Schenectady County

Princetown justice candidates focus on experience

A controversial former Princetown town justice wants to return to the bench after the man she lost t
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Norm Miller

AGE: 73

PARTY ENDORSEMENTS: Republican, Independence

OCCUPATION: Management consultant

PERSONAL: Married, four children

Michelle Van Woeart

AGE: 56

PARTY ENDORSEMENTS: Democratic, Conservative, Green, Working Families

OCCUPATION: Not provided

PERSONAL: Single, three children

A controversial former Princetown town justice wants to return to the bench after the man she lost the spot to fired a shotgun in a residential neighborhood, resisted arrest and resigned.

Michelle Van Woeart, who served as town justice from 1996 to 2013 before losing to William Reynolds, is challenging Norm Miller, the former deputy supervisor who took over for Reynolds after he stepped down in March.

Van Woeart said she’s running again because of her “love for the law.”

“I also feel our town deserves a qualified judge who can maintain the high respect that Princetown court had while I was judge,” she said. “Since January 2014, the town of Princetown bench has been ridiculed and humiliated by the actions of the former elected judge.”

Miller, who was appointed to the town justice post in April, said he is more than qualified for the job. Before becoming fully certified to run the court on July 11, he shadowed Rotterdam town judges Ken Litz and Kevin Mercoglan, who took turns running the Wednesday night Princetown court sessions starting in mid-March. He also observed the judges in Rotterdam Town Court every Monday and Thursday.

“It really helped me because I was exposed to an incredible number of cases,” he said.

The two candidates have a history. In the spring of 2013, Miller sued Van Woeart for $500,000 in damages, claiming she slandered him by publicly stating during a Town Board meeting that he killed a man. The case has since been dropped.

“It was just frustrating that she, as a judge, would stand up at a board meeting and say [that] because she was angry and was trying to discredit me,” Miller said. “This was long before I was going to run against her. She had a habit of trashing people.”

Van Woeart countered that Miller has been trashing her during his campaign.

“He uses nonfactual innuendo, and his negative campaigning is based on lies, not fact,” she said.

Van Woeart faced some controversy during her tenure as judge. In the fall of 2012, she was censured by a state panel, which found she failed to properly handle tickets issued to her and her sons for dog control ordinance violations.

Miller, a management consultant who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2001 after 33 years of service, said a good judge should be fair and want to protect people’s rights.

“You have to look at the human side of people and not treat them as a number,” he said.

Van Woeart said that as town justice, she approached every case with an open mind “knowing that every case that comes before me is different and that different paths have led them to where they are.”

“Taking this into consideration and with all the facts presented to me, I can render a fair decision,” she said.

If elected, Miller said he would get a credit-card machine installed in court so people don’t have to pay fines with cash.

“The court system gives you a credit-card system, so we’re in the process of getting that installed here,” he said. “We had one in 2011, but it had never been taken out of the box.”

Van Woeart also said she would have credit-card processing available.

The town justice position pays an annual salary of $20,000.

Categories: Schenectady County

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