today to address the issues caused by addiction such as the Broome County Drug Court and rehabilitation services, but until the underlying crisis is resolved, attendant crime will persist.”
How do you envision engaging with the community and addressing the concerns they may have? More specifically, what would you do to engage Binghamton University students in these community issues?
Through the years, I have handled numerous cases involving BU students. Often, the incidents giving rise to a criminal charge in and of themselves can seem quite trivial at the time. I always try to impress upon students that regardless of how minor the charge may seem, its impact upon their future careers, including graduate school applications, professional licensing and employment can be severe. It makes little sense to invest the time, effort and financial resources necessary to obtain a Binghamton University degree if one has a criminal record accompanying it. To lessen the impact of a charge, I often employ a disposition which involves community service and eventual dismissal of the charge without a criminal conviction. This approach has been very effective through the years as I have had many students charged with a first offense, but very few have returned with a second charge.”
What role could you play in lessening the Broome County incarceration rate?
Incarceration is rarely used in my court except as a last resort. Recent changes to the Criminal Procedure Law have reduced the use of cash bail and, thus, the incidents of pretrial incarceration. I never impose a sentence of jail time without first securing a pre-sentence investigation by the Broome County Probation Department to determine whether the sentence of incarceration is appropriate given the defendant痴 personal and criminal history. This process severely reduces the number of cases where incarceration is required.”