Schenectady County got one step closer to having a third Family Court judge Friday with the state Senate giving its approval.
The legislation, which also provides for a new Family Court judge in Albany County, now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature. Cuomo included money for 20 new family court judges in his budget.
With the Schenectady position nearly a reality, local Republican and Democratic officials have begun to interview candidates for November’s election. And it looks like it will be a race.
County Democrats have already endorsed Niskayuna attorney Ursula Hall for the post. They did so, Democratic Committee Chairman Brian Quail has said, to guard against a quick petition deadline should the position be approved.
On the other side if the aisle, county Republican Chairman James Buhrmaster said Friday his party is working to endorse a candidate, having chosen to wait until the position appeared close to passage. But, Buhrmaster said, they intend to field a candidate.
“We’ve got our feelers out. We’ve got people who are interested,” Buhrmaster said.
He declined to name those who have expressed interest.
This fall’s race for the new judgeship would follows last fall’s race for one of the two existing seats. In that race, Democrat Kevin Burke cruised to victory unopposed in the general election.
As for the worries about a quick petition deadline, the bill provides for a special delayed petition period and other provisions in light of the late creation.
Vito Caruso, chief administrative judge for the 4th Judicial District, has said there is a need for a new Family Court judge in Schenectady County. Caruso noted Schenectady County Family Court is the busiest in his district, which also includes Saratoga, Montgomery and Fulton counties and points north.
In all, the bill will add 25 new family court judges statewide, with 20 to take office Jan. 1, 2015, and the other five Jan. 1, 2016.
Local legislators applauded the passage Friday. Both state Sens. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, and Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, supported the measures. Tkaczyk’s district includes parts of both Schenectady and Albany counties.
In a statement on the floor of the Senate, Farley called the job of family court judge one of the most difficult.
In Schenectady, Farley said, “that judgeship is truly needed It’s greatly needed.”
Tkaczyk, in a statement, said the additional judges will address long delays that can arise in family courts.
“These new judgeships will help to ease the burden and protect vulnerable families and children,” her statement read.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said in his own statement that the move ensures “a smoother process that could shorten a child’s stay in foster care, speed up a custody issue or end a family’s turmoil.”