Two longtime judges are seeking the state Supreme Court post in the district that includes Schenectady, Amsterdam and points north.
Timothy Lawliss and Mark Powers are vying for the seat after having been elected as Family Court judges in their home counties. Lawliss serves Clinton County; Powers presides in Schenectady County.
Lawliss is a Republican, and Powers is a Democrat and Conservative. The Supreme Court seat was vacated when Justice John A. Lahtinen, who served on the Appellate Division, retired.
Lawliss has served as Family Court Judge from Clinton County for nearly 18 years. Powers has served as Family Court judge from Schenectady County for nearly 15.
Supreme Court terms are for 14 years or until the judge reaches the age of 70. Lawliss, 56, would be able to serve nearly an entire term. Powers, 61, could serve about nine years.
State Supreme Court justices can hear a variety of civil and criminal cases.
Occupation: Clinton County Family Court judge, also acting Supreme Court justice.
Education: Graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1982 and Suffolk University Law School in 1987.
Family: Married, two children ages 20 and 22.
Some of the justices are also appointed to the court’s Appellate Division, hearing appeals from Supreme Court and county criminal courts.
The men are running in the 4th Judicial District, which covers 11 counties, including Schenectady, Saratoga, Montgomery and Fulton, north to the Canadian border, an area that is home to an estimated 840,000 people.
Lawliss, of Peru in Clinton County, is rated as qualified by the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission.
He first took the bench as Family Court judge in 1999, helping design the county’s family treatment court. He now presides over all the treatment courts in the county, including the Integrated Domestic Violence Court.
He’s been a County Court judge throughout his tenure and an acting Supreme Court justice since 2003. He graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 1987.
Powers, of Schenectady, is rated as highly qualified by the independent commission.
He first took the bench in Schenectady County in 2002, having won election the previous November. He became an acting Supreme Court justice in 2004.
He served four years as the designated Integrated Domestic Violence Court judge in Schenectady County and two in Essex County. Powers graduated from Western New England School of Law in 1985.
Lawliss said he is running for a Supreme Court justice seat because he thinks his background fits well with the post. He sees it as a natural progression of his career.
“I like handling a variety of cases, and the Supreme Court has the greatest variety,” Lawliss said.
Occupation: Schenectady County Family Court judge, also acting Supreme Court justice.
Education: Graduated University at Albany and Western New England School of Law, getting his law degree in 1984; masterâs degree from Albany Law School in 2009.
Family: Married, two children, ages 29 and 33.
Party: Democratic, Conservative.
He recalled growing up the son of a state trooper with a good sense of right and wrong. He believes that drew him to the law.
“I think I bring a lot to table: experience, good upstate values and hard work,” Lawliss said.
He said he also wants to hold the seat for Clinton County. He counted two of 15 judges in the district from the northern five counties. Having judges hail from different parts of the district is beneficial, he said.
Powers, however, said the he believes geography shouldn’t play a role. Instead, the focus should be on experience and qualifications. Judges go to whatever county they’re needed in, he noted.
Powers is making his fourth bid for a Supreme Court seat. He first ran unsuccessfully as an attorney in 1997. He ran again in 2012 and 2013.
Powers also sees the move as a natural progression for his career. He cited his extensive experience in dealing with people and emotional issues.
“I think I have the right qualifications, experience and temperament for the position,” he said. “I look forward to a new challenge.”
Powers said he became a lawyer as a way to help people.
“To me, that meant a lot,” he said. “That’s really why I liked the profession.”