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Three seek GOP nod for City Court judge

August 28, 2012
By ERIC RETZLAFF , The Leader Herald
GLOVERSVILLE — Three city attorneys, including the current appointed City Court judge, are emphasizing their legal experience as they vie in the Sept. 13 Republican primary race for a 10-year term as City Court judge. The candidates are two attorneys in private practice — Traci DiMezza and Matthew E. Trainor — and John N. Clo, who was appointed in mid-December by Mayor Dayton King to fill out the term of retiring Judge Vincent DeSantis. The three are unopposed by a Democratic candidate, but each has registered as an independent as well, so they could face off again in the Nov. 6 general election. The judgeship pays $127,400 annually, according to the state Office of Court Administration. All three have a stake in the city as married people raising children here, and all said they are involved in projects to better the community. DiMezza has practiced law for 17 years after receiving a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law in Hamden, Conn., in 1995. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Siena College, Loudonville, and received an associate degree from Fulton-Montgomery Community College. She has had a general practice that comprises criminal law, real property law, contract law, civil litigation, civil appeals, small claims, landlord-tenant, traffic cases, wills, trusts and estates, according to her campaign literature. DiMezza said she has worked in advanced criminal law as an appellate attorney with the Schenectady County Public Defender’s Office and has been a Fulton County law guardian for children and youths in custody, abuse, neglect, juvenile delinquency, and Persons in Need of Supervision proceedings. She touts herself as not being an insider in that she has never run for office or held a city position, unlike her opponents. “It is essential that you have that independence,” she said in an interview. DiMezza said she is responding to what she hears in the community, including complaints about repeat offenders, when she said she will stand for “strict enforcement of the law.” “What you do as a judge shows what is acceptable and what is not,” she said, adding that “protecting people, protecting their rights” is key to being a judge. At the same time, she said, she has “the ability to connect with people on a basic human level.” Trainor received a law degree magna cum laude in May 2000 from Albany Law School and began working for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office within a month of graduation, according to his campaign literature and resume. He was admitted to the state bar in January 2001 and was an assistant district attorney until 2008, when he began private practice. In 2010, he worked as Gloversville city attorney. His bachelor’s degree was in biology from Union College in Schenectady. Trainor said “90 percent” of his law practice has involved Gloversville City Court. What makes him especially qualified to be City Court judge, he says, is that he has worked on both sides in that court, first as an assistant district attorney — a prosecutor dealing with 250 to 300 open cases “at any one time”— and then as a criminal defense attorney. “Being on both sides gives me a broader background, a much broader perspective on how our whole system of justice works,” he said. “One of the things I would be good at is applying the law in a fair and consistent manner,” Trainor said. He said the three roles of the law are retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence. He said he’s not big on retribution, and rehabilitation will work if a person is willing to be rehabilitated. He said people should be given a chance to be rehabilitated. What the law does best is deter crime, and by “treating similar cases similarly,” a signal is sent to people to avoid actions that could lead to prosecution. “I want this community to be a safe, wholesome place in which to raise my children.” In 2005, he tried unsuccessfully to unseat longtime incumbent DeSantis in the Republican primary. DeSantis retired in December after 18 years as City Court judge. Clo received a law degree from Albany Law School in 1992 after earning a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York Regents College and an associate degree from Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. He took the long route to a bachelor’s degree, starting out as a music major at Onondaga with emphasis in percussion and then doing a four-year stint in the Navy before eventually finishing his bachelor’s. His interim jobs have included deli clerk, Coleco worker and Nathan Littauer Hospital janitor, and he said he feels his varied life experiences make him a better judge. “It took me 10 years to get a four-year degree,” he said, jokingly, “but I wouldn’t give a day of it back.” Clo touts his diverse background of 20 years in law as a major plus in the judgeship race. His practice has comprised experience in municipal, criminal and civil law. He was Gloversville city attorney from 2004 to 2009, an assistant district attorney for Montgomery County from 1996 to 2011, an attorney in private practice from 1993 until being appointed City Court judge, and counsel for the state Assembly’s Small Business Committee from 1994 to 1996. He was a law guardian and child advocate for 18 years. He said his involvement in thousands of cases, including hundreds of bench and jury trials, sometimes involving felonies and misdemeanors, exceeds “the combined experience” of his opponents. Clo said he believes a judge must be fair and impartial to everyone who enters his court, ensuring that everyone’s constitutional rights are respected — both the victim’s and the accused in criminal cases and the litigants in civil cases. “You leave here [his court] understanding what’s going on and having your say,” he said. He said he has worked closely with the police and human service providers to aid the victims of crimes, such as domestic violence, and to offer the possibility of community service and rehabilitation to perpetrators, where appropriate. The three candidates have received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. According to state Board of Elections data, the Committee to Elect Matthew Trainor received $15,150 in contributions from April 25 to Aug. 9; the Committee to Elect John Clo received $2,975 in contributions from June 8 to Aug. 8; and the Committee to Elect Traci DiMezza received $21,304 from Feb. 22 to Aug. 8. The candidates may receive additional campaign contributions.

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