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Town Justice race up for vote in November: Two candidates on ballot to be on bench

There are no races for supervisor, Town Board or highway superintendent this year. In this unusually quiet political season on Shelter Island, there’s only one race on the ballot: Town Justice, with Justice Helen Rosenblum and attorney Stan Birnbaum in the running.


Justice Helen Rosenblum (Credit: Reporter file photo)

Justice Rosenblum is seeking her fifth four-year elected term on the bench. She was appointed to the court by Supervisor Art Williams and the Town Board at the end of 2003 when Town Justice Edward “Pete” Hannabury died.

In her career on Shelter Island, she has served as the town attorney and the attorney for the Fire District, and has her own law practice.

Although running for re-election on the Republican ticket, she’s registered on the voter rolls as a “blank,” or unaffiliated with any political party. “I believe a judge shouldn’t be registered with one party or the other,” she said.

One of the main reasons Justice Rosenblum is running again is to continue her service on the East End Regional Intervention Court, more commonly known as the East End Drug Court. This court, overseen by local justices, aims to treat drug offenders so they will be able to defeat their addictions and become productive members of society after they are released from jail.

Her decision to go for re-election was cinched, she said, on learning of the death of her friend and colleague, Riverhead Justice Allen Smith, who was instrumental in starting the Drug Court in 2003.

“It’s a very important thing,” she said. “Simply put, it helps people. I believe you can’t just administer the law. You have to use the law to benefit people. And I do that in the drug court and in Shelter Island Justice Court.”

She praised Mr. Birnbaum as “a fine lawyer,” and Mr. Birnbaum said he had “nothing but kind words for Helen.”

Stan Birnbaum

Credit: Eleanor P. Labrozzi photo)

He’s practiced law since passing the bar in 1973 and is a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association, and the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County in the family law and criminal division. He’s worked for several firms and now heads his own practice in East Hampton, where he represents clients in criminal matters; personal injury; litigation; real estate; Town Code matters and family law matters.

Mr. Birnbaum also mentioned that he has many years of experience in traffic law. Shelter Island town justices rule on multiple traffic cases every term, from speeding to driving under the influence.

This wide range of experience in several avenues of the law is one reason he believes he understands the law and issues that would come before him if he’s elected to the bench.

Mr. Birnbaum represents Shelter Island in what is known colloquially as the “Hurrell-Harring” program, named for a New York Civil Liberties Union case settled in 2014. The program is under the state’s Office of Indigent Legal Services.

The state’s supreme court found five New York counties “had systematically and structurally denied meaningful and effective representation to defendants entitled to publicly funded representation in violation of their Sixth Amendment right to counsel.”

One of those counties was Suffolk, so attorneys were assigned to specific towns. Mr. Birnbaum is on call nights, weekends and holidays to represent clients in Justice Hall who are being arraigned for alleged crimes.

His participation in the program, and the reason he’s running for town justice, comes out of two loves, Mr. Birnbaum said. “My love for Shelter Island and my love for the law,” he said. “I was offered an opportunity to give back to the community here. That’s why I’m running.”