Candidates are making their final pushes before the election Tuesday. In the race for Family Court Judge, candidates are vying to fill the seat vacated by Bryan Hedges in April. Family Court covers the juvenile court system and other domestic issues. It's Republican Pat Kilmartin versus Democrat Julie Cecile. Our Katie Gibas introduces us to both candidates and tells us where they stand on the issues.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- In their private law practices, both Republican Pat Kilmartin and Democrat Julie Cecile have worked a number of cases in family court.
Kilmartin was a prosecutor in the District Attorney's office and has worked as a law guardian to help children through the court system.
Cecile worked as a lawyer for the department of social services. She is currently the executive director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
"As a law guardian in family court, I'm assigned by the family court judges to represent the interests of children, to be their lawyer in family court, to advocate for them on motions, on hearings, on trials that take place in family court," said Kilmarti.
Cecile said, "My experience at McMahon/Ryan has been huge because I work with a team, a multidisciplinary team. Every day that we work as a team, we see cases that would go to family court, would go to criminal court and some that didn't even make it to court and we're seeing them first before they can even get there. So by working with a team, I think I have a unique perspective."
Both candidates agree that one of the biggest issues facing the court system is large amount of cases judges have to deal with. Each candidate says as a family court judge, they would be able to make the court more efficient.
"It adds to the team that is already there and that can help move those cases along. And also that judge too, having that experience and having my experience, we can make an impact on those specific cases and hopefully we won't see those cases coming back," said Cecile.
Kilmartin said, "The best judges, they're firm with their decisions. They're compassionate. But also, they set timetables and they set expectations for all the parties to meet. And if judges can do that effectively and efficiently, that will move the cases more quickly and it will make sure that there aren't huge delays for children and family."
Both say electronic filing will help expedite the process. But because many people coming through family court don't have lawyers, if elected, both candidates would want to see better education for those filing for themselves.
So what sets these candidates apart?
"I really do work with law enforcement, child protective, medical, mental health and advocacy on a day to day basis. I know what they system looks like when it works well. I know the resources in our community, so I know what those families can tap into. I also know when it doesn't look right, so we can have accountability," said Cecile.
Kilmartin said, "The critical difference is my experience in the family court system and in the court system of Onondaga County. I think I'm the only candidate has the depth of experience as trial attorney, as a prosecutor, as defense attorney and the only candidate who has served in that critical role of law guardian."
If elected, they have a couple changes they'd like to make to the system.
"I'll take a more active role to make certain that children have the chance to appear in family court if they're of sufficient age and intelligence and engage more directly with children and their lawyers to make sure we're not just hearing from the moms and the dads in family court, but we're hearing directly from children as well," said Kilmartin.
Cecile added, "One of the things that I would like to see is it be more victim friendly. I think we need to talk about that and how people are sitting, where they're sitting. Having a child victim sitting right next to a juvenile offender sometimes times could be very difficult for those victims."
Family Court Judge is a 10 year term.