Judges recuse themselves from Cutchogue landlord/tenant dispute

Southold Town this Cutchogue property is home to six illegal apartments. (Cyndi Murray file photo)
Town officials claim this Cutchogue property is home to six illegal apartments. (Cyndi Murray file photo)

Though a Cutchogue business owner accused of illegally renting apartments at a former labor camp in Cutchogue has taken a tenant to Southold Town Justice Court for refusing to pay rent, it’s unclear if the case will stay in Southold.

Two of three Southold Town justices have already recused themselves from the matter.

During a court date on the eviction Monday, Justice Rudolph Breuer said he would not take on the case, citing previous connections with the owner of Prime Purveyors, Robert Hamilton.

Prime Purveyors now operates at was once a troubled labor camp for migrant farmworkers.

“It would be unfair,” Judge Breuer said.

Less than two weeks ago, Justice William Price also recused himself from the case, though the reason was not immediately clear. The matter will now go before Fishers Island Justice and Southold Town Board member Louisa Evans on Wednesday, Oct. 22.

But the eviction case comes as the town is actively seeking to take Mr. Hamilton to trial if the tenants do not vacate the property.

In August, Mr. Hamilton pleaded not guilty in separate proceedings in town Justice Court to six counts of violating town code related to leasing six apartments at 8305 Cox Lane.

Despite those charges, Mr. Hamilton has brought tenant Maribeth Mundell to court to enforce an eviction after she stopped paying rent, according to records.

Ms. Mundell, who has been living at the Cutchogue complex for two years with her 10-year-old son, told The Suffolk Times she stopped paying rent because of the town’s case against Mr. Hamilton.

Ms. Mundell said she needed to save her money since she expects to have to move from her apartment soon, she has said.

If Justice Evans recuses herself from the case, and Mr. Hamilton still wishes to pursue the eviction, the matter will head to a neighboring town’s court.

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Special Report: ‘Dark days’ at the Cutchogue labor camp