Knox Election 2017: Jean Gagnon for town justice

Jean Gagnon

KNOX — Jean Gagnon, a Democrat, is running for town justice on the Democratic line. This will be her third time running the office in Knox.

“It’s very challenging, because laws are always changing … ,” said Gagnon, of her role as town justice. “Very challenging, but also very rewarding.”

Gagnon, 61, grew up on Long Island, and moved to Sherrill, in Oneida County, when she was 16. She moved to Knox in 1996.

“My husband and I had started a family … ,” she said. “We wanted a small town, a quiet, rural community.”

Gagnon owns a travel agency in Latham called Plaza Travel. She has been working in the travel business since 1971, and has been working at the company for the past 27 years, and bought it two years ago.

“That’s my day job,” she said.

As town justice, Gagnon said, it is especially rewarding to work on cases with youthful offenders.

“There’s an opportunity to redirect them,” she said. “Have a positive effect on them.”

She tries to take steps to prevent crimes by organizing assemblies at Berne-Knox-Westerlo, and talking about the effects of committing crimes, even small ones.

Gagnon said the parameters will change for youthful offenders as the law to raise the age for adult crime from 16 to 17 takes effect in 2018, and then 17 to 18 in 2019.

“It will affect everything down the line,” she said.

Gagnon said she uses community service in sentencing whenever possible, not just for children, but for adults as well, but she notes that every case is different and must be treated individually.

Gagnon oversees several different types of cases: crime, traffic, local civil cases, small claims, and processing arraignments.

Being available for arraignments means Gagnon must be available every hour of every day.

“It can be difficult … ,” she said, describing waking up at 3 a.m. in the winter to go to an arraignment. “But it’s very, very important.”

Gagnon said that she will recuse herself if there is a conflict of interest in a case.

“That’s one of the reasons why towns typically have two justices,” she said.

Gagnon said that her typical rule in deciding if it’s a conflict of interest is if she has ever had dinner at the person’s home or if the person before the bench has had dinner at hers.

“It’s always a judgement call,” she added.

Gagnon has no legal background, but since she was elected in 2005, she has received through the New York State Office of Court Administration 200 hours of mandatory training, and every year takes a 12-hour course.

She also visits the Albany County Correctional Facility yearly.

“You have to understand all aspects of sentencing … ,” she said. “If someone is in jail for a month, what does that entail?”

The most difficult case to deal with, she said, is any case involving children.

However, Gagnon’s favorite part of her job as judge is officiating weddings.

“That’s obviously the most joyful part of the job,” she said.

Gagnon has performed at over 50 ceremonies in her 12 years as judge, she said.

“It’s not just about being a fair and respectful judge,” she said, of her various duties and responsibilities.

Corrected on Oct. 13, 2017: The number of years that Jean Gagnon has worked for Plaza Travel was corrected from four to 27. Also, the word “attending” was replaced with “organizing” to describe Gagnon’s role in talking to students about crime at school assemblies.

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