ITHACA, N.Y. –– Judge Scott Miller was sworn in as a Tompkins County judge on Tuesday, filling a position created by the New York State Legislature earlier this year.
In June, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation authorizing the creation of a third county judge position in Tompkins County. The last county judge position created in Tompkins County was 60 years ago, when the second seat was added. Miller, who was elected with no opposition in November’s general election, will be joining Judge Joseph Cassidy and Judge John Rowley.
During his speech following his swearing-in, Judge Miller said about the creation of the third seat, “this doesn’t happen ever. This is a once in a century miracle that happened in Tompkins County.”
Miller went on to explain how overwhelmed Tompkins County judges have been, in comparison to the rest of the judicial district.
“Of the 10 counties that make up the 6th judicial district, we had about 55 thousand citizens for the two county court judges,” Miller said. “We were the number one stressed county of the 10 counties. The average was about 30 or 33 thousand.”
Judge Miller grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, coming to Tompkins County as a Cornell undergrad. He also earned his law degree at Cornell Law School.
He has 18 years of experience as a courtroom attorney and served as the city court judge since 2013. He’s been acting county court judge since 2015.
Some of the most notable cases in MIller’s career include his work on the People Vs. Eunice Baker. As an attorney, he was able to secure a reduced sentence for a 24-year-old woman with a mental disability who has been accused of murder.
As a judge, Miller made a notable decision in 2014 in which a precedent was set that the smell of marijuana alone is not cause enough for police to search someone on foot. Also in 2014 Miller made headlines with a case in which he dismissed graffiti charges by citing Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, William Wordsworth, and Edgar Allen Poe in his decision.
In addition to handling general criminal caseloads, a Tompkins County judge oversees a number of specialized courts. For Miller, that includes Family Court, Surrogates Court and the first of its kind in the 6th judicial district –– Mental Health Court.
Miller is a staunch advocate for the diversion of defendants struggling with mental health issues, and has been instrumental in the establishment of the Mental Health Court.
In a previous interview with the Ithaca Voice, Miller said, “the expense for the taxpayers and the overcrowding of the jail for a non-violent, mentally ill person, that doesn’t make any sense. The jail is not a hospital,” He went on to say, “we can just keep re-sentencing people to 15 days in jail for disorderly conduct but all that happens is they get out, they’re still homeless, they still have a serious mental illness that’s untreated and it’s just a revolving door.”
Miller spoke at the swearing in ceremony about his love for the ‘human drama’ as he calls it that unfolds in the courtroom, and his chance to be a part of it and make a difference. He cited his own turbulent childhood in Rhode Island, growing up with the only divorced parents in his neighborhood, and being the only half jewish kid on the block.
“I got my ass kicked a lot by the big tough kids,” he said. “I’m always rooting for the underdog.”
Miller ended his swearing in speech with a promise for the future.
“I’ll do my best not to let down this community and be the judge that reflects the values of this community,” he said.