Bates, Frasher run unopposed for judge seats in Rensselaerville

RENSSELAERVILLE — Judges Muriel Frasher and Ronald Bates are the only town candidates on the ballot in Rensselaerville this November — an off year for town elections. They are running unopposed for re-election. Frasher was recently appointed and is still learning about her role as a judge, while Bates has been a judge for four years, following a career in law enforcement.

The terms are four years each and the part-time post pays $18,900 annually.

Muriel Frasher

Judge Muriel Frasher was appointed by the town board as a judge in late March after Justice Dwight Cooke resigned last December.

“It’s a huge learning curve,” she said, of adapting to her new role. The process of arraignments and trials involve many steps that need to be understood, she said.

Frasher retired at the beginning of this year from her 20-year career at the New York State Office of Mental Health’s fiscal division, where she oversaw hospitals and programs treating addiction and mental illness. Before that, she served on a YWCA board in Virginia and helped to start a battered women’s shelter in 1979.

After serving as a judge for the last five months, Frasher said that she has found her background has proved helpful in reading law and dealing with bureaucracy.

She said that she chose to run to keep her position because she feels it’s an important job.

“I think that it’s an important job, a very important job … ,” she said. “You’re affecting people’s lives.

As a judge, Frasher said she looks at factors and context in a case to help make her decision. She gave a hypothetical example of inquiring about someone’s driving record when he had been accused of a traffic violation.

“Everybody in front of you is an individual and you take that case, that individual, as that singular person,” she said.

Regarding current events such as the recently enacted first phase of the Raise the Age law, under which 16-year-old will no longer be tried as adults, as well as a shifting attitude on marijuana from the state government, Frasher said that these should be taken into account but that she has not had a case involving either.

“Certainly you’re going to put it into context,” she said. “Have I had to do one yet, no. But I would certainly look at [the case] in that context, that it does appear at this point that that law will change,” she said of the push to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

An enrolled Conservative, Frasher is running on the Conservative and Democratic lines.

“I would say I am fiscally conservative … ,” she said, recalling her time working in finances in state government. She added that she also aligns with some Democratic views.

“Government should not be making decisions that are part of a person’s personal life,” she said, adding that she believes this to be a Democratic stance but also a Conservative stance.

Speaking with The Enterprise in April, Frasher described as a “judgement call”  determining when she should recuse herself from a case if it involves someone she knows. Speaking to The Enterprise again in September, she said she hasn’t had to make such a decision yet.

Sometimes, she said, in dealing with the law, there are things that do not seem fair.

“You do your best to make it fair,” she said. “That’s where viewing each case individually comes in … It’s common sense and fairness.”

Ronald Bates

Judge Ronald Bates is running unopposed for the second time. He ran in 2014 after Timothy Miller declined to run again.

Bates has lived in Rensselaerville his entire life, and worked in law enforcement before deciding to continue his 25 years of work in the justice system by running for judge.

He first worked for the Albany County Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer; and then as a deputy sheriff, investigator, and senior investigator, before going back on patrol as a deputy sheriff. His father, Ronald K. Bates, was a deputy sheriff for 25 years and held several positions for the town’s government. His uncle, Randall Bates, is the town’s highway superintendent.

Bates earned praise in 2007 as a sheriff’s investigator, when he discovered a suspicious check that led to embezzlement charge for David R. Bryan, a former town supervisor who had stolen over $300,000 from a local church, library, and two historical societies.

In 2014, Bates, who did not returned calls for comment over the last two months, told The Enterprise that he wanted to be impartial and compassionate in his decision-making, emphasizing the use of community service, particularly for young offenders.

More Hilltowns News

  • In addition to $1 billion invested nationwide by the federal government, New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey announced a $5 million meat processing expansion grant, which aims to empower New York residents to open up meat-processing facilities at a time when farmers are reportedly having trouble finding any.

  • The 37-acre, 5-megawatt solar project proposed by RIC Energy received conditional approval from the Knox Planning Board last month as the town board works to negotiate a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement among the company, the county, and the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District.

  • The farmers’ market, which features a wide variety of vendors from the Hilltowns and beyond, will continue to be held each Wednesday through most of October from 4 until 7 p.m. at the Helderberg Lutheran Church, in Berne. 

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