Six view for spots on state Supreme Court

CHENANGO COUNTY – There are six candidates running for the three open positions on the Sixth Judicial District’s Supreme Court. The sixth district represents 10 counties: Chenango, Otsego, Delaware, Madison, Broome, Tioga, Chemung, Schuyler, Tompkins and Cortland. The Supreme Court has a sweeping jurisdiction in a number of legalities including civil and criminal cases. Its purview often encompasses divorces, malpractice, business disputes, legal contracts, personal injury, governmental and administration review, property taxes, licensing, employment issues, zoning and civil rights. Justices in the sixth district earn just over $136,000 a year and serve 14-year terms. Below are brief descriptions of the candidates running for the vacancies. The election is Nov. 6.

Donald F. Cerio Jr.

“I seek the position of NYS Supreme Court Justice as I  believe that I have the experience, intellect and judicial temperament that would transition well to this position. I have been an active litigant in court throughout the last 23 years appearing in local courts, family court, county court, supreme court and the appellate division. Though principally a prosecutor my entire career, I have had the opportunity to practice civil law in a variety of contexts. I believe that my experience gained as a father of five, an adjunct professor of law at Syracuse University and an active member of my community has provided me with a background well suited for supreme court.”

Education:

B.S. at SUNY. Brockport in 1979. JD S.U.N.Y. Buffalo Law School in 1983.

Legal Experience:

Rated as ‘Qualified’ by Broome County Bar Association. Madison County District Attorney since 1990. Assistant District Attorney prior to serving as the DA. Since 2001 has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Syracuse University.

Community Involvement:

Volunteer for the Madison County Veterans, Lions Club, Pop Warner, Knights of Columbus, Canastota Little League and Fire Department. St. Agatha and St. Patrick Churches. Active in aiding several domestic violence programs, New York State Brain Injury Association and the child abuse task force.

Family:

Wife is Renee, third grade elementary school teacher. They have five children between the ages of 18 and 6.

Endorsements:

Democrat

Michael V. Coccoma

“With over 12 years of diverse judicial experience, I am well qualified for this position. I have worked to improve the court system in New York State, and I am committed to serving my community and the people of this region with professionalism and dedication. I am experienced on the job, open-minded and committed to carefully applying the law for fair and just results.”



Education:

B.A. at the Citadel. J.D. at Albany Law School.

Legal Experience:

Rated as ‘Highly Qualified’ by Broome County Bar Association and ‘Qualified’ by the Third Department’s Judicial Election Commission. Has been the acting Supreme Court Justice since 2000 and is the Otsego County Judge since 1995. Before that he served as the Otsego County District Attorney. He also served in both private practice and as an Assistant District Attorney. Was the Otsego County Attorney and represented its Department of Social Services. Established one of the first rural drug treatment courts in 2000. Also served as Law Guardian and at the Family Court Children’s Center in Otsego. Served on New York State Matrimonial Commission and Family Court Advisory Committee.

Community Involvement:

Volunteer EMT for Cooperstown Fire Department, Cooperstown Rotary club, American Legion. Has worked at local soup kitchens and did coach youth soccer for nine years.

Family:

Wife is Ellen, she is a partner in a large law firm in the Binghamton area. They have three children.

Endorsements:

Republican, Independent, Conservative.

Joseph Fazzary

“I have been a firm but fair prosecutor for fifteen years. I am dedicated to my family, my community and to public service. I will bring this same fairness and dedication to the Supreme Court bench.”

Education:

B.A. Syracuse University. J.D. at Syracuse University.

Legal Experience:

Rated as ‘Highly Qualified’ by Schuyler Bar Association and ‘Qualified’ by the Third Department’s Judicial Election Commission and Broome County Bar Association. Currently the Schuyler County District Attorney since 1998. Served as an Assistant District Attorney and was an intern for the Schuyler DA’s Office directly out of law school. Helped establish Schuyler’s first Drug Treatment Court in 2002. Member of NY Bar Association and the National District Attorney’s Association. Once a partner in large Elmira law firm before becoming full time DA. Adjunct professor of Criminal Law at Elmira College, Certified Lecturer for the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, Southern Tier Law Enforcement Academy, NYS Prosecutors Institute.

Community Involvement:

Guest Speaker at the Schuyler Magistrates Association, Rotary and Boy Scouts. Member of the Watkins Glen Elks, Montour Moose. Parishioner at St. Mary’s Church.

Family:

Wife, Susan, elementary special education teacher. They have two children and have been married for 14 years.

Endorsements:

Republican, Independent, Conservative.

Molly R. Fitzgerald

“While we can’t necessarily represent voters in the same way an elected congressman or senator might, judges should, and I certainly will, reflect the values of the community that I am elected to represent.”

Education:

B.A. at Trinity College. J.D. at Catholic University.

Legal Experience:

Rated as ‘Qualified’ by the Third Department’s Judicial Election Commission and Broome County Bar Association. Currently in private practice as a partner in the Smyk and Fitzgerald law firm in Binghamton. Has practiced in private sector for last 20 years, concentrating her efforts in the New York State Supreme Court. Taught Business and law at the Corning Community and Elmira Colleges. Former Board member of Samaritan House and Broome County Bar Association. Member of New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Lawyers Assistance Committee and the YWCA Board of Directors.

Family:

Has three children ages 21 to 15; two are currently attending Binghamton University.

Endorsements:

Democrat, Working Families.

Richard W. Rich Jr.

“I am running for Supreme Court because I believe that I can make a positive difference in the quality of justice in our district. I believe that I possess the experience, competence and temperament to serve on the bench with distinction. My background has provided me with the confidence that I can competently preside over jury trials, handle cases of diverse subject matters and work under extraordinary pressure. My willingness to represent unpopular people and causes provides evidence of my independence and respect for the law. My community involvement demonstrates my commitment to fairness. Most importantly, my record of success as a lawyer should provide ample evidence that I am qualified to serve as judge.”

Education:

B.A. at S.U.N.Y. Geneseo. J.D. Cornell Law School.

Legal Experience:

Rated as ‘Highly Qualified’ by the Broome County Bar Association and ‘Qualified’ by the Third Department’s Judicial Election Commission. Has been the Chemung County Public Defender since 1998. Was in private practice at an Elmira Law firm prior to his PD position. Named Chemung County’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the year for donating his legal services. Taught law at Elmira College and coaches high school mock trial. Has been honored by the NAACP, Elmira-Corning Chapter for his focus on gender discrimination as the Chair of the Chemung County Human Rights Commission.

Family:

His wife’s name is Shari and they have three children between the ages of 14 and 9.

Endorsements:

Democrat, Working Families.

Phillip R. Rumsey

“I am honored to regarded as a highly qualified justice. I am also the only candidate fortunate enough to have already served the full 14 year term. I am proud to submit my record, as a judge, to the public so they may make their own decision. My experience and efforts to be fair to everyone that comes before me in court will hopefully be recognized favorably by voters and grant me a successful re-election.”

Education:

B.A. at Hamilton. J.D. at Syracuse University Law School.

Legal Experience:

Rated as ‘Highly Qualified’ by the Broome County Bar Association and ‘Qualified’ by the Third Department’s Judicial Election Commission. Rumsey is the only incumbent in the race and is seeking his re-election to the Supreme Court position, where he has already served a 14 year term. Has been assigned to several trial terms throughout New York State and has had over fifty published decisions. Was appointed Acting Administrative Judge for the Sixth Judicial District. Served on the State Judicial Conference and Executive Committees for the Association of NYS’s Justices of the Supreme Court. Earned his J.D. while serving in the National Guard as a member of the Military Police. Has served as an Assistant District Attorney, County Attorney, Town Attorney, Housing Authority Attorney, Counsel to the State Senate Agriculture Committee and Legislative Counsel to Senator James L. Seward. Past president of Cortland County Bar Association.

Community Involvement:

Has held leadership positions in United Way, Rotary Club, Cortland Memorial Hospital and Repertory Theater. Founder of non-profit Home Store that distributed $50,000 to needy families in the Cortland area. Plays trombone with Cortland Old timers Band and Crown City Brass.

Family:

Wife, Marie, is a retired school teacher who worked for 30 years at the elementary level. They have three adult children, ages 28 to 21.

Endorsements:

Republican, Independent, Conservative.

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