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Dick Costello

Dick Costello is running for Town Justice on the Republican Party line.  He has lived in Lansing 46 years, where he resides with his wife Sharyn.  Born and raised in Waverly, NY, Costello served his PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) apprenticeship at Shepherd Hills, a private country club in Waverly before enlisting in the Navy.  After completing his service he resumed his golf career.  Costello was recruited by Cornell University in 1973 to teach golf.  In 2010 he was inducted in the PGA Hall of Fame. Additionally, Cornell named the second hole for him. In 2000 he retired as the Director of Golf Operations and the men's golf coach. After that he taught golf for a couple of seasons for the City of Boca Raton, FL.

Costello says that the people and counseling skills he developed over nearly half a century of working with and coaching young golfers.  In preparation for being elected he has been spending what he characterizes as 'many, many hours' observing town court in Lansing under Judge David Banfield, who is stepping down from the bench at the end of this year, and Judge John Howell, and Dryden under Judge Christopher Clauson.

Lansing Star Lansing Star: Why do you want to be a judge?

Dick Costello Dick Costello: I want to be a judge because i want to be involved in the loves of people that I can help, be they a victim or the accused.  I think a judge's first qualities have to be kind, compassionate, and helpful.  I spent a lifetime involved in those three words.

Lansing Star What would you say the top couple of issues are that need to be addressed in the next four year term?

Dick Costello Lansing is a growing community with the potential of increased court cases.  Rather than incarcerate  the bail system, or, in its absence, the probation department can be recommended.  The taxpayers of Lansing should not be responsible for room and board when other actions exist.  The potential for the court cases may increase, so in the final analysis, looking at the next four years, I would say, more bail, less jail.

More bail, less jail.  It's an option I think we should utilize.

Lansing Star This election has spawned a debate in the community about whether a town justice should be an attorney, even though state law does not require it.  What do you think about this and given that you are (not) an attorney, what makes you the best candidate?

Dick Costello  80% of town justices (in New York State) do not have law degrees, and they manage the courtds very successfully.  Those who have gone before me, particularly in the courts that I have visited -- Judge Howell, Judge Banfield, and Judge Clauson -- are terrific people.  It is amazing to watch them work.  They are real professionals.

They don't have a law degree.  Like me, they have a 'people degree'.  I think spending my life in the golf business and in the service gives me a distinct advantage of being a 'people person' for 54 years, and I am available 24/7.  I think that's a big plus.

Lansing Star As a judge would you be more letter of the law or spirit of the law?

Dick Costello I think it's a combination of both.  I think circumstances would answer that question. 

Lansing Star Because town judges are elected there is a political element.  How would you keep your political/philosophical beliefs separate from your judgement in the courtroom?  Given that you are elected by a majority, should you?

Dick Costello  I don't think a town justice race should be political.  I think it's a contest between two individuals -- people vs. people.  There would be no way that politics would ever be involved in my court.  Ever.  The State gives you options for various infractions, the parameters that determine what a judge can do and can't do.  The state gives you guidelines.  You could say that is the 'law of the law', but I think it has got to be interpreted with discretion in certain circumstances.

The 'law of the law' should be the law.  That's it, without any variation.  The law is the law, period.

Lansing Star If you feel sorry for a person because you think he or she didn't know any better... would you go easy on them?

Dick Costello Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.  Going easy is a term that probably shouldn't be used.  Discretion is, maybe, a better word.

Lansing Star Do you think judges should be elected or appointed?

Dick Costello Elected, because they are serving the public.  It is the correct due process in my opinion.

Lansing Star What are your thoughts on Alternatives to incarceration?

Dick Costello I feel that a judge should have the latitude to use the bail system.  In the absence of the bail system there's a probation department.  I don't think you have to ruin someone's life by labeling them as having been incarcerated when it's perhaps, not necessary.  There are other options.

There are exceptions to this, however.  Domestic abuse, firearms violations, alcohol misuse -- that presents an entirely different set of circumstances where incarceration may be the best option.

Lansing Star In a local court like ours you will certainly know some of the defendants. How will you handle those situations? Will there be problems dealing with residents you have ruled against in a small community?

Dick Costello Absolutely not.  The law is the law.

Lansing Star How much should a judge be directed by the DA or defense attorney in Town court?

Dick Costello I don't know if I accept the word 'direct'.  I would rather substitute that word with suggest' or advise'.  The judge decides whether to agree or disagree.  Ultimately the judge and the DA will compromise  to give the defendant some leeway.  That's what plea bargaining is for, so the courts won't be forever jammed up.

Lansing Star What haven't we talked about that voters should know about your candidacy?

Dick Costello I have worked extremely hard getting petitions to get on the ballot.  I have worked extremely hard for seven months or so -- (the campaign) is literally all I've done with 100% of my time.  No golf.  No fishing.  100% of my time Ive been in the courts, and if I'm not in the courts I'm knocking on doors.  I'm closing in on 1,000 doors and that won't stop because I want this job.

I'm qualified to do the job as, in this election year, as are 80% of other people that don't have law degrees.  We've managed with those folks behind us, in the present day, and probably in the future.

I'm intensely interested in serving Lansing.  I've lived here for 46 years.  I've raised my kids here, too.  I know the people.  And I think the biggest plus for me is that I am available 24/7.  I don't have another job, so I can be called out on arraignments.  I can go any time.   I want to serve the community.  I think I am qualified, transferring my people skills as a PGA golf professional to serving the Town as justice.  And I will appreciate everyone's vote very much.

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