East Hampton Town Justice Lisa R. Rana has two hurdles to overcome in Tuesday’s election: her failed Democratic primary challenge in June and her entanglement with David Gruber’s rather malicious campaign for supervisor.
Courts are supposed to remain free of politics, and under state law judges are barred from partisan activity other than advocating for their own qualifications. At best, the pairing of Ms. Rana and Mr. Gruber appears a bit peculiar; at worst, it could have cost her her re-election.
But as surprising as it might sound, we believe these hurdles should not be disqualifying in the minds of Tuesday’s voters.
It remains an open question what to make of Ms. Rana’s editing and adding to at least one letter to the editor attacking specific East Hampton Town Board members by name. This is not a good look for a judge. And it seems a legitimate basis for review by the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.
If Ms. Rana is truly confident she did nothing wrong, then she should have no problem publicly seeking a formal opinion on her work with Mr. Gruber.
However, while it is clear that this political involvement should not be swept under the rug — regardless of the outcome Tuesday — it is also our belief that voters should withhold judgment in this case.
The choice must be based on the two candidates’ records and their standing in the community.
From the start, there did not seem to be any clear reason why Andrew Strong, the Town Democratic Committee’s choice to win the justice seat, had launched his campaign. Certainly, he is well qualified, but so is Ms. Rana, largely because of her 16 years in town court.
Few complaints about Ms. Rana’s courtroom have ever surfaced, and — unless or until the state court system officials have had a chance to look into the letters — there seems no basis for turning her out.
Ms. Rana has the support of a wide swath of residents, many of whom have worked directly with her on difficult cases, especially involving women and children. She should be returned to the bench.