With 19 years of experience in law, Town of Colonie Justice Court Judge Norman Massry has decided to throw his robes into the race for the empty seat in the New York State Supreme Court.
Come November, voters will choose a judge to fill a vacant seat in the Third Judicial District in the New York State Supreme Court, the highest trial-level court in the state. Massry, now in his sixth year on the bench for Colonie, said the opportunity to run was not one he could pass up.
“I viewed this as an opportunity to use my skills in a greater capacity,” Massry said.
While the Colonie Town Court is one of the busiest in Albany County, only second to the City of Albany’s court, the state Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction with criminal and civil cases. A seat was vacated with New York State Appellate Division, Third Department, when Judge Leslie Stein was elevated to a position in the state Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
Although party candidates are not determined until the fall, Massry is seeking the nomination for the Conservative, Republican, Reform and Independence parties. With twelve judicial districts in the state, each composed of several counties, Supreme Court races differ from political campaigns at the county or town levels.
The Third Judicial District is comprised of seven counties, as far north as Albany and Schoharie, and as far south as Ulster and Sullivan.
In September, party delegates from all assembly districts will gather for a judicial nominating convention, where the delegates select a party candidate.
With about 90 days left before party representatives choose a candidate, Massry said he intends to continue visiting each of the seven counties during his campaign.
Massry has been a lifelong resident of the Capital District, having been born in Troy and raised in Saratoga Springs. He has lived in Colonie for the last 19 years.
Before moving into law, Massry, a 1986 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, served as a Second Lieutenant and United States Army Aviator. He flew reconnaissance missions, first along the Korean De-Militarized Zone, then in Iraq during Desert Storm.
Massry eventually decided to trade in his fatigues for a suit and briefcase.
“When I attended West Point, I took two semesters of law, one semester of Constitutional Law and one of Military Law, and I found it fascinating,” Massry said.
One of his first assignments was with the Town of Colonie Attorney’s Office, spurring him to become the town’s prosecutor for three and a half years. From there, he pursued the chance to run for town justice.
“I found that to be an intriguing position, and I thought I would make a contribution in town court to improve accessibility in the town court,” said Massry, explaining that town courts are for the people. “It’s where the rubber meets the road.”
During his time as one of three part-time judges in Colonie, Massry said he and his fellow justices have worked to improve access to the court by ensure people can get in and get their cases heard.
Attorney Lincy Jacob said when Massry first started as a judge in Colonie, she had cases with a several-year lag between court appearances due to a congested calendar inherited from a previous judge.
With help of support staff, “In his term, he’s done a lot to clean up the lag, whatever it was that was holding the court system back,” said Jacob. Now, some cases are in and out within an hour, she said.
Massry and his fellow judges also implemented programs to help people caught up in the court system, said Massry. One such program gives first time shoplifters an opportunity to take a class to learn about the “adverse effect of shoplifting.” Once the class is completed, can have their criminal offense reduced.
Another supports Colonie’s youth court program, which allows 16- to 18-year-olds be taken out of the criminal justice system to be judged by their peers and perform community service.
“If they behave themselves,” said Massry, “the charges will go away.”
Along with his six years of judicial work in the Colonie Town Court, as well as years of community work, Massry said he has the experience and integrity to “render fair and just decisions.”
“One of the things I realize as a judge is good people make mistakes, and I try to be as compassionate as possible,” Massry said, “but I can also be tough when necessary.”