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City to get 2nd full-time judge

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A second full-time judge soon will be presiding over Watertown City Court as part of an initiative to solve the increasing number of judicial cases around the state.

A spokesman for the state Office of Court of Administration confirmed late Thursday afternoon that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation earlier in the day that increases the number of full-time city judges in the state.

The state Legislature passed the measure last spring; it sat on the governor’s desk until Thursday.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he has been waiting to see whether it would become law. He did not know what may have spurred the governor into signing it now, he told the Watertown Local Development Corp. board Thursday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, the mayor was told by a Fifth Judicial District office that it had been signed.

According to the Uniform City Court Act, the legislation will go into effect in April and would convert the Watertown City Court’s part-time judge position, occupied by Judge Catherine J. Palermo, to a full-time position.

City Council members appointed Judge Palermo in January 2012 with the retirement of City Judge James C. Harberson.

She replaced former Judge Eugene R. Renzi after he was elected to the full-time position in November 2011.

City courts around the state have been handling an increasing number of cases each year, putting pressure on judges and creating a pernicious backlog of litigation that threatens to undermine the local court system, according to a periodic assessment of the state’s city courts.

The city’s part-time judge is appointed. The full-time judge is elected.

Judge Palermo’s term will end in 2018.

A representative from the Fifth Judicial District will be coming to Watertown in the next couple of weeks to take a look at the court facilities in City Hall.

The addition of a full-time judge and clerk most likely will mean the Office of Court Administration will have to lease more City Hall space, the mayor said.

He also said that judges Renzi and Palermo work well together and that the Watertown court does not have a large backlog of cases.

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