BETHLEHEM — Incumbent Town Court Justice Andy Kirby faces a challenge in November from Republican-endorsed candidate Colin Dwyer. Kirby, who was endorsed by Bethlehem Democrats, has served in the town court for more than 13 years. Dwyer, a 2009 graduate of Albany Law, is running to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Both candidates responded to a few questions from Spotlight News regarding their qualifications for the office and ties to the community.
Question: What are your qualifications (background, experience, education, practice)?
Kirby: “My primary qualification to be a Town Justice is my 13-year record of service on behalf of the people of Bethlehem in our Town Court. For the last four years, I have served as a Town Justice, and before that, I served as a Town Prosecutor for over nine years. As Judge, every month I preside over a criminal court calendar and two vehicle and traffic calendars, one of which also hears landlord/tenant disputes and small claims cases. In addition, I am on call 24 hours a day for two weeks each month, during which time I conduct jury trials, felony and misdemeanor arraignments, and various hearings. I also review warrant applications and issue orders of protection in cases involving domestic violence. As a Town Justice, I have handled over 20,000 criminal, vehicle and traffic, and small claims cases.
“In addition to my court duties, I also co-manage the court staff and act as a co-department head with regard to budgetary, planning, personnel and other town government issues affecting the Bethlehem Town Court.
“I have been a lawyer since 1993, and am the owner of Conway & Kirby, PLLC, a successful civil litigation law firm. My extensive, 24-year trial experience has served me well in my role as a Town Justice, particularly when I preside over jury trials in Bethlehem Town Court.
“As a small business owner, I also manage six attorneys and five paralegals and support staff. Managing a busy law practice translates into my ability to effectively manage our Town Court. I received my law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1992, and graduated from the University of Richmond in 1987, with a BA in History and Economics.”
What connects you to Bethlehem (family, other public service, volunteer work)?
“My family has deep roots in Bethlehem. My wife, Amy Conway, grew up in Delmar. We settled here after seeing an advertisement in the Spotlight for a house on Heather Lane. Our mothers, several of our siblings and many cousins, aunts and uncles all live in town.
“We have three children, ages 15, 13 and 9. They attend Bethlehem Central High School, Bethlehem Middle School, and Eagle Elementary School. Our kids have been involved in practically every youth sports and performing arts program the community has to offer.
“Over the years, I have helped coach their recreational sports teams, and am always on hand to cheer them on whether I am on the sidelines or in the audience.
“In addition to my 13 years of service to the Bethlehem Town Court, I support many local charities, including the Bethlehem Turkey Trot, Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited, To Life!, and Bethlehem First Night.
“Recently, I relocated my law practice (and 11 full-time jobs) from Latham to the ‘Four Corners’ area of Delmar. This move allows me to be minutes to Town Court, my children’s schools and my home.”
What is the most important part of being a town justice?
“There are few positions more serious or consequential to our community than the Town Justice. The many decisions a Town Justice makes can have a profound impact on individuals and our community at large.
“On the inside drawer of the Town Court bench, there is a quote from the late Hon. Anthony Cardona, the former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, and a long-time resident of Bethlehem. It says, ‘Work hard, treat people fairly and the rest will take care of itself.’ This message reminds me that the most important part of being a Town Justice is fairness. As such, I strive to be a compassionate, respectful and even-handed judge, viewing each case on its own individual merits.
“Bethlehem prides itself on being a community that follows the rule of law. Each time I take the bench, I promise to fairly uphold our constitution and apply our laws to each litigant, to provide an open and respectful courtroom, and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community. In that regard, I am particularly focused on reducing addiction-related crime, which tragically has become a serious issue for our community. This includes not only the burgeoning opioid crisis, but also addressing alcohol-related crimes like driving while intoxicated. I also emphasize driver safety particularly to our young drivers, who face a significant risk for getting into accidents during their first years of driving.”