‘We can have strong women in all these roles’ Karen Brandt Brown becomes first female Oswego County Court Judge

Above, Oswego County Court Judge Karen Brandt Brown (left) takes her oath of office Saturday administered by her father, former judge John W. Brandt (right) while husband Scott Brown holds the Bible.

PHOENIX — Schroeppel’s Karen Brandt Brown was sworn in over the weekend as Oswego County Court Judge, becoming the first woman in the history of  Oswego County and the surrounding area to serve as a countywide magistrate.

In a limited-audience ceremony live streamed on Facebook Saturday, the new judge thanked her family and supporters who were “100 percent” behind her during an “unprecedented” election year.

“This is a goal I’ve been working on pretty much my entire adult life,” said Brandt Brown after taking the oath of office administered by her father, John W. Brandt, himself a former Oswego County judge and attorney.

In remarks after being sworn in, Brandt Brown said she was keenly aware of the significance of her election, and was “very excited to serve.”

“I’m not only the first female county court judge in Oswego County, but the first in the entire district,” she said, referring to the Fifth Judicial District (comprised of Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida, Herkimer, Lewis and Jefferson counties), which serves as the  the administrative region of New York courts for the area.

“It’s important to show that we can have strong women in all these roles,” she said. “I am so proud that our county is the first to show the rest of central New York that we can do it.”

Brandt Brown said she “could not have gotten through” the electoral process without help and specifically recognized her husband, Scott Brown.

“I asked (my husband) if he was ready to give up the next three years of our lives, and he said ‘yup, no question,’” Judge Brandt Brown said, also noting how the Oswego County Republican Committee “rallied around me” to meet the challenges raised by running for office in 2020.

For the first time, designating petitions for candidates for office were due in March instead of the usual June deadline. That meant going door-to-door for signatures in the snow and cold of the Oswego County winter instead of the normal summertime conditions — mix in the added burden of campaigning under COVID-19 conditions, and it was a tough road but one Oswego County’s newest justice  said was well worth it.

“I want to thank my mom and dad and sisters,” Brandt Brown said before addressing her family directly. “Did you ever think I’d be up here?”

“Yes!” came an immediate reply from the small but enthusiastic audience.

Brandt Brown replaces retiring Oswego County Court Judge Donald Todd. Her first day officially on the job was Monday.

County court judges in New York handle mainly criminal cases, often presiding over  felonies (crimes that carry a jail sentence of one year or more). When a defendant is accused of committing an offense that rises above the level of a misdemeanor (crimes that carry a jail sentence of less than one year), those cases are often adjourned to Oswego County Court from the town or village court in which the defendant was originally charged.

The court works closely with the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office and defense attorneys during cases and, in the event it occurs, a trial.

County courts also have limited jurisdiction in civil cases involving amounts up to $25,000. The salary for a New York County Court Judge is roughly $200,000.

A graduate of Phoenix’s John C. Birdlebough High School, Brandt Brown is a Schroeppel native who holds degrees from SUNY Oneonta and the Syracuse University School of Law.

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