With three elected state Supreme Court judgeships open this year between Saratoga and Schenectady counties, the field of candidates to replace them is becoming clear.
The Republican field has narrowed to two candidates in Saratoga County, and one from Schenectady County.
In Saratoga County, attorneys James Walsh and Diane Freestone have been endorsed by the county Republican Committee, while in Schenectady, attorney Michael Cuevas is running for the judgeship open in that county.
Elections for these seats will be held in November, because Judge Robert Chauvin retired as of Feb. 1 from his seat in Saratoga County, while Judge Thomas D. Nolan is also turning 70 this year, the mandatory retirement age. While Nolan could seek a two-year extension, an election for a judicial seat still must be held.
In Schenectady County, Cuevas will be running for the judgeship now held by Judge Vito Caruso, who plans to retire.
Walsh has been a lawyer specializing in election and municipal law for nearly two decades, and is currently of counsel to Couch White LLP in Albany. He is also a former Ballston town attorney, and lives in Ballston with his wife, state Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston.
Walsh is a graduate of SUNY-Brockport and Albany Law School, and a Navy veteran, having worked in naval intelligence and counter-terrorism.
“I firmly believe that a direct, pragmatic, compassionate and common-sense approach is needed as a jurist,” Walsh said. “I believe that these vacancies on the state Supreme Court bench have provided me with an opportunity to continue my lifetime of service to our community by becoming a judge.”
Freestone is an attorney who has been in practice for 33 years and is a partner in Pentkowski, Pastore and Freestone in Clifton Park. She is a member of the New York State Attorney Grievance Committee.
While Freestone has been a candidate for Republican nominations for judgeships in the past, this is the first time she has earned the nomination.
“As a practicing attorney, each day I must truly listen, provide educated counsel and strongly advocate on behalf of others, within the confines of the law, to achieve the best possible result. I will bring that same approach and disposition as the next Supreme Court judge in the Fourth District,” she said.
Cuevas, meanwhile, recently resigned as chairman of the Schenectady County Republican Committee to pursue the judicial office. He is currently of counsel to Roemer, Wallins, Gold & Mineaux in Albany. He also serves as the Glenville town attorney.
The Schenectady County committee is meeting on Wednesday, and is expected to endorse Cuevas for the judgeship.
Cuevas has previously served as a public defender, and for four years as corporation counsel for the City of Schenectady. He also served three years as chairman of the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and eight and one-half years as chairman of the state Public Employment Relations Board, which he said were quasi-judicial positions in which the board were often reviewing the findings of hearing officers.
Cuevas was also chief counsel to the state Assembly’s Republican minority from 2007 to 2010, developing and reviewing legislation and helping develop policies. He represented then-Minority Leader James Tedisco in a lawsuit against Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and was later counsel to state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon.
“I believe I have a wealth of experience in various areas of law and have practiced before all the courts in state of New York, and I have significant trial and appellate experience,” Cuevas said.
The Fourth Judicial District includes eleven counties from the Capital Region to the Canadian border: Schenectady, Saratoga, Montgomery, Fulton, Hamilton, Warren, Washington, Essex, Franklin, Clinton and St. Lawrence counties. All the candidates will be traveling throughout the district over the next few weeks seeking party endorsements.
The party candidates will be formally nominated in August, when Fourth Judicial District conventions will be held at a date and location still be determined. The conventions must be held between Aug. 8-14.
State Supreme Court judges are elected for 14-year terms, and their position’s current salary is $208,000 annually.