Nine candidates are running for four seats on the state Supreme Court in the Fifth Judicial District that covers Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida and Herkimer counties.
The vacancies are caused by three retirements and one resignation from justices residing in Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and Herkimer counties.
Voters may cast ballots for four candidates, who may live anywhere in the district. The seats go to the four hopefuls who receive the most votes.
In the past, the Republican and Democratic parties have honored an agreement to keep a sitting judge in each of the counties. This year, however, three candidates are from Onondaga County, where there is no open seat.
Courts should be accessible to the people they serve. If a county must go without its own sitting judge, residents due in court and attorneys who practice there will have to travel farther. It is better to have the court closer to home. Moreover, judges who live in the communities they serve better understand the people who come before them seeking justice.
Capable people are running from each of the four counties with an open seat.
In Jefferson County, James P. McClusky, a private practice attorney from Watertown, is running on the Republican and Conservative lines. He has attained experience as a town of Watertown justice since 2002.
Lewis County Judge Charles C. Merrell, of Lowville, endorsed by the Democratic and Conservative parties, has served as a full-time acting Supreme Court justice since 2007.
In Herkimer County, Republican Prescott E. Klosner, of Ilion, is seeking the vacant seat. He is the chief assistant district attorney for the county and has been special prosecutor for the village of Ilion since 2002.
Republican Erin P. Gall of New Hartford, Oneida County, seeks a seat on the court. She is serving as principal court attorney to acting Supreme Court Justice Barry M. Donalty and has experience as assistant public defender in Oneida County Family Court.
All four candidates are capable and intelligent practitioners of the law. They would bring varied legal experience to the state bench. They could serve close to home.
Voters should know that they can choose up to four candidates for the court, regardless of where their names appear on the ballot.
The Times recommends James P. McClusky, Charles C. Merrell, Prescott E. Klosner and Erin P. Gall for state Supreme Court justice in the Fifth Judicial District.