Valley Stream’s longest-serving village justice will step down at the end of this year after three decades in the position, continuing his career into the Nassau County Court judgeship to which he was elected in November.
Robert Bogle was a 27-year-old deputy attorney when Mayor John DeGrace appointed him acting village justice in 1986. He was the youngest judge in the state at the time, but DeGrace was confidant in his ability. “He was young, but he was very, very bright,” DeGrace said. “[He had a] very strong command of the law, and I was just impressed by his demeanor, his temperament, that sort of thing.”
Bogle only had one suit when he was appointed, a blue one that he wore with a red tie during his first court session. He performed his duties without any problems, and the outfit became a tradition that has survived ever since.
“I’m not necessarily superstitious,” he said. “But if it works, I keep going with it.”
Having grown up in the village — he attended Church of the Blessed Sacrament’s school, worked as a paperboy and at the local Burger King — Bogle first took a position in the village court because he wanted to be more involved with the community he knew so well, he said.
It was in that spirit of community service that he sought to run the court, he said, using his discretion to sentence problematic drivers to driver’s education courses or community service, and giving Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies opportunities to work in various roles during court sessions. One Boy Scout, Scott Schoef, now serves as one of the court’s bailiffs.
He wanted the court, which primarily deals with vehicle and traffic law violations, parking infractions and code violations, to be a “learning center” more than a “place for punishment,” where offenders could have an experience that would prompt them to reexamine their patterns of behavior instead of just pay fines.
In meting out justice to his neighbors on mostly non-criminal matters, Bogle said he tried to be sensitive and show a sense of humor from the bench. While legal codes aim to be as clear as possible, it takes human beings to interpret them, and Bogle’s perspective grew with his experience. “Fairness is a mental evolution,” he said. “I’ve gotten better at it.”