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State Supreme Court race features nine candidates

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: State Supreme Court race features nine candidates
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Four seats are up for grabs in New York's Fifth Judicial District, where nine candidates have been stomping six counties speaking with voters. Our Kat De Maria gives us an overview of the State Supreme Court justice position, as well as the race.

CENTRAL NEW YORK -- When the Skaneateles Lakers went to court over an investigation that threatened to and ultimately did end their season, they appeared before a justice of the New York State Supreme Court.

Supreme Court judges hear civil cases including divorces, lawsuits and personal injuries and are the first someone would encounter if faced with such a situation.

"It can happen and it can affect us. The judges who sit on the State Supreme Court, their terms are 14 years. So they're there for a lengthy period of time and have the capacity to influence the community at large," said Syracuse Law professor Lucille Rignanese.

This year, the fifth district, which includes Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego counties, has four open justice seats. And there are nine candidates for those positions.

The four Republicans are Erin Gall, Prescott Klosner, James McClusky and Michael Young. There are also four Democrats are Tom Buckel, Patrick Macrae, David Magnarelli and Charles Merrell. John Stone is running on the Conservative Line.

Judicial candidates can and do campaign, but are not supposed to discuss their positions on issues.

"They're expected to uphold the law and be unbiased. Therefore you won't see the kind of campaigning you see from other politicians," Rignanese said.

Judicial elections tend to be as low profile as the candidates. But this year, there have been a few issues.

First, the four Republicans were nominated to also appear on the Independence party line. Those nominations were challenged and ruled invalid.

Then, complaints about campaign conduct prompted Administrative Judge Tormey to send a letter of warning to all nine candidates.

And there remains a question of home rule. At their nominating convention, the Republicans chose their four candidates from the four counties with open seats. The Democrats went another route. Two of their four are from Onondaga County, as is the Conservative. If those candidates are elected, litigants could potentially have to take a drive to see them.

"Some people are talking about, gee, people shouldn't have to travel. But on the other side of the equation is what's more important, having the best qualified judge regardless of having to travel a distance to see that judge. I think that's something people have to think about, read about, inform themselves about and decide what's important to them," Rignanese said.

Among other places, information about the Fifth Judicial candidates is available on the web site for New York's Unified Court System, nycourts.gov. That way people can learn about them, in case they, their parents or their children ever need them. Included in the voter guide are background information and statements from each candidate.

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