CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated there are two open state Supreme Court seats to be contested on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. There are, in fact, two candidates each seeking the same one open position. The Palladium-Times regrets the error.
LOWVILLE — Republican Michael F. Young is one of two candidates seeking the sole open state Supreme Court seat in Oswego County’s judicial district, and he says his long history of litigation and public service make him an ideal candidate.
Young, 67, graduated from Lowville Academy and “stuck around,” as he says, as a litigator and elected official. He would serve eight years as Lewis County District Attorney, an experience he said gave him a chance to do a little bit of everything.
“When you’re a small county district attorney, you’re bouncing back and forth between being at the office by yourself, doing trial work, doing criminal work — I have that experience,” Young said in a recent interview with The Palladium-Times. Young returned to private practice in 2008, but working on behalf of his hometown is his real second career.
A dedicated member of the Lowville Central School District, BOCES and local hospital boards, Young is an Elk, a Lion, a coach and the public address announcer for high school sports games among many other community responsibilities.
“I learned from my grandfather, who wanted to help people and do the right thing,” said Young of his father’s father, Fred Young. Fred Young served as a judge, state Assemblyman and state Senator. Mike Young fondly remembers accompanying his grandpa to Albany on business, beginning a long career in democracy.
Supreme Court campaigns can be difficult for candidates, as judicial hopefuls are prohibited from taking stances on specific issues due to the possibility a case dealing with that issue may someday come before them.
“People come up and ask me my opinion on X, Y and Z — the other day it was the Second Amendment — people want to know but I can’t tell them,” Young said. “I tell them I’m going to apply the law, and I have the experience to bring fair and equal justice to all citizens.”
One subplot to this and each Supreme Court contest is the issue of where the judges are located. Traditionally, Supreme Court justices hear cases in their county of residence (Volney’s Scott DelConte, for example, would ideally hear only Oswego County cases) but changing times have brought changing priorities. Young pointed directly to the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, where justices from Monroe and Erie counties (respectively) dominate their judicial districts.
“For those of us who practice outside Syracuse, we like to have the availability of judges in our neck of the woods,” Young said. “We can go to the courthouse to get an order to show cause, or any other order, and we don’t have to go all the way to Syracuse.”
Young said the Fifth Judicial District (which includes Oswego, Onondaga, Lewis, Herkimer, Jefferson and Oneida counties) is well served by having judges “spread out” and he believes candidates should “try to keep” that unwritten arrangement “so we all have a judge.” Young’s opponent, Democrat Rory McMahon, is an Onondaga County native.
This isn’t Young’s first attempt at a Supreme Court seat after an unsuccessful run in 2011. He says “everything’s gone digital” this time around, and it’s a challenge to campaign under both the political strictures for justice candidates and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m used to going door to door, meeting people, having a conversation and connecting with them,” Young said. “Now it’s all based on digital advertising.”
“It’s different,” he added, not without a hint of disdain.
That old-school style is part of what makes up his appeal, Young said, describing himself as a “common sense, straightforward person.”
“Forty-two years practicing law has given me the opportunity to see a broad range of things and I’ll bring a broad perspective to the bench,” he said. “I’m not from the big city, and I’ve had a good chance to touch on a lot of areas. Am I an expert? No, not even close, but I have the knowledge and I’ve worked at all the different levels.”
Election Day is Nov. 3.