Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson Retires - 27 East

Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson Retires

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Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson.  EXPRESS FILE

Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson. EXPRESS FILE

authorStephen J. Kotz on Sep 6, 2023

Barbara Wilson, who has served as a Southampton Town justice for more than a quarter century and nearly as long as Southampton Village justice, has retired from both positions, effective Friday, September 1.

Wilson, 63, who has battled cancer in the past, cited unspecified health issues as her reason for retiring just shy of the midpoint of her four-year term as one of four judges on the Town Justice Court.

“I’ve said I wanted to serve as long as I could, and I’m not disappointed with my decision,” she said. “Honestly, one half of my life has been spent serving in the public forum. It’s time I take care of myself.”

Wilson’s retirement leaves the town with three acting judges: Gary Weber, Patrick Gunn and Karen Sartain. They will divide Wilson’s caseload until a replacement is either appointed by the Town Board or a special election is held to fill the vacancy.

Because state election law requires three months’ notice before the general election, it is too late for the position to be put on the November ballot.

“I’m sorry to see her go,” said Weber. “She has worked very hard for many years. She is experienced and dedicated.”

He said the three remaining justices would work together to handle her caseload until a replacement is found.

“It’s important to remember that she has been here for more than 20 years,” added Gunn. “That’s a long time to serve, and I appreciate that experience.”

Sartain, a former legal aid attorney, said she had appeared before Wilson many times in that capacity and appreciated the way she accepted her as an equal when she was appointed town justice in 2020.

“She has always been someone I could go to if I had a question,” she said. “It’s going to be strange to not work with her.”

Southampton Town Attorney James Burke said the Town Board has a couple of options for filling Wilson’s place on the bench.

“It’s too far down the road for this election,” Burke said of whether Wilson’s vacancy could be placed on the November ballot. “The board could name a replacement until we have an election — either a special election or someone could serve until next November.”

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said Wilson’s departure “is going to leave a big void to fill. Barbara is a well-respected and very popular judge, who has served the community for many years.”

Schneiderman said the Town Board would begin to review its options. “The board can appoint someone for one year,” he said. “That’s likely what I think will happen.”

Republican Councilwoman Cynthia McNamara, who is running for supervisor this year, said if she defeats her Democratic opponent, Maria Moore, there would have to be a special election to fill her seat on the Town Board. McNamara said a race for Town Board and town justice could be combined in a single special election.

“This is an odd year. Jay’s gone and John [Bouvier’s] gone,” she said of two colleagues who will not seek reelection because of term limits. “I think if we can put it off, it’s best to let the people decide.”

Southampton Village’s website has already listed Michael I. Solomon, Wilson’s associate judge, as acting justice. He could not be reached for comment.

Wilson, who formerly worked in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, was elected town justice in 1997. When Southampton Village established its own justice court in 2002, she was elected to that position as well.

She said she enjoyed her role in the local court because it’s the closest to the people it serves, both in its physical location and in familiarity. “It really is justice for all,” she said. “There should be a heart behind the robe.”

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