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State Supreme Court race presents choices

November 3, 2012
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

Eight candidates - four from each major party - are vying for four state Supreme Court justice positions in Tuesday's general election.

The candidates are running in the state's 4th Judicial District, which is based in Saratoga Springs but extends over an 11-county area.

State Supreme Court justice terms are for 14 years, and four seats are available this year. Winners take office in January. The annual base salary for a state Supreme Court justice is $136,700.

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Republican voters hold an edge of 55 percent to 45 percent over Democrats in the district. There are 224,417 registered Republican voters and 180,046 registered Democrats in the district.

Republicans in race

Republican Montgomery County Court Judge Felix J. Catena is running for one of the seats to be vacated by sitting state Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi. Aulisi is stepping down because he will reach the state's mandatory judicial retirement age of 70 by the end of the year.

Other Republicans running for the Supreme Court justice seats are: current state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Sise in Montgomery County, who is running for re-election; Thomas Buchanan, a Rotterdam attorney; and John T. Ellis of Franklin County, a Family Court support magistrate working in Saratoga Springs.

Biographical information about the Republican candidates follows:

He was first appointed by former Republican Gov. George Pataki to the bench in 1999 and ran successfully for a 10-year term in November 1999. He was re-elected without opposition in 2009.

As a county judge, Catena instituted the first Drug Court Program in Montgomery County in 2001 and the first Mental Health Court Program in the county in 2008. He has served on the Curriculum Committee for the state Unified Court System, was a member of the state Jury Trial Project and has lectured at various state Office of Court-Administration-sponsored judicial seminars. He is a member of the New York State County Court Judges Association, the Italian-American Bar Association, and the Montgomery and Fulton County bar associations.

Catena was admitted to the state bar in 1986. He graduated from California Western School of Law with a Juris Doctor in 1985; and from American University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1979.

In 1994 and 1995, Sise worked as an attorney for the Montgomery County Department of Social Services. His judicial career began in 1996 when he joined Montgomery County Court. He was then elected to state Supreme Court three years later.

He has worked at the law firm of Hacker Murphy from 1998 to the present. He represents clients from all backgrounds, concentrating mostly in the area of litigation. His representation has included extensive work at the trial and appellate levels. He has litigated hundreds of cases throughout his career and has argued before appellate courts, both state and federal.

Ellis graduated from Siena College, then attended Albany Law School.

He has a record of volunteering for a number of community service agencies, including the American Red Cross, American Legion, Rotary and the Knights of Columbus.

Democrats in race

Democrats running for the Supreme Court justice seats are: Schenectady County Family Court Judge Christine Clark, Essex County attorney John M. Silvestri, Saratoga Springs City Court Judge Jeffrey D. Wait, and Schenectady County Family Court Judge Mark L. Powers.

Brief biographical information about the Democratic candidates follows:

Clark has served as Schenectady County Family Court judge from January 2011 to the present. She has handled the daily family court calendar, conducted hearings in custody, visitation, family offense cases, juvenile delinquency, person in need of supervision, abuse and neglect cases She also has reviewed and decided Orders to Show Cause, handled emergency petitions, and presided as an acting Supreme Court justice.

She worked as a judge in Schenectady City Court from January 2005 to December 2010; served as an assistant district attorney in Schenectady County; was an associate with the law firm of Dreyer Boyajian and was an intern for both the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albany and in the U.S. Senate.

He received his BA from Hofstra University in 1976 and his JD from Pace University in 1981. He was admitted to the bar in 1982.

Silvestri holds several current public offices, such as: attorney for town of North Hudson, attorney for Chestertown Fire District and attorney for Ticonderoga Fire District. He was previously the attorney for town of Hague, president of the Warren County Bar Association, and assistant district attorney in Warren County.

Silvestri has 30 years of general trial and litigation experience as a prosecution and defense attorney before Supreme Courts throughout New York state. He has practiced before the federal district courts of the Northern, Southern and Eastern districts, Appellate Courts of first, second and third departments and New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

He returned to public service, and to law enforcement, when he was appointed deputy counsel for the New York State Board of Elections from 1993 to 1999.

He followed that with a tenure as Saratoga Springs city attorney from 2000 to 2003. At the same time, he opened an office in the city to resume his private practice.

Wait grew up in Saratoga Springs and returned in 1991 to raise his children and to become involved in the public life of the city.

He graduated from the University of Vermont with a BA in English and philosophy in 1983 and from the Western New England College School of Law with a JD in 1987. He was admitted to the bar in New York and Massachusetts in 1988.

His other professional experience has included: Western New England School of Law, adjunct professor, 2010 to present; law office of Mark L. Powers, 1993 to 2001; Glenville assistant town attorney, 1993; Arnold & Powers law firm, partner, 1986 to 1992; Rosch & Rosch law firm, associate, 1985 to 1986; and law offices of John Ross, associate, 1983 to 1985.

Powers was admitted to the state bar in 1985.

He graduated with a master of law?degree from Albany Law School, summa cum laude, in 2009, and earned his JD from Western New England College School of Law in1985. He earned his BA from the state University of New York at Albany in 1978.

Powers has been a member of the Schenectady County Bar Association Board of Directors.

Campaign funds

The latest state Board of Elections campaign disclosure reports show the candidates have received the following campaign contributions: Catena, $52,570; Buchanan, $25,275; Ellis, $20,768; Sise, $24,130; Clark, $11,610; Silvestri, $3,462; Wait, $4,600; and Powers, no activity filed.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at



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