By ASHLEY HELMS
A fresh, although perhaps familiar, face has joined the ranks of Rye City Court judge.
Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, and the City Council unanimously appointed Robert Cypher, Jr., a former Republican city councilman who had a seat on the dais from 2002 to 2005, as a part-time city judge on Feb. 26.
Cypher is taking over for Richard Runes, a Democrat, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 for city court judges and needed to be replaced this year.
Cypher is a graduate of Fordham University Law School and went on to have a career as a civil litigation attorney in addition to serving on the City Council. He was also an attorney for the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an attorney in the office of the Judge Advocate General.
Sack said he interviewed five qualified candidates for the position before deciding to appoint Cypher, who will be paid an annual salary of $31,900 as a part-time judge.
“I think both [Cypher’s] trial experience and his community and public service will create a nice blend that will serve him well in his new role,” Sack said.
The mayor makes the decision of who to appoint to full-time and part-time city judge positions with the approval of the other council members. Full-time Rye City Court Judge Joseph Latwin, also a Republican, was appointed to his role by then Republican Mayor Douglas French in 2010. Latwin has served four years as judge, leaving six more before his term is up in 2020.
Peter Lane, a former Rye City judge, said that although Latwin and Cypher are Republicans like Sack, judges don’t always belong to the same political party as the sitting mayor. Lane is also a Republican, and said he was appointed to city court judge in 1992 by Democratic Mayor Warren Ross. Before his appointment, Lane served as the city’s Republican Party chairman.
“I think there is a tradition of keeping the Rye bench a quality bench and as bipartisan as possible,” Lane, who is currently the executive director of the Rye City Republican Committee, said. “The Rye court is a lot of citizens’ only interaction with the justice system. I think it’s important that the people who sit there have the right temperament.”
Cypher is currently the secretary of the city’s Republican Committee, but is expected to resign from his political position since judges cannot participate in politics while on the bench.
Just before the November 2013 general election, Cypher announced his support of Sack in his race for mayor and the Republican Rye United ticket, which included new council members Terry McCartney and Kirsten Bucci along with Sack and incumbent Councilwoman Julie Killian.
Despite putting his support behind Sack, Cypher was once a running mate and supporter of former Councilman Peter Jovanovich, who ran against Sack as an independent candidate in hopes of securing the mayoral position.
Cypher said he was disappointed to see then-councilman Jovanovich accept the support last year of former members of the Rye Citizens First group, a now defunct third party slate formed in 2005, leading up to Election Day 2013. He said the group sabotaged Jovanovich’s candidacy in 2005.
The group ran a slate during the 2005 election that failed to elect a candidate, splitting the Republican Party in half and ensuring a Democratic sweep in the City Council election, according to Cypher. Jovanovich was running as a Republican candidate for a council seat during that period.
Regarding his appointment as a part-time judge, Cypher said he thanks his children for their unwavering support for him through all of his endeavors. He said they often “grinned and beared it” when he made decisions on the council that may not have been popular with their classmates. Cypher promised to treat everyone who appears before him in court with the same respect, fairness, courtesy and compassion.
“You can treat people fairly, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t treat people with the respect they deserve regardless of what their station in life is,” Cypher said.
The council members also had kind words for Cypher and his appointment. Councilman Richard Slack, who is not affiliated with a political party, said Cypher, as a councilman, considered issues in a non-partisan way and listened to everyone. He said Judge Runes, Cypher’s predecessor, performed the job of part-time city judge with wise and considerate deliberation.
“I expect Judge Cypher will continue in a similar fashion,” Slack said.
McCartney said that, as a marine officer, Cypher learned how to lead people and, as a City Court judge, he will be tasked with the same responsibility.
Many of the young offenders who will appear before Cypher did something foolish and just need a little guidance, McCartney said, who thinks Cypher is the perfect person to serve as a judge.