Experience a common trait among state Supreme Court candidates

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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— Three people are seeking election to two state Supreme Court seats in the district that includes Schenectady, Amsterdam and points north.

All three candidates are now judges. One is an incumbent seeking re-election, the other two sitting judges at the county level, looking to take the step up to the higher bench.

In addition to the one seat up on its normal election cycle, a second seat is up due to current Washington County-based Justice Thomas Mercure turning 70, the age of retirement.

Who's who

Thomas Nolan

Age: 64

Home: Saratoga Springs

Occupation: State Supreme Court justice

Education: Graduated from Hamilton College and Albany Law School, getting his law degree in 1975

Family: Married, three sons, ages 34, 32 and 30

Party: Republican and Conservative

Mark Powers

Age: 58

Home: Schenectady

Occupation: Schenectady County Family Court judge

Education: Graduated University at Albany and Western New England School of Law, getting his law degree in 1984; master’s degree from Albany Law School in 2009

Family: Married, two children, ages 26 and 31

Party: Democratic

Stan Pritzker

Age: 56

Home: Hartford, Washington County

Occupation: Washington County Court judge

Education: Graduated University of Buffalo and St. John’s University School of Law, got law degree in 1986

Family: Married, three children, ages 30, 29 and 21

Party: Republican and Conservative

Supreme Court terms are for 14 years, or until the age of 70. The two challengers would be able to serve most of their terms, while the incumbent would be able to serve about six years.

The candidates are: incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Nolan, Washington County Court Judge Stan Pritzker and Schenectady County Family Court Judge Mark Powers. Nolan and Pritzker are running on the Republican and Conservative lines, while Powers is running on the Democratic line.

State Supreme Court justices can hear a variety of civil and criminal cases.

Some of the justices are also appointed to the court’s Appellate Division, hearing appeals from Supreme Court and county criminal courts.

They 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.

Nolan, 64, of Saratoga Springs, is finishing his first term as a state Supreme Court justice. He was first elected in 1999, having previously served as Saratoga County Family Court judge. Before being a judge, he worked in private practice for 20 years.

Nolan said he’s found being a judge in public service to be enjoyable and rewarding, a chance for him to do good. He points to his 18 years on the bench as a reason why voters should re-elect him.

“I think I’ve got the right temperament,” Nolan said. “I’m decisive when I have to be and patient when I should be.”

Powers, 58, is in his 12th year as Schenectady County Family Court judge. He’s spent 10 of those years as an acting Supreme Court justice, as well.

Powers ran unsuccessfully for a state Supreme Court justice seat in a crowded field last year. He said he would rely upon his experience and qualifications as an acting state Supreme Court justice.

“I think I really have unmatched experience for someone who has not already been elected as a Supreme Court justice,” Powers said.

Pritzker, 56, of Hartford, is a Washington County Court judge, also covering Family Court and Surrogate’s Court. He has been an acting state Supreme Court justice since 2007.

Pritzker is also looking to keep Washington County with representation in the district, with Mercure retiring.

He said he loves being a judge and has always loved civil law. Prior to being a judge, he worked 20 years in private practice.

“I think the thing that makes me a good Supreme Court justice is I work very, very hard,” Pritzker said. “Believe it or not, I am not judgmental. I think that’s one of the things that helps me be fair.”

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