Six seek state Supreme Court seats

Four seats open on 4th Judicial District bench
From top left, Michael Cuevas, Dianne Freestone, Julie Garcia, Rebecca Slezak, Michael Violando and Jim Walsh.
From top left, Michael Cuevas, Dianne Freestone, Julie Garcia, Rebecca Slezak, Michael Violando and Jim Walsh.

4TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT — Six candidates are running for four seats on the state Supreme Court bench in the 4th Judicial District.

Julie Garcia and Michael Violando will be on the Democratic line in Tuesday’s election. Michael Cuevas, Dianne Freestone, Rebecca Slezak and James Walsh will be on the Republican and Conservative lines.

The State Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction but generally hears cases that are outside the jurisdiction of other courts. Its docket most typically includes civil litigation; divorce and other marital matters; and equity suits such as mortgage foreclosures.

The 4th Judicial District encompasses Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Schenectady, Warren and Washington counties. It is the largest of the New York’s 13 judicial districts, containing 26 percent of the state’s land mass, but the roughly 840,000 people living there make up only 4.7 percent of the state’s population.

Here is some information on the six candidates:


Cuevas holds degrees from New York University and Albany Law School.

He was a state administrative law judge from 1995 to 2006; has served as corporation counsel for the city Schenectady and town attorney for Glenville and Princetown; has been an attorney in private practice with three firms between 1992 and present; was chief counsel to the state Assembly minority leader; and was counsel to state Sen. Kathy Marchione.


Freestone has been a partner with Pentkowski, Pastore & Freestone since 1990 and represented thousands of clients in legal proceedings and trials at all levels of the state court system.

The 1985 Albany Law School graduate was the first female assistant public defender in Saratoga County and also has been active politically, including as chairwoman of the Saratoga County Women’s Republican Club. 


Garcia is a graduate of Siena College and Albany Law School. She was an assistant district attorney in Rensselaer and Suffolk counties before becoming Essex County’s first female district attorney.

The Ticonderoga native and Warrensburg resident later went into private practice, with offices in Warrensburg and Port Henry. She has handled cases in federal court, state Supreme Court, Family Court, Criminal Court and town justice courts.  


Slezak is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Law School who has been a practicing attorney for 22 years. While in private practice, she also worked part-time as a town prosecutor and then an assistant public defender.

She left private practice to join the Unified Court System to work as a court attorney. For the last sixteen years she has worked closely with Judge Philip V. Cortese, drafting hundreds of decisions for his review and signature and conferencing pending proceedings.


Violando is a graduate of SUNY Oswego and Albany Law School and has been a practicing private attorney for more than 20 years at all levels of the state court system. He focuses his practice on occupational accidents and diseases, catastrophic injuries, discrimination and insurance fraud.

Violando said surviving a battle with cancer that he had expected to lose made him recall that he originally became a lawyer to help people, and he decided he could serve more of the community as a judge than by representing one client at a time. 


Walsh is a graduate of SUNY Brockport and Albany Law School who has been a practicing attorney for 20 years, most of that with his own practice, more recently as of counsel at Couch White, LLP.

He also has been a volunteer firefighter for much of his life and served in the U.S. Navy for 21 years, retiring as a lieutenant commander. Walsh said the judgeship would be a continuation of his decades of community service within and beyond the legal field.

Vote 2019: Your guide to Tuesday’s elections

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