Both the Orange County Court Judge and Family Court Judge positions are up for re-election this season.
County Court Judge Robert Freehill is retiring at the end of 2020, which opens his seat for election. Democrat Paul Trachte and Republican Hyun Chin Kim are running for the open County Court seat.
Trachte has three pillars that he stands behind which include equal justice, problem solving and supporting the community.
His background includes serving 26 years as a defense attorney and special prosecutor. Twenty four of the 26 years of practice have been in Orange County. Currently he is in his fifth year serving as a Judge on the Newburgh City Court. During his time he created a new specialty court in Newburgh, a wellness and recovery court, which focuses on mental health. In this court, those who are mentally ill can get the proper assistance they need rather than “ending up in jail.”
He “has the wellbeing of victims top of mind and is keenly aware how difficult it can be to testify.”
Trachte, if elected, hopes to bring the wellness and recovery court to the county level.
“There is a demand right now for social justice and part of development that is the need to develop and involve progressive judges,” said Trachte. “I have a very progressive approach politically as well as in the criminal justice system to work towards alleviating mass incarceration.”
His opponent Hyun Chin Kim has been an attorney for nearly 25 years. One of her first positions was at the Bronx district attorney’s office, where she was promoted to the trial division. She tried “all of the serious felony cases in the Bronx.”
She also practiced civil law for four years at a Hudson Valley law firm and worked at the Orange County Attorney’s office for 13 years where she made her way to being the chief assistant county attorney.
More recently, Kim serves as the court attorney for Orange County Court Judge William L. DeProspo and has been since 2018.
She has also served on the Critique Faculty within the New York State Bar Association’s Trial Advocacy Program at Cornell University School of Law.
She resides in Newburgh, although she is an immigrant who came here when she was three years old. Her family moved to Philadelphia originally, but Kim relocated to Orange County over twenty years ago with her husband, who is a fourth-generation Orange County resident.
If elected, Kim would be the first woman sitting as an Orange County Court Judge.
“I want to stress that I’m asking people to vote for me based on my qualifications because I do have extensive skills and legal knowledge that I do want to bring to the judiciary,” said Kim. “With that being said, if history is made by my election because I am the most qualified, I would be very proud of that as well.”
Family court judge
For the position of family court judge, Democrat Maria Patrizio is challenging the incumbent Republican Family Court Judge Carol Klein for re-election. The family court judge differs from the county court judge in that this judge makes decisions around foster care, where children are placed, divorce and other family-related issues.
Klein was first elected as Family Court Judge in 2000. She has served for two terms now. She describes her courtroom as “a place where the rights and protection of children come first, and each individual is treated with dignity and respect.”
Klein prioritizes not only knowing the person completely but also holds herself to being knowledgeable on the available programs that support children and families to help guide people to the best solutions.
During her time as Family Court Judge she has worked on the reform of Juvenile Justice through the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative. She is also an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court and heads Orange County’s Juvenile Treatment Court. Additionally, she started the Family Treatment Court.
Before serving as the Family Court Judge she served as the Town of Chester justice for 12 years. She has also been a Family Court civil prosecutor, defense attorney, child’s attorney and mediator.
“Family Court needs a judge who has the breadth of knowledge and diverse experience that I have,” said Klein. “Because we are in a pandemic, you need a judge who is tested and understands the complex needs of families out there. I’ve been there, I understand that.”
“Five years is a very long time,” said Klein. “On January 1st, I can continue doing exactly what I’m doing. I am not going to have any learning curves – I am ready to go. I know exactly what it takes to be on the bench and a Family Court Judge. I care about Orange County and it’s citizens.”
Opponent Patrizio is the current Family Court Supervising Attorney at Legal Aid. She has been a full-time Family Court attorney practicing exclusively in Orange County Family Court for the past 20 years. She has represented 5,000 clients. She is also the author of “Successfully Navigating Family Court in New York.”
With the many years of experience, she has “developed both the legal expertise and the empathy needed to make the best decisions for families in difficult situations.”
More personally, she is a single mother herself who has had to go through the divorce process and understands what it’s like to be a parent of two teenagers in this day in age. She believes that between her professional and personal experience she has all of the tools she needs to be the best Family Court Judge.
“Right now, the inefficiency in family court is a problem,” said Patrizio. “I think the judge sets the tone of the courtroom and if the judge is efficient, organized and prepared, everything moves along much better for the people who come into family court. If I’m elected, I will set a tone in my courtroom that does not tolerate nonsense.”
Patrizio is from the town of Wallkill.