Sandy Church, with experience and respect from peers, is best choice to be next county judge

Posted 3 November 2017 at 9:39 am


Of particular importance to every resident of Orleans County is the race for County Court Judge. Sanford “Sandy” Church, a lifelong resident of Albion and a fifth-generation attorney, is the Republican endorsed candidate seeking the ten year term, while Tonia Ettinger, an attorney from Ontario County, will appear on the ballot on the Democratic and Conservative lines.

Retired County Court Judge Jim Punch set the judicial bar high during his 27 years of service on the bench. As the longest serving judge in the history of this County, he presided over thousands of cases during his tenure, displaying a broad knowledge of substantive and procedural law while rendering timely, well reasoned and often gut wrenching decisions.

Like some of his contemporaries in other rural counties across New York, Jim presided over four courts – County, Family, Supreme and Surrogates – and juggled those responsibilities efficiently and effectively. To say that he will be a hard act to follow would be a gross understatement.

In a recent letter to the editor, the writer suggests that Ms. Ettinger “will bring a much-needed change from the establishment of almost three decades.” That is exactly what this County doesn’t need, and the primary reason why the Orleans County Bar Association as a whole, and sixteen of my colleagues, with over 400 years of collective experience as practicing attorneys, have joined me in endorsing Sandy Church for Orleans County Judge. Simply put, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There is no question that Sandy is the right person for the job. Like Judge Punch, he is a life-long resident of Orleans County. Born and raised in Albion, Sandy attended Wake Forest University, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and Duke Law School, a top ten institution where he was a member of Law Review.

With these impressive academic credentials, Sandy could have written his own ticket with a big city law firm, but it was always his intention to return to his roots. True to his word, Sandy came back to Albion, where he continues to run the Church & Church law office and is a pillar of the community. To my knowledge, Ms. Ettinger has never had an office in Orleans County and rarely appears in court here. If her local connection is so strong, why does she live two counties away, why isn’t she a member of the Orleans County Bar Association, and why did she run for judge in Monroe County last fall?

Because the majority of the cases that our County Judge presides over are criminal and Family Court matters, experience in those areas of the law is essential. The courtroom is no place for on the job training. As a former Orleans County Assistant District Attorney, Orleans County Public Defender for the past 20 years and a Family Court practitioner for 30 years, including 17 years of service as guardian for the child, Sandy has been a fixture in the Courthouse, handling thousands of cases ranging from routine to complex.

If one were to poll the attorneys who have thrown their support behind Sandy, I daresay that every one of them would respond that there is no better qualified candidate for Orleans County Judge. With all due respect to Ms. Ettinger, there is simply no way that she has acquired the broad base of knowledge and experience in her 13 years of practice that Sandy has accumulated in his 32 years of service. It is no coincidence that most attorneys who ascend to judicial positions in courts of record are well seasoned, with years of experience in myriad areas of the law under their belts.

The residents of Orleans County, the individuals appearing in court as defendants, victims, litigants, witnesses and jurors, and the attorneys who make their living practicing law in Orleans County, deserve to have a County Judge with the knowledge, experience and temperament that the position demands.

While there will be two names on the ballot next week,  there is only one viable choice for County Court Judge – Sandy Church. He has earned, and is deserving of, your vote.

Jeffrey R. Martin