Five local attorneys, all Democrats, have expressed interest in running for Family Court judge in Schenectady County.
Judge Jo Anne Assini, a Democrat, announced in February that she would not seek election to a second 10-year term in November.
Interested candidates include First Deputy County Attorney Kevin Burke, City Court Judge Christine Clark, private practice attorney John Della Ratta, Deputy County Attorney Fred Goodman and Bruce Trachtenberg, a deputy conflict defender for the county.
All acknowledged interest in the judgeship through a phone interview with The Daily Gazette, a letter of interest to the Schenectady County Democratic Committee or both.
The executive committee of the county Democratic Party will interview candidates before the end of this month, said Chairman Brian Quail. The executive committee may or may not issue an endorsement, he said.
Party officials said Clark is the frontrunner for an endorsement because of her judicial experience. An endorsement could trigger a primary involving Trachtenberg, who is running hard for the seat, officials said.
Burke is chief counsel for the Schenectady County Department of Social Services, having joined the county in 2002.
“To be honest, I was born to do the job,” Burke said of the judgeship. “I was born from a social worker mom and an engineer father, grew up local in Scotia and I started my first case as a law guardian 16 years ago,” he said.
Since then, he has worked both sides of Family Court, defending and prosecuting. He has handled clients in all matters, ranging from custody cases to neglect and abuse cases. He also prosecuted juvenile delinquents.
“My primary focus has been Family Court law,” he said.
He received his law degree from Syracuse University College of Law in 1993, joining the bar in 1994.
Clark said she is interested in the position because she wants to help children and protect families in the county.
“It is one of the most important courts,” she said, “and I have sat as an acting Family Court judge and really enjoyed that role and would like to do that full-time.”
Clark was admitted to the bar in 1996. She received her law degree from Albany Law School. She was appointed city judge in January 2005 and ran later in the year, when she won a full 10-year term.
Della Ratta has been an attorney since 1996. He practices with his father in a second-generation law firm started in 1961. “Our practice covers family law, personal injury and criminal defense,” he said.
He received his law degree from Thomas Cooley Law School in East Lansing, Mich. Della Ratta wants to be a Family Court judge to “serve the people of Schenectady County. I have an extensive background in family law and the proper temperament to handle family law issues.”
Trachtenberg is a former Niskayuna town justice who received his law degree in 1978 from Albany Law School. He said he has 30 years of Family Court experience, representing children as a law guardian.
“I must ask the voters, members of my political party and the leaders and members of the other political parties to select me as the most qualified to succeed Judge Assini,” he said.
Trachtenberg has formed a committee, “Right on Trach,” and will kick off his campaign March 21 at the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Goodman was not available for comment.
Tom Buchanan, chairman of the Schenectady County Republican Committee, was unavailable for comment, so it is unknown if there are Republican candidates interested in the judgeship.