Farina switches parties, announces run for Warwick Town Court

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    WARWICK-By tradition and code of ethics, judicial contests are generally polite affairs, with candidates discussing law and order, court reform and courtroom efficiencies. It rarely gets personal. But the initial volleys in the race for Warwick Town Justice this November are different. It began in earnest when the town's Democratic Committee approached Warwick Village Justice Richard D. Farina to run for the office now held by incumbent Republican Peter Bartlet. Farina accepted. He also said he was switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat because, he said this week, he has become alienated by "current lack of respect for the judiciary shown by the Republican leadership." In an interview this week, Farina made a point of saying he did not - nor would he - go before the Town Republican Committee to challenge Barlet. His ire, he said, was directed at the town and county GOP hierarchy. Warwick Republican leader Jan Jansen called the move sour grapes in an interview with the Times Herald-Record. The newspaper quoted Jansen as saying: "Now that (Farina) has decided to switch, I'm glad he's no longer in the Republican Party. What, if you can't win, you just take your marbles and go someplace else?" In a letter this week to The Warwick Advertiser, Farina responded: "Mr. Jansen, it is not sour grapes you smell, but perhaps the smell of fresh air." Farina, who has been a village justice for nine years, cited two instances of the "disrespect" he says the GOP has shown. The first involves the county GOP's decision not to endorse Surrogate Court Judge Elaine Slobod's bid for a seat on the state Supreme Court. "But for the Orange County Republican Party, Elaine Slobod would be an unemployed lawyer," County GOP Chairman Bill DeProspo was quoted in the Record back in February. "The only thing that remains for her to do is start sucking on a lollipop like a 2-year-old, which is how she's acting now." Slobod has since filed a change-of-party form with the Board of Elections. "That the Warwick Republican Committee has done nothing to repudiate the statement nor to criticize its utterance is unacceptable to me," Farina said in his letter. Farina also disagrees with the Warwick GOP's opposition to the re-election of Warwick resident and Family Court Judge Debra Kiedaish in favor of Lori Currier Woods, a lawyer who is on the Monroe Town Board. "When the Democratic Party, solely on the basis of my qualifications, asked me to be their candidate for Town Justice, I recognized the opportunity to both advance my own cause and to be a part of the advancement of the judiciary," Farina said. "As a Democrat neither my judicial philosophy nor competence will change. What will change will be a move toward freeing judgeships from leader-driven political control." In addition to presiding in the Village Court, Farina has regularly been assigned as a judge to the city courts of Middletown, Newburgh, Yonkers and White Plains. Prior to his retirement as an attorney, Farina was law secretary to state Supreme Court Justice Angelo J. Ingrassia, the administrative judge for the region's judicial district. Since 1974, Farina has been an instructor for the mandatory training of town and village justices and the director of the magistrate certification programs for the southern region of New York. Farina ran in a primary two years ago against incumbent Warwick Town Justice Daniel Coleman, also a Republican. "I got killed," Farina said. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if someone filed a complaint against him for his words. "These are my First Amendment rights," he said. "I am in a campaign. I am an underdog. I did not initiate (the fight)." In a statement, the Warwick Democratic Committee cited Farina's fairness, integrity and respect for all individuals as well as acknowledging that judges and the judicial system should be above politics. The full committee is expected to formally endorse Farina at its July meeting.