Democrat, Republican see job as logical career step
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
An old adage argues that justice is blind, but in New York state those who oversee it are partisan — on the ballot, anyway. Thus the Nov. 4 general election features a race for 9th Judicial District Supreme Court justice, with veteran jurist James W. Hubert, a Democrat, now serving as an acting Supreme Court judge, competing against lawyer, songwriter and former cop Montgomery “Monty” Delaney, a Republican.
Despite the party labels, judicial candidates typically do not campaign like other contenders. Nor, often, do Supreme Court judges (also called justices) need to: once they win election, they serve for 14 years, far longer than the terms of other elected officials. They belong to a statewide system that carves New York into about a dozen districts. Within a judicial district, judgeships are distributed in among participating counties; for the 9th district, that means Putnam, Westchester, Dutchess, Rockland and Orange.
Under New York’s rather arcane judicial structure, the Supreme Court, unlike courts bearing that name in other states, is not the highest court in the state. However, it outranks several courts, such as village and township justice courts, and it presides over such matters as foreclosure and equity cases, divorces and similar questions, injunctions, and civil cases involving larger sums of money than a lower court can handle. At times, as in Putnam County, the Supreme Court operates out of a combined facility with the County Court, which handles felonies and other serious criminal offenses not covered by a lower-level court.
Delaney ran in 2013 for a county judge slot in Westchester and lost, adding another item to an eclectic resume. An ex-Marine, he joined the New York City Police Department, was assigned to the South Bronx, investigated drug incidents in the 1980s and went to St. John’s University Law School at night while continuing in law enforcement as a plainclothes officer. Later, he became a teacher and athletic coach at Salesian High School and then started practicing law, focusing on civil trial cases. He continues his role as an attorney, with offices in White Plains. For some 30 years, he has also moonlighted as a singer-songwriter and performs in the Hudson Valley.
Hubert likewise brings a varied background to his candidacy. A 1975 graduate of Brown University, he spent four years as a labor relations assistant at Bethlehem Steel Corp. before earning a law degree from Boston College. During the 1980s he served as an assistant district attorney in Queens and in 1993 entered private practice as a civil-court litigator. He was elected as justice of the Town of Greenburgh court in 2004; in 2007 he successfully ran for the job of Westchester County judge. Through an administrative appointment in 2008, Hubert became an acting Supreme Court judge and now, with an opening on the bench, seeks election to fill the vacancy.
In brief email interviews, both men told Philipstown.info that they see the Supreme Court judgeship as the next step in their careers.
“Essentially, I am running for the job I already perform,” Hubert said Oct. 25. “Over time, as one’s experience grows, the opportunity to use that experience in a wider context is appealing and, in my opinion, serves an important public function.” Broad judicial experience counts in properly resolving cases, he stated. “Also, I enjoy the work. After 32 years in the legal profession, the opportunity to grow and move forward is a natural progression.”
Delaney said Oct. 23 that he is running because, “simply … I have a wealth of experience both practical and legal, to bring to the bench. I am an Independent non-affiliated voter myself. While I am proud to carry the Republican and Conservative nominations, I am not a partisan of any kind. I have always been an independent thinker.” After years working in courtrooms, he said, “I know what it takes to be an outstanding jurist” and “see a seat on the court as the next natural step in the arc of my career in service of others. I will be a judge that all voters can be proud to have supported.”