OSWEGO — Schroeppel Town Justice Karen Brandt is about to earn a big promotion — one she’s been training for nearly her whole life — to sit in judgment for the next decade over Oswego County biggest criminal cases.
Barring major unforeseen changes, Brandt will take over for outgoing County Court Judge Donald E. Todd when the latter’s term expires Dec. 31. Brandt is running unopposed and appears on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party ballot lines. County court judges generally handle felony cases (where the charge carries a jail term of more than one year), the “hardest (attorneys and judges) have to deal with.”
“You’re weighing somebody’s guilt or innocence very seriously. It’s not jail for a day or two — this is several years in state prison,” Brandt told The Palladium-Times in a recent interview. The John C. Birdlebough High School grad (with stops at SUNY Oneonta and Syracuse University School of Law) has since worked as an attorney, mostly in family practice. Working “in my day job” as a town justice and support magistrate, she said, gives her the experience to capably take over from Todd.
“Judge Todd is a respected member of our community and I’m excited to be a part of the great judges we have already in this area,” she said. “I enjoy the debate and the wide range (of cases seen), and I certainly believe I’ve shown I’m a qualified candidate and willing to put in the time.”
Brandt is now on the cusp of becoming not just the first female Oswego County Court Judge, but also the first in the entire six-county Fifth Judicial District.
“We should be striving for these positions,” Brandt said, recalling her experience gained and lessons learned from an unsuccessful 2018 run for state Supreme Court.
“Going for it doesn’t always mean you’ll be successful,” she said. “The success was in running, having a can-do attitude and not wanting to give up. I had people encouraging me saying ‘you can do this’ and that’s why I’m able to do it this year.”
She cited Syracuse Family Court Judges Martha Walsh Hood and Martha Mulroy as major supporters, with Brandt saying she had been “very lucky” and the two Onondaga County women “were right there by my side, encouraging me to make these steps.”
“That’s one thing I hope to bring to this position — to show other female lawyers that it’s possible,” she said.
State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, is giving Brandt her full confidence and lauded her soon-to-be governmental colleague for having “dedicated her entire career to public service.”
“I know firsthand it takes a lot of courage, confidence and determination to run for office — especially for women,” Ritchie told The Pall-Times this week. “Through her campaign, and hopefully her being elected Oswego County Court Judge, Karen is not only continuing her tradition of public service, she’s also paving the way for other women to follow in her footsteps.”
County courts also have limited jurisdiction in civil cases involving amounts up to $25,000, according to the New York State Unified Court system. Terms are ten years long, and the salary is roughly $200,000. County courts also act as intermediate appellate courts, hearing appeals from city court and town and village courts within their county of jurisdiction.
Education: John C. Birdlebough High School, SUNY Oneonta and Syracuse University School of Law.
Family: Husband Scott Brown, father John W. Brandt a former Oswego County judge and attorney
Now: Schroeppel Town Justice, support magistrate Fifth Judicial District
Previously: Family law practicing attorney
Why she’s running: “I’m already do it in my day job and as a town judge, I get to (preside in court) a few nights a month, just doing local criminal matters. I enjoy the debate of the law and I’m looking to expand what I do now. Practicing child support law can be interesting and tedious, whether it’s county or superior court. County court deals with a wide range of things, ant excited to take on a new practice of law.”