BY JOEL GROSSBARTH
Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme recently appointed longtime political rival Jacques Michel as the third judge in the Village of Spring Valley Court. Michel was appointed to fill the vacancy created when the New York Court of Appeals removed Judge Alan Simon from the bench for belligerent and improper behavior.
The fact that Michel is not an attorney does not disqualify him from presiding over cases. Non-attorneys may sit as a village justice provided they complete training mandated by the Office of Court Administration, the agency that oversees courts in New York. It is Michel’s past that presents issues regarding his qualifications.
Michel served time in jail in connection with a federal immigration investigation in 1978. Michel helped Haitian immigrants file false documents to obtain resident alien status, according to court documents.
Section 3-301(5) of the New York State Village laws states:
“A person who has been convicted of a felony pursuant to the laws of this state or who has been convicted in federal court or in another state for a crime or offense that would constitute a felony under the laws of this state shall be permanently ineligible to be a candidate for village justice or to be appointed or continue to hold such office.“
The fact that Michel’s conviction is nearly four decades old is insignificant. According to officials with the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), “permanent means permanent.”
It has not been confirmed whether Michel was convicted of a federal felony or a misdemeanor, but documents that were filed with knowingly false information would constitute filing of a false instrument in New York, a class E felony. According to the wording of the NY statute, he would appear to be disqualified from serving as justice.
An official with the Mayor’s Office indicates the matter is still being investigated, and no final decision has been made. However, any investigation would have come before the appointment of Michel. Sources with knowledge of this matter have also informed the Rockland Times that the presiding judge for the Ninth Judicial District, which encompasses justice courts in Rockland, is also investigating the issue.
Michel is scheduled to take the bench and start presiding over cases as soon as he is finished with his required training. Requests for interviews with Mayor Delhomme have not been responded to.
Michel is a former Rockland County legislator and former part-time deputy of the Rockland Sheriff’s Dept.