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Richey announces candidacy for St. Lawrence County Surrogate Court

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CANTON — John F. Richey announced his candidacy Thursday to succeed Kathleen Martin Rogers as the judge of St. Lawrence County Surrogate Court, a court many people forget about until it touches their lives.

“We’re the hidden court,” said Mr. Richey, who has been Judge Rogers’s principal court attorney for the last 25 years. “Most frequently, I’m met with a blank stare when I mention I work in Surrogate Court.”

Judge Rogers is retiring at the end of the month.

Not only is Surrogate Court tucked away in a corner of the County Courthouse, it deals with estates and trusts, guardianships for minors and people with disabilities, and adoptions.

“It’s a technical court. There’s not a lot of litigation. It’s a specialty court,” Mr. Richey said. “Basically, all my experience over the past 25 years has led me to seek this position.”

If elected, Mr. Richey said, he would like to continue Judge Rogers’s policy of filling in for County Court, Family Court and Supreme Court. He is so far running unopposed.

When he first started, Mr. Richey said he expected to work in Surrogate Court for just a few years.

“But something happened,” he said in the speech he made at his announcement at the Best Western University Inn. “I found I loved the work. I enjoyed engaging in the business of the court. I’ve always enjoyed the academic side of law, the research and writing of opinions and decisions; but I also discovered I enjoyed the interactions with counsel - guiding the pending litigation through the court, conferencing with attorneys to assist in the settlement of their cases, and putting out the fires that are inevitable to litigation. Acquiring these skills does not happen overnight, and I have spent years developing them.”

He has served as president of the county Bar Association and as president of the county Magistrates Association. He was a member of the county Criminal Justice Policy Board and has been a presenter at several continuing legal education programs for attorneys.

Mr. Richey also spent a decade as a local magistrate in Massena.

“Justice courts are often said to be the court closest to the people, and that’s very true,” he said. “I learned about punishment, offender accountability, mercy and forgiveness. I learned how a judge affects the lives of not only the litigants, defendants or victims, but their families as well.”

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