Group asks Cuomo to name Schenectady County Family Court judge

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
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— A family court vacancy in Schenectady County still hasn’t been filled, more than two months after it opened.

The Schenectady County League of Women Voters sent a letter this week to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that he use his appointment power to fill the vacancy, which has left the county with only one full-time Family Court judge.

The vacancy was created in November when then-Family Court Judge Christine Clark was elected to the state Supreme Court. She took her new office at the start of this year.

Helga Schroeter, head of the local LWV judiciary committee, said the court is in desperate need. “They are doing the best to handle the cases with visiting judges,” she said “But it’s not the same as having a full-time sitting judge.”

Vito Caruso, the Fourth Judicial District’s administrative judge, previously said visiting judges were not a long-term solution.

The county’s Family Court now relies on Judge Mark Powers and four part-timers. Retired judges L. Foster James and Michael Eidens are acting as judicial hearing officers, while Saratoga County Family Court judges Courtney Hall and Jennifer Jensen Bergan are filling in on a visiting basis.

Judicial appointments are made by the governor after applications are received, a committee vets those applicants and a list of potential appointees is created. In this case, the appointment would need to be confirmed by the state Senate.

The governor’s office declined to comment for this story.

The need for the second family court judge is especially great in Schenectady County, notes Schroeter, because of a recent analysis that suggested the county actually needs three family court judges.

“We’re talking about kids who are in pretty desperate situations,” she said. “It seems like it should be higher on the priority list [of Cuomo].”

The LWV letter was also sent as an email. Schroeter said the governor’s office responded to the email, saying it will be brought to the attention of the appropriate people.

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