January 13, 2011


City judge takes new job aiding local courts

State hires Elizabeth Burns as part of effort to improve operations in town, village courts

JudgeJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Judge Elizabeth Burns stands Wednesday in City Court chambers. Burns is leaving her position to work for the state court system.

Staff Reporter

Elizabeth Burns is leaving her part-time role as City Court judge as well as her private law practice this month to take a state-level court job aiding town and village justices with their operations.
Effective Jan. 27, Burns will work as a court attorney referee in the Sixth Judicial District’s Binghamton office.
The job, established in recent years in a statewide effort to improve operations in town and village courts, partly entails giving assistance to those courts. It also involves aiding Supreme, County and Family court judges with case research and analysis.
Burns has served as part-time judge in City Court since 1998 under three different mayors and maintains a law office on Clinton Avenue.
“It’s not an easy decision to make because I like practicing law and I absolutely love City Court,” Burns said Wednesday. “That’s what made it hard — to resign my position in City Court.”
Burns informed Mayor Susan Feiszli about her resignation Monday.
Feiszli said local attorney and former corporation counsel Larry Knickerbocker accepted the appointment to take over as part-time judge.
Feiszli will bring the appointment to the city Common Council for approval Feb. 1.
“He is the person I felt was best for the job,” Feiszli said, adding that she received support from Burns and the executive committee of the Cortland County Democratic Party.
City judges serve a six-year term. Judge Thomas Meldrim serves on the City Court bench full time.
Burns said one reason for taking the new position was it is a full-time job that still allows her to play an active role in the criminal justice system, not just in the Cortland community, but in the 10 other counties in the judicial district.
Burns said she was not looking for a job, but applied when she saw the posting fit her background.
There were 25 applicants within the district and Burns stood out because of her extensive experience in the local court level, said District Executive Karen Ambrozik.
“We had a lot of knowledge about her ability to be flexible, and she has a lot of knowledge about the process,” Ambrozik said. “Being a judge herself, she can work with the town and village justices and really hit the ground running.”
The state has made grant money available to town and village courts in recent years to fund improvements in equipment and upgrading their courtrooms, as part of an effort to make their operations run more efficiently.
“An important thing for me to do in this job is to talk to the town and village justices and clerks there to find out what they feel is important,” Burns said. “Each judge will have different things they will want to see happen in their own court.”
Ambrozik said the judicial district also holds training on legal updates and procedures for town and village justices about three times a year.
“The town and village justices have really come to rely on this position,” Ambrozik said. “Each judicial district has a job like this.”
Burns will not have to leave her Cortland residence for the court attorney referee job. It carries a base salary of $99,599, according to a posting. A part-time City Court judge is paid about $27,000 annually.


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