MONTICELLO, NY — On Wednesday, October 7, former county judge Frank J. LaBuda, a “battle-tested” candidate for the position of Sullivan County District Attorney (DA), held a press …
MONTICELLO, NY — On Wednesday, October 7, former county judge Frank J. LaBuda, a “battle-tested” candidate for the position of Sullivan County District Attorney (DA), held a press conference opposite Tilly’s Diner adjacent to a roadside sign welcoming visitors to the village.
In his remarks, LaBuda, a veteran of the Iraq War, former chief assistant DA and Sullivan County Court Judge, took Acting Sullivan County DA Meagan Galligan to task on several issues.
According to LaBuda, he called upon his opponent to account for, according to a press release, “the accumulation of a massive backlog of felony cases, some languishing for two years, and for the indefensible delay in justice for both crime victims and defendants.”
“Hundreds of accused felons are not being prosecuted,” said LaBuda. “Clearly, in her position as assistant DA and chief assistant DA, Ms. Galligan has been part of the problem. Now as acting DA, she is the problem... While Sullivan County residents await justice and fairness, she grandstands at press conferences.”
According to LaBuda, information obtained from the county clerk’s office shows numerous pending felony cases in the local county-wide court system including defendants charged with rape, robbery, DWI, assault and drug possession.
In referring to what he called “an inexcusable backlog of felony cases,” LaBuda said one case has been pending for 872 days since the defendant’s arraignment, 13 cases for more than 500 days, and at least 10 cases have been pending more than 400 days.
LaBuda said 27 cases have been on the docket for more than a year—cases that started in town and village courts—and were sent to county court for potential grand jury consideration and prosecution, noting that “the duration of the pending county-court cases does not include time languishing in lower courts where, similarly, hundreds of cases are backlogged as well.”
“No more delays,” said LaBuda. “As a judge, I cleaned up the court calendars and provided the fastest hearings and trials in county history. In Sullivan County’s situation, justice delayed is justice denied to victims and their families.”
LaBuda presented several solutions to address crime:
He promised to crack down on the opioid epidemic: “If you sell drugs in Sullivan County, you will be prosecuted to the maximum.” He will use the Standards and Goals system, as established by the Office of Court Administration’s internal standards for measuring the productivity and efficiency of courts, used by the NYS Unified Court System. He plans to partner with local communities on law enforcement and prosecution.
“Real problems need real solutions guided by real experience,” said LaBuda. “I am battle-tested, will not accept the status quo and am ready to lead, with fairness and justice for all.”
Acting Sullivan County DA Meagan Galligan fires back
While LaBuda was holding a press conference at the entrance to the village, Galligan was gearing up to hold a press conference at the county government center to announce the goals of the Sullivan County Opioid Task Force.
In light of LaBuda’s remarks, she provided a separate written email rebuttal to the paper of her opponent’s stance on numerous issues and comments pertaining to an alleged “backlog of felony cases.”
“As a former judge, LaBuda knows better than most that if the district attorney’s office was ever in violation of its prosecutorial obligations to which he refers, roughly 30 out of the approximately 3,000 [cases] handed every year by my office would have been dismissed by the court,” she said in an email response.
Galligan, who has served as assistant DA from 2009 and chief assistant DA since 2015, assumed the role of acting DA in January 2020 when former Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell, a veteran of 23-plus years with the local DA’s office, was elected to the bench as Sullivan County Court Judge.
Since January, several things have changed in the course of justice and the court system: bail reform, the released on own recognizance (ROR) program and the onset of COVID-19, which forced local courts to shut down for months, thus adding to a backlog of pending cases.
According to Galligan, there are “several reasons for a case to remain on a docket for an extended period of time” such as “a defendant has entered a diversion program, such as long-term inpatient treatment or drug court. Other cases are held in abeyance... or the defendant moves a court for an extension of time before indictment or trial.
“The reality is that, after indictment, the timeline of each felony prosecution is determined by the trial judge,” said Galligan, adding that, while on the bench, her opponent had a “record number of cases awaiting trial in his court for more than six months.”
She noted that according to NYS’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, between 2009 and 2018, violent felony arrests in the county are down nearly 37 percent while drug felony investigations are up almost 37 percent.
“Since taking office, I have doubled the district attorney office’s ability to present cases for indictment by impaneling two grand juries at once. This has never been done before in Sullivan County,” said Galligan.
Adding to her on-the-record reply, Galligan said it was LaBuda’s “lack of work ethic that contributed to a backlog of nearly 40 indictments ready for trial without a county court judge willing to preside over them at the time of his final retirement. Additionally, according to an independent legal research firm’s analysis, an estimated 29 percent of LaBuda’s decisions that were reviewed on appeal... were reversed or modified as a result of his errors.”
In summing up her response, the county’s acting DA alleged that her opponent has yet to receive a “single endorsement, no law enforcement unions, no labor unions, no political parties, no community leaders.”
“My record speaks for itself,” Galligan said. “Thankfully for our communities, so does Frank’s.