By LORI CORNELL
In 2011, when Dr. Rudy Mueller, now candidate for New York State Assembly, was serving as a county legislator, he spearheaded a pilot program to provide for joint counsel to indigent defendants at arraignment in the Jamestown City Court - an effort that provides for a more effective judicial process with the potential to save significant taxpayer dollars.
I had the pleasure of working under then-Minority Leader Dr. Mueller's direction as assistant leader, and was continually amazed by his tenacity to get things done on behalf of the people of Chautauqua County. Such was the case with the pilot program. Rudy recognized an opportunity to improve our local government, and took action to make it happen.
Rudy argued for this measure to provide more effective court proceedings, free-up space in the jail, and thereby, save tax dollars in the process. The program has been applauded by local courts as well as by legal professionals across the state as a highly innovative and exemplary program. Jamestown City Court Judge John LaMancuso recently described Dr. Mueller's initiative as "beacon of hope for the rest of the state" to model.
In a recent letter to the Legislature, Judge LaMancuso further described that in addition to better providing for the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the accused, the benefits of the pilot include: less jail transports due to early entry by the defendants into the public defender's criminal justice system; a reduction in the public defender's misdemeanor caseload thus allowing the public defender and the district attorney more time to focus on felony cases; and an opportunity to house more revenue-generating federal prisoners with the freed-up jail space.
New York State Indigent Legal Services also identified the presence of counsel at arraignment as contributing to judicial efficiency by providing earlier and more decisive determinations of a person's eligibility for the appointment of counsel, and by affording a heightened opportunity for a quicker resolution of cases.
And, this summer again, when the pilot program was set to expire due to a lack of funding, Rudy called upon his former colleagues in the Legislature to rise above politics and consider the best interests of county residents. It is as much a tribute to Rudy that the Legislature voted overwhelmingly last month to continue this program, as it is a positive sign for a cooperative, good government approach.
Rudy's commitment to bipartisan action and willingness to work hard no matter how difficult the challenge, I believe, makes him well-qualified to successfully serve as our next Assemblyman. His record of achievement is long, with this pilot program being just one example of the kind of commonsense, cost-cutting measures that he will work hard to pursue in the state legislature if we are fortunate enough to elect him in November.
I wholeheartedly endorse Rudy Mueller for state Assembly and encourage all county voters to consider this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to elect a such can-do public servant.
Lori Cornell is a Chautauqua County legislator who lives in Jamestown.