Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs judge to run for seat on state Supreme Court

City Court Judge Jeffrey D. Wait has thrown his hat into the ring for a seat on the state Supreme Co

City Court Judge Jeffrey D. Wait has thrown his hat into the ring for a seat on the state Supreme Court bench in the 4th Judicial District.

Wait, who has been City Court judge for three years, announced his intention Tuesday to run for one of four judge seats, three of which are open because of retirements.

Voters in the 4th Judicial District, which spans 11 counties from Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton and Montgomery counties north to the Canadian border, will select the justices in November.

In September’s primary, voters will choose delegates who will then convene to select their party’s judge candidates for listing on the November ballot; there are expected to be four Republican and four Democratic candidates.

The top four vote-getters in November will don the Supreme Court robes in January 2013, opening chambers in their home counties and hearing primarily civil cases such as litigation, tax disputes and contested matrimonial claims.

Justices hold 14-year terms and are paid $136,700 a year.

Three of the four Supreme Court seats are open because according to the state Constitution, the judges must retire when they turn 70. Judges who hit that age can ask to stay for up to three two-year extensions, but their seats still go up for election.

Barry Kramer and Vincent J. Reilly Jr., both of Schenectady County, are affected by the mandatory retirement provision this year, as well as Richard T. Aulisi of Fulton County.

The fourth seat is up for election because its 14-year term is up. Joseph Sise of Montgomery County holds that seat and plans to seek re-election, said Vito Caruso, administrative judge for the 4th Judicial District.

Caruso said he believes the three retiring judges all plan to seek the certification to stay for another two years. They don’t have to declare that intention officially until June and must be certified by the chief administrative judge by December.

So there could be a few extra judges in the district, which Caruso said would be a good thing.

“We right now have such a workload throughout the district that we have county judges that are acting as Supreme Court judges to handle the cases,” he said.

The district currently has 11 judges instead of the customary 13 because two are serving on the Appellate Division and can’t hear cases.

Several people besides Wait hope to be justice candidates.

The county’s Republican committees have endorsed Tom Buchanan, a lawyer and former chairman of the Schenectady County Republican Committee; lawyer John Ellis of Franklin County; Ed Skoda, a Family Court judge in Fulton County; and Sise.

Christine Clark and Mark Powers, both Family Court judges in Schenectady County, have told Caruso they’re seeking nomination, and both have run on the Democratic ticket before.

Wait, 52, hopes to be one of the candidates nominated by Democrats and hopes to become a justice, though his party holds an enrollment disadvantage in the vast district of 840,000 people.

Wait believes the fact that he’s known in Saratoga County, one of the largest counties in the judicial district, may give him an edge.

“I think I’ve generated a lot of goodwill,” he said, by treating defendants and attorneys fairly and courteously. “My reputation in the community and in the county is generally looked upon favorably.”

He was elected city judge in 2008 over Republican Matthew Dorsey to replace retired Judge Douglas Mills.

Now three years into his 10-year city term, Wait said if he is elected to the higher post, part-time city Judge James Doern would temporarily take over the judgeship until voters elected a new full-time judge.

“I am very comfortable with the thought that if I move on, my successor will be a guy who has been here longer than I have,” he said.

In the meantime, Wait wants a qualified candidate to replace the talented state Supreme Court judges who are retiring, including Aulisi. “What we need in this district is another judge that can aspire to be the kind of judge that Judge Aulisi is.”

He also serves as acting County Court judge and supervising judge for town and village courts in Saratoga, Schenectady, Fulton and Montgomery counties. Before being elected judge, Wait was an attorney for 21 years in private practice and public service. Most recently, he had a private practice on Broadway.

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