Local political candidates meet the public in open forum

PLATTSBURGH The contention for one local political is gaining attention from voters. A crowd of more than 50 people turned out at Olive Ridleys Aug. 26 for a Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Champlain Valley Business and Professional Womens Club. The evening included speeches from incumbents state Sen. Elizabeth OC. Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru; and Michael P. Oot, a Madison County attorney running on the Democratic ticket against Congressman John M. McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor. However, much of the attention on the forum was centered on the race for Clinton County Family Court Judge. Incumbent Timothy J. Lawliss, R-Peru, and his Democratic opponent, William T. Meconi of Plattsburgh, fielded questions about their thoughts on the Family Court system. While the two were limited by law in what they could discuss during an election campaign, both candidates spoke freely of their passion for the legal system and what they would strive to do if elected this November. Lawliss, who has held the position of Family Court Judge since defeating Democrat Keith M. Bruno in 1998, is seeking his second 10-year term. During his time on the bench, Lawliss has tried close to 20,000 cases and played a role in the development of new court programs such as domestic violence and drug courts and a program for at-risk children. The incumbent said he is often asked if he likes his job, to which he often replies with a two-part answer. I do not like my job. I deal with sex abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, physical violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health issues these are profoundly sad cases where its extremely difficult to determine what the right decision is, said Lawliss. Having said that, I love my job. I love it because of the responsibility and opportunity I am given. The difference a judge in a case can make a difference in a childs life. Meconi, an AuSable Forks native, has been practicing law in Clinton County for nearly 30 years, with a background in Supreme Court, Criminal Court, County Court and Family Court cases. He said his background is something he feels will prove useful if elected. What I was taught years ago was to show respect and dignity for human beings. If I were to be the judge, thats what my emphasis would be, said Meconi. I dont care what you see in this court, and you see it all. It doesnt matter who they are, where they come from or where theyve been. Both Lawliss and Meconi agreed a healthy working relationship with the agencies that interact with Family Court, such as Social Services, Probation and domestic violence programs is imperative in the role of Family Court Judge. I think its critical the Family Court judge works with those agencies to do whatever he can do ... to work as best they can to promote the solutions to solve the problems affecting the young children of our community, said Meconi. It is mandatory, it is critical for me, if Im elected judge, to meet with those agencies, to talk with those people. I will intend to do that before I can embark on my tenure to get their input and to see how they think things could work best. Do we always see eye to eye? Absolutely not, Lawliss admitted about interaction with other agencies. In the end, the judge is this decision maker, which can be a bigger responsibility than you might realize. Its one thing to pound the table and say, This should be done, when its a hard thing to do, but its another thing to be the person who actually does it.

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