I urge readers of The Current to vote for Jessica Segal in her challenge against Dutchess County Judge Peter Forman on Nov. 3. As a public-defense lawyer, I am most concerned with which candidate will be most fair as a judge and will uphold the rights of the accused. So I looked up the incumbent’s record on criminal cases over his career and was troubled by what I found.
There were numerous appeals in the last couple of years alone in which a defendant challenged Judge Forman’s sentences as excessive. While I only found one in which the appeals court agreed and reduced the man’s sentence [People v. Cardascia, 159 A.D.3d 917 (A.D.2d 2018)], I suspect that many of those sentences would shock the conscience of people who, like me, believe that mass incarceration is not the way forward to a safer, more equitable and productive society.
The cases that troubled me most were decisions by the appeals court finding that Judge Forman failed to uphold well-established rights held by the accused. In one case from 2019, Forman denied the defendant a hearing on whether the police had sufficient basis to search his home, and even withheld important police paperwork from the defense.
The appeals court overturned the defendant’s conviction and ordered that the defendant be given the police papers and the hearing [People v. Lambey, 2019 NY SLIP OP 07793 (A.D.2d 2019)]. In another case, Forman was rebuked for allowing the prosecutor to argue that the defendant, because he had been convicted of the crime previously, had a propensity to commit burglary.
The appeals court, citing well-established principles, found that such arguments denied the defendant a fair trial and ordered that a new trial be held [People v. Wright, 121 A.D.3d 924 (AD2d Dept., 2014)]. I even found two cases [e.g., Yonamine v. Forman, 109 A.D.3d 620 (A.D.2d 2013)], in which the appeals court concluded that Forman wrongly denied a party’s application for a fee waiver based on financial hardship.
We need a judge who believes in full disclosure of the evidence, the rights of the accused to challenge the charges against them and, particularly, the rights of the indigent.
Laurie Dick, Beacon
I have known Judge Peter Forman for more than 30 years. He served as Beacon City Attorney while I sat on the City Council in the early 1990s. In 1999, Judge Forman was elected to the position of family court judge, and in 2010 he was elected to the county court.
He has served the residents of Dutchess County with distinction since 1999; he has been rated “highly qualified” by the non-partisan screening panel of the Dutchess County Bar Association, and the New York State Official Reporter has selected 12 of his opinions to be published since 2010. Over the past 20 years, 93 percent of his decisions have been affirmed by the Appellate Courts. He knows the law.
Most importantly, he has presided over a drug treatment court for the past 15 years. In this non-adversarial court, those who suffer from drug addictions are given a second chance to obtain long-term sobriety without the stigma of a felony conviction.
Please join me in supporting lifelong Beacon resident and community leader Peter Forman as he seeks reelection on Nov. 3.
Joseph Guarneri, Beacon
I know that Judge Peter Forman he has been endorsed for re-election by retired judges, a very large number of attorneys, and several law enforcement organizations. They view him as experienced, knowledgeable, ethical and fair.
I want to add to that. I am a retired school teacher with 30 years of experience. I have known Peter Forman for 50 years. I have worked with him on local school issues. He has been involved in many civic, charitable and community organizations and activities too numerous to list in this limited space. He has been very active in his church here in Beacon for many years.
I know him to be a very good family man dedicated to his wife and daughters. He is a man of great integrity. I join with the retired judges, attorneys and law enforcement officers in endorsing Judge Forman. I know him to be a good, decent person – a man of character who I am sure will continue to serve the residents of Dutchess County in an outstanding manner.
Diane Antalek, Wappingers Falls