On Nov. 6, voters in the state’s 3rd Judicial District will select two people from a slate of five candidates running to fill two seats on the state Supreme Court.
With strict rules banning political activity by judges, the candidates are posting their experience on handbills, websites and social networking sites.
The state’s 3rd Judicial District consists of Schoharie, Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster counties.
New York’s Supreme Court is considered the state’s principal trial court, with branches in all 62 counties. Supreme Court Justices are elected to 14-year terms and have a mandatory retirement age of 70, according to the website of the state Unified Court System. However, judges can continue to serve full-time in retirement for a maximum of six years.
Supreme Courts have jurisdiction over various civil and criminal cases. They typically handle civil cases involving a claim for monetary damages of more than $25,000, and those in which one litigant seeks to stop actions of another. Supreme Court has sole authority to address divorce, separations and annulments.
Several candidates underwent an evaluation by the state’s Independent Judicial Election Qualification Committee consisting of 15 members appointed by the chief judge, by presiding justices of the Appellate Division and by state and local bar associations.
The members of the committee are lawyers and non-attorneys drawn from communities in the district.
In the 3rd Judicial District Supreme Court race this year, two candidates, Bernard J. Malone Jr. and E. Michael Kavanagh are incumbents.
The other three are Richard Mott, Stephan Schick and Larry Weissmann.
The five candidates provided the following biographical information:
Kavanagh: Raised in New York City and a current resident of Woodstock, Kavanagh, a Republican, served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1970. He served as an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s office from 1970 to 1974 and then as chief assistant district attorney in Ulster County from 1974 to 1978. He was elected Ulster County district attorney seven times, serving from 1978 to 1998 before being appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1998. He was appointed to the Appellate Division, First Department in 2006.
Kavanagh underwent an evaluation by the state’s Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission, earning a rank of “highly qualified” for the bench.
Malone: Raised in Little Falls and a current resident of Glenmont, Malone, a Republican, served as a U.S. Army officer from 1965 to 1969, earning the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service in Vietnam. A former assistant district attorney in Albany, he served as a trial lawyer and for 15 years as a federal prosecutor. Malone was elected to the State Supreme Court for a 14-year term in 1998 and was appointed to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in 2005.
Malone earned a ranking of “highly qualified” from the commission.
Mott: Born in Esopus, Ulster County, Mott lives with his family in Kinderhook, Columbia County. A veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, the Democrat has run a private law practice since 1982 and holds 30 years of experience in trials in state and federal court.
Mott earned a rank of “qualified” from the commission.
Schick: Raised on a family farm in Ulster County, Schick now lives in Grahamsville, Sullivan County. The Democrat began private practice in 1978 and served as chief trial attorney at the Sullivan County Legal Aid Society from 1995 to 2004. He is executive director of the Sullivan Legal Aid Panel Inc.
Schick earned a rank of “qualified” from the commission.
Weissmann: Raised in Rockland, Weissmann is owner of the Extreme Process Services Co. and sole practitioner at his law office in West Nyack. The Working Families Party candidate served as assistant public defender in Rockland County from 1994 to 1999 and as senior assistant district attorney and head of the real estate and mortgage fraud unit at the Rockland District Attorney’s Office. He serves as “of counsel” to the NYS Police Officers Union and teaches classes at Rockland Community College.
Weissmann was not reviewed by the commission, having apparently entered the race too late to seek a review.