November 27, 2021

Casullo retiring

Veteran Cortlandville judge was ‘fair, impartial and welcoming’

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cortlandville Town Court Justice Fran Casullo at his office last week. Casullo will step down Dec. 31 after 16 years and four terms as town justice.

For hundreds of days each year — nights, weekends, holiday, sometimes a couple of times a day — Fran Casullo would haul himself to Cortlandville Town Court and oversee some aspect of a case.

And the day after he steps away from the job — after 16 years — a program that would create a centralized arraignment facility and take some of the burden off municipal judges in Cortland County will begin.

Casullo, whose last day will be Dec. 31, doesn’t have any regrets. He decided after he was re-elected four years ago that his fourth term as Cortlandville town justice would be his last. Casullo will still his keep private law practice with Pomeroy, Armstrong and Casullo LLP in Cortland.

Casullo was the sole judge for Cortlandville Town Court between the years of 2003 to 2013, until another justice position was added and Judge David Alexander joined in 2014.

Casullo said the court’s expansion — Cortlandville is the busiest court in Cortland County — was a high point in his judicial career.

“One of the things I’m most proud of was being a part of the building expansion that left us with a great court facility. I think one of the best in the area,” he said.

He watched an evolution in justice, from interlock ignition systems to deal with drinking-related driving offenses by preventing a car from starting until a breath test confirms the driver is sober, to changes in the law that move 16- and 17-year-old offenders to a special court instead of adult court.

The newest creates a central arraignment facility, where judges will take turns on weekends, holiday and other off-hours to arraign arrested people, rather than pulling a judge away rom home and hearth at all hours of the day or night.

Still, despite his busy schedule, Casullo always made his assistance available, said Alexander, who became a Cortland County Court judge in 2017.

“You couldn’t ask for anyone more generous, dedicated or involved than Fran Casullo,” he said. “He was very detail-oriented, very fair and impartial and very welcoming … and always available for advice.”

Casullo said he was most proud of the clerk staff that he worked with.

“Over the course of 17 years that I’ve been here, we’ve never had a personnel change,” he said. “We’ve added on but we never lost anybody which, court or any other organization, is rare to go that long without having personnel leave. That’s more of a testament to them than me.”

He will be succeeded by Mary Beth Mathey, who defeated Robert J. Demarco in November’s general election.

Casullo said the court is in good hands.

“I wish Judge Mathey the best. She knows any help she needs between now and Dec. 31, we’re available and I wish Judge (Lenore) LeFevre all the best. I’m sure they’re going to do fine,” Casullo said.

LeFevre, admired his participation in town affairs.

“He regularly attended meetings of the Cortland Magistrates Association and is a member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board. His contributions and assistance will be missed in those forums as well,” LeFevre said in an e-mail.

She also admired his respect for people.

“It is clearly not just a job for him,” she said. “He cares about every case before him, and he ensures that everyone before him is treated fairly and justly. Those are qualities I look up to.”