As a group seeking to advance reform in domestic relations practices, it has become incumbent upon us to assist our followers with their choices for Supreme Court Justice in the Fifth Judicial District. Unfortunately, this race has received little attention given the impact it has upon our daily lives and we find many out there who are unfamiliar with it. In New York State, Supreme Court is not the highest court like it is in other states and the federal government. Here it is the trial level court with the broadest level of jurisdiction. This simply means that where lesser courts, i.e. Justice Court or Family Court might be unable to hear a particular matter because of limitations set by law, the Supreme Court would be able to decide the case. The Court of Appeals is the state’s high court situated in Albany.
However, this unique aspect of New York’s complex court system allows us to emphasize that Supreme Court is where matrimonial (divorce) cases are litigated, among other matters important to our Institute. For this reason, an evaluation may be useful to you even if you reside elsewhere in the country. Think of it as a litmus test. Bar associations, news media and political parties have screened nine candidates for four open seats. They have resulted in ratings and endorsements. To our knowledge, there has been nothing generated from independent family groups. Here we simply employ the term “well qualified” to mean a candidate best suited to advance the interests of moms, dads, children and families in our domestic relations courts.
PATRICK MACRAE is our first choice. We give him a “well qualified” rating because he has an outstanding mix of experience, credentials and moral fiber. Thirty years of trial experience in both civil and criminal cases is only a starting point for this candidate. As a former member of a prominent Syracuse law firm, Assistant Attorney General handling important matters of statewide concern and a sole practitioner for many years, Mr. Macrae is suited to address diverse matters coming before him as a judge. He is also very litigant oriented and reform minded.
JAMES McCLUSKEY is our second choice. We give him a “well qualified” rating because he possesses experience as a judge, following in the footsteps of his father in Watertown, New York, and appears fundamentally committed to the family. He will place the rights of parents above the command of the state and legal profession when necessary to avoid needless interference with childrearing. More than that, he will exercise the kind of temperament, restraint and common sense which is vital to the delivery of justice in potentially volatile family matters.
ERIN GALL is our third choice. Unlike some political and bar reviews, we give her a “well qualified” rating because of her commitment to family and close association with a prominent jurist in Oneida County. We respect those concerned over her inexperience and potential for prejudice upon victim fathers and non-custodial mothers seeking fair treatment. However, Ms. Gall appears destined to make a difference by committing herself with an open mind to studying the issues and taking needed reform in an area of law that is damaging families everywhere.
DAVID MAGNARELLI is not only our fourth choice, but the best of all nine candidates. When asked by the Syracuse Post Standard to identify his “hero”, Mr. Magnarelli prominently cited his immigrant parents. Unlike one political counterpart, this candidate did not direct voters to commission ratings or personal ambition. Instead, he sought to emulate famous New Yorkers from one party while quoting Abraham Lincoln from the other. It is this quote which we ask all candidates, win or lose, to observe after Election Day as it summarizes our reform efforts well:
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point
out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser- in fees, expenses and waste of time.
As a peacemaker, the lawyer has the superior opportunity of being a good man.”
NOTE: We are having a phone effort all day on November 8, 2011 at our office, 1518 Genesee Street, Utica, to get the above candidates elected. We are focusing only on those voters that can be counted on. You can join us by calling (315) 796-4000. We were able to get some 25,000 votes behind Leon Koziol for Oneida County Executive in 2007. We can do it again for these choices. Finally, we suggest that if you reject any one of them for other reasons, please consider Thomas Buckel or Michael Young in his or her place.