Southold Town Justice Rudolph Bruer says he often sees people in some of their hardest moments, and he believes everyone who steps into his court should be treated the way he would want to be treated.
While he often spends tense times on Friday mornings dealing with domestic violence and driving under the influence cases, he is in a unique situation himself. After running unopposed and even being cross-endorsed by the Democrats in 2003, Bruer is in a heated battle with Democratic candidate . In September, the two faced off in a for the Conservative and Independence lines, which Bruer won.
Bruer, 71, said he was not surprised to learn that Hughes would mount a primary challenge against him once Hughes declared his candidacy.
“I hope the primary results speak for themselves,” he said.
Bruer finds the situation between himself and his challenger “disheartening” and said Hughes appeared before him as a defendant’s attorney but has had very little contact with Hughes over the years.
When Bruer moved his practice and his family to the North Fork in 1971, he said real estate was the main focus of his practice though he did some estate and surrogates work. He represented clients before the zoning board, planning board, and town board and also represented local lenders including Southold Savings Bank and later North Fork Bank, and even Capitol One for a few years.
After he was elected in 1995, he said he eliminated trial work from his practice because his schedule precludes it now.
“If you have an arraignment at 9 a.m. in Southold, how are you going to answer a call in Islip, or at the County Court or in the city at the same time?” Bruer said.
Being a Southold Town Justice is a 24-hour job, according to Bruer, who said he’s been awoken in the middle of the night for emergencies and search warrants over the years. To maintain a balance, the three town justices rotate the position, with two weeks on and two weeks off.
Because he’s lived in Southold so long, he said has seen many people he knows in his court room. He said if he has a real family relationship with the person, he will preside over the arraignment, recuse himself and pass the case on to the next justice. If it is someone who he knows but does not have a close relationship with, he discloses the information, says whether he thinks he can judge them fair or not fairly, and then let’s the defendant choose whether or not to proceed.
Over the years, he said the court has grown busier and they have more trials and hearings than in the past, but he says that does not change how he views his job.
“I take my oath of office very seriously. I look at each case individually and keep an open mind,” he said.