Bitter battle continues between Napierski and Clenahan, Chesley joins the fray

GUILDERLAND — Three candidates are vying for one town justice post in a hotly contested race.

The open seat is to replace Richard Sherwood, who was arrested by the New York State Attorney General’s Office in February, charged with stealing millions of dollars from family trusts he oversaw in his work as a private attorney.

Christine Napierski was unanimously appointed in April by the town board to fill out the remainder of Sherwood’s term. She bested 13 other candidates — all of them lawyers — including the Democratic candidate, Bryan Clenahan, and the Republican candidate, Stephen Chesley.

But in June, the Guilderland Democratic Committee unanimously backed Clenahan instead. Clenahan secured the party line at the Democratic caucus, a process Napierski had challenged in federal court, alleging that the caucus was designed to favor the committee’s candidate and stating that she had been told by a number of prominent Democrats to step aside in favor of Clenahan if she ever wanted to hold office in Guilderland in the future.

Accusations swirled when Napierski refused to step down: an untended speeding ticket had led to Napierski’s driver’s license being suspended, and the state had issued three years’ worth of tax warrants to Clenahan, in 2001, 2003, and 2013.

So Napierski is running on the Conservative Party line, trying to keep her job as judge. She is being challenged by Clenahan on the Democratic, Independence, Working Families, and Women’s Equality lines and by Chesley on the Republican and Reform Party lines.

Napierski’s husband, Tony Siracusa, is organizing a Town Justice Community Forum; details on format, time, place, and moderator were still being worked out at press time. Chesley has agreed to take part. Clenahan had not responded to Siracusa as of press time.

Guilderland is primarily Democratic. The town has 22,967 registered voters, of whom 16,898 are enrolled in a party. Forty percent of the affiliated voters, or 9,338, are Democrats. Twenty-four percent, or 5,618, are Republicans.

Five percent, or 1,295, are members of the Independence Party, while 2 percent, or 510, are affiliated with the Conservative Party. Other small parties each have less than 1 percent of the registered voters.

Clenahan told The Enterprise on Oct. 25, the day that Siracusa started to try to organize the forum, “In any debate, we’d really be able only to talk about our qualifications. I’ve been doing that, at people’s doors, since June. I think it’s important to go to the people, rather than candidates summoning the people to them.”

He added, “In general, I’m supportive of debates, but in a judge race, we can’t really do that. The judicial campaign rules are clear that we can only talk about our experience and qualifications, and vision for the court.” He is always available, Clenahan said, to discuss those matters.

Guilderland has three justices, each serving in alternating weeks to handle court, arraignments, and trials, and to be on call 24 hours a day. The third position was created in 2013 after data had shown the court to be the third-busiest in Albany County.

The candidate who wins on Nov. 6 will serve for four years, beginning Jan. 1. The part-time post pays $53,760 annually.

The other Guilderland justices are:

— John Bailey, whose term is up at the end of 2019 and who told The Enterprise this week he doesn’t know if he’ll run for re-election, and

— Denise Randall, who is the mother-in-law of Bryan Clenahan; since 2016, Clenahan has worked, of counsel, for the law firm owned by Randall and her husband. Denise Randall’s term runs through the end of 2021.

Chesley says that, if he is unsuccessful this year, and if Bailey steps down, he would be very interested in running for Bailey’s seat next year. “Judge Bailey’s a good judge,” Chesley said, “so if he decides to stay on, I don’t think I’d try to oppose him. But if his seat became vacant, I would definitely be interested in running to succeed him.”

In July, when Napierski challenged the Democratic caucus, she testified in court that party leaders told her, had she quietly stepped aside now, the party had been working on a campaign to have Clenahan become judge next year when Bailey retired but, because she had spoken out, “that deal was never going to happen.”

Napierski and Clenahan are spending far more on this race than is typical for Guilderland town judge elections, and each is raising many times more than Chesley. Napierski had raised $16,447.26 as of Aug. 20; Clenahan had raised $13,578 as of Oct. 17; and Chesley had raised $2,300 as of Oct. 2, according to information from the New York State Board of Elections.

The Enterprise asked the three candidates these questions:

— Background: What is your background, and what are your qualifications? What makes you want to run for town justice?

— Philosophy: What is, or would be, your judicial philosophy? What are the most important principles you adhere to?

— Time commitment: Are you able to meet the time commitment involved in working nearly full-time as a judge every third week?

— Repeat offenders: How do you or would you treat repeat offenders, those people who might become familiar from appearing again and again in your courtroom? Do you think it’s OK to give harsher punishments to repeat offenders?

— Recusal: Guilderland is a small town, and people you know might sometimes come before you. In what kinds of cases would you recuse yourself?

— Raise the Age: On Oct. 1, 2018, the first phase of the Raise the Age law took effect in New York State, as the state no longer treats 16-year-olds as adults. Next October, the law will phase in 17-year-olds. Does this change affect the way you view younger offenders, such as 17-year-olds, in the meantime?

— Community service: What are your thoughts on giving community service instead of jail time?

— Bail: Judges have a lot of discretion with bail — whether to set it, and at how much. What are some of the factors that go into deciding these questions?

— Temperament: What is a judicial temperament, and do you have one?

— Personal life: Can you tell me anything about your family or personal life?


Stephen Chesley

Republican candidate Stephen Chesley has known since high school that he wanted to be a lawyer and a judge, he said. “One of my closest friends growing up was the son of the town justice, and I always had the greatest respect for his father.”

He added, “Interestingly enough, over the last winter, I was thinking long and hard as to when I would make a run for the position.” Then circumstances “prematurely opened up a spot on the Guilderland bench and I saw that as my calling,” he said.

“I want to be the Guilderland town justice because that’s how I can use my skills and training to contribute toward keeping Guilderland a safe and desirable community for everyone,” he said.

Chesley is a partner with the law firm of Sullivan Keenan Oliver and Violando in Albany. It’s a small firm, he said, with just six attorneys, but “technically the longest continuously-operating law firm in Albany.”

The general-practice firm handles various types of litigation, many related to contract disputes or injuries, and its attorneys appear in courts across New York State, including town courts, said Chesley. The firm’s attorneys also appear on behalf of clients before administrative agencies, most commonly the unemployment bureau and the New York State Workers Compensation Board.

The firm does a lot of work related to contract disputes and injuries, Chesley said. His firm is unique, he said, in that it represents both employers and employees, but he finds that he has so many employers among his clients that he tends to have conflicts of interest that prevent him from representing many injured parties. He also handles some criminal matters, he said.

He attended New York University for his undergraduate degree and then graduated from New York Law School.

Several early experiences prepared him for working in criminal law and continue to assist him in his private practice, he said.

One was an internship in the Queens Legal Aid Society, during his undergraduate years. In Queens, he said, “They don’t have public defenders — they contract with the Legal Aid Society.” He got a lot of insight, he said, from this first experience in a courtroom.

He described it as “a unique opportunity to be assigned to one attorney two or three days a week and participate in everything they did, which included traveling to jail to interview clients, handling trials, and seeing them through to judgment if the parties did not reach a settlement.”

He does not do a lot of criminal law but, when he does, he is “well prepared to take it all the way to trial, if necessary.”

During law school, he completed the “intense training” to become a certified mediator through the New York City civil-court system and worked as a mediator in the New York City equivalent of a small-claims court, he said. There, parties involved in disputes could work with a mediator before appearing before a judge, he said. This experience taught him “that every story has two sides” as he literally went back and forth between the separate rooms where the opposing parties waited.

Training in mediation has assisted Chesley, he said, “in resolving disputes through agreement as opposed to forcing a decision.”

He added, “Certainly a judge can’t force the parties to agree. But you can certainly facilitate a forum where it’s permissible to resolve issues amicably and by agreement.”

His courtroom philosophy would be, he said, “Fairness.” He added, “I hope you would get the same answer from the other candidates as well. That’s what someone should expect from any judge.”

Chesley continued, “There are a host of issues for which you might appear in town court: vehicle and traffic violations, small claims court, there’s a limited landlord-tenant role there, and every one of those requires a town judge who is entirely impartial and entirely fair, and who is only looking to interpret the law as it’s written, and not legislate from the bench.”

In criminal law, Chesley noted, he has never worked for a prosecutor, and so has “never had the opportunity to prosecute, only defend.”

The role of a judge, he said, “is to not take sides, and apply the law equally.”

Chesley said, about recusal, that he believes he could be fair and impartial, “regardless of who’s in front of me,” but that he also believes that every time there’s the appearance of a conflict, it has to be resolved.

He has appeared on behalf of clients before judges with whom he’s had a personal, long-standing relationship, who have opted to recuse themselves. He can appreciate that, he said, “because you don’t want any party in a civil or criminal proceeding to think that the cards might be stacked against them.”

He gave examples of cases in which he believes he would or would not recuse himself.

He said that, if his next-door neighbor came to court after receiving a uniform traffic ticket and had worked out an agreement with a prosecutor, he did not think he would recuse himself. On the other hand, if his next-door neighbor came before him in a small-claims dispute with another party, he would recuse himself.

“One of those parties, whether justified or not, thinks they have reason to believe the cards might be stacked against them,” he said. “In that case, there’s an appearance of a conflict, and recusal is, I think, the best option.”

Chesley said that he is prepared to take on the time commitment of the town-justice position.

“Before I expressed an interest in this position to the board, I cleared it with my [law firm] partners, who all support me in this endeavor. They understand that there might be some impact,” he said. He added that he lives within five minutes of the courthouse, and that anyone interested in this position “has to be willing to make themselves available as required when they’re on call, and I can do that.”

Chesley said that he would try to answer the question about community service, but that candidates need to be careful about making any pledges or promises.

“I’m a huge believer that community service, when appropriate, is a good alternative to detention or incarceration.”

The goal, he said, is not to punish defendants, but to correct bad behavior.

“And if you have someone before you without a history who may have taken the wrong path, with regret or remorse, integrating them with their community through community service will put them back on the right path. And I think incarceration may not get the same results.”

In that kind of case, community service may benefit the individual more than jail time, and might have the effect of making that person “less likely to show up before the town court in the future in the same or a similar offense.”

Chesley said that he thinks it is good that judges have some discretion about community service, depending on the sentencing guidelines and whether it’s permitted.

He added that the degree of the crime and whether or not there are victims are things that have to be considered as well.

With regard to Raise the Age, he said that impending changes “can’t” influence the way he would treat younger defendants. “You’re talking about prosecutorial discretion, which the judge doesn’t have.”

If a district attorney wants to prosecute differently because of changes that are on the horizon, that’s not something a judge has the discretion to do,” he said. “I can just assure you that that’s not the role of the judge. Judges have to abide by statutes,” he said.

Asked about whether he might treat repeat offenders more harshly than others, Chesley said, “I think that a judge has to utilize sentencing guidelines. If you are a repeat offender and it happens to be the same offense, the potential for incarceration or a higher fine is there. It is provided for in the guidelines.”

Chesley said that the purpose of bail is to ensure that a defendant “continues to participate in the proceedings.” A lot of factors go into deciding whether a defendant is likely to return: “ties to the community, including employment, family, basically any reason to keep that person there; you don’t want them to have a flight risk.”

A judge would set bail when defendants cannot simply be released on their own and when a judge has reason to believe they may not return, he said.

The important point, though, said Chesley, is that an arraignment is not a trial. “There’s no evidence presented; they’re just pleading guilty or not guilty. When it comes to bail, you’re not doing anything except saying, ‘What do I need to do to make sure that this defendant is here for the next scheduled court date?’”

Chesley described the way he views a judicial temperament, saying, “A judge should be sensible, responsible, understanding that the issues before you are very important to all parties involved. Everyone gets a chance to be heard if they want to be, and everyone’s voice needs to be considered by a judge. I know I’ll give equal consideration to all parties involved.”

Chesley added that the backlog in traffic cases in Guilderland Town Court is a major problem that needs to be addressed. He said he has one client right now who was given a traffic ticket in the middle of August, sent in a not-guilty plea on Aug. 17, and received a return date of April 29, 2019. “Eight-and-a-half months,” he said.

He added, “I mean, you go to the dentist’s office, they’re going to schedule like that, too, but they’re going to call you a week before, and remind you. You miss your court appointment eight-and-a-half months later, and your driver’s license is going to be suspended, and it will go to trial.”

It’s in the best interests of everyone to move things along faster than that, he said: “For the defendant, for the police officer, who potentially might have to give testimony about something that happened eight-and-a-half months earlier.”

It might not be a bad idea, with traffic court, to add another night, Chesley said, and also encourage people to come early “so maybe they can try to resolve things.”

Some courts, he said, announce that the prosecutor is available for an hour before court, to talk with anyone who wants to try to resolve their cases. He asked, “Why wouldn’t we do that?”

He also said there should be more information available on the town website, for traffic violations only, about what defendants can do “to try to resolve these matters by agreement.”

There is hardly any information on Guilderland’s website, he said, about what a defendant should do. “You should have the ability to make payment online,” he said. “A stronger online presence might facilitate less and less stress on the court.”

Chesley was born and raised in East Greenbush.

It was after law school that he came to Guilderland and started a family, he said.

When he graduated from law school, he and his wife, Lucy Chesley, who is a high-school teacher in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake district, bought a house in Woodscape, in McKownville.

As their family grew, they moved to the Fort Hunter area of Guilderland, where they now live.

They have two children, a daughter, Jolene, 3, and a son, Stephen, “born 2 months after we bought our house in Fort Hunter,” nearly 2.


Bryan Clenahan

Bryan Clenahan has been an attorney for over 21 years, he said, after graduating from Albany Law School in 1996.

“Over those years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get experience in lots of different areas — criminal law, landlord-tenant, real estate, litigation, Workers Compensation Law, and other areas of litigation,” he said.

He has had direct experience in Guilderland Town Court, as well as experience in most of the city, town, and village courts in the area, he said.

He was town prosecutor in Guilderland before he was elected to the Albany County Legislature. He says that he prosecuted “probably thousands of vehicle-and-traffic law and violation cases.”   

“I proudly served as both the Town Prosecutor and the Zoning Counsel in Guilderland Town Court. In those positions, I gained great familiarity with the tremendous work of and tremendous demands upon our Town Justices,” Clenahan wroe in an email to The Enterprise, answering the question of why he wants to be town justice.

“I really gained a sense of how vital the work of the Court is to our community and how much of a crucial and positive impact our Justices can have …., he went on. “With everything that is going on in our country, it’s more important than ever for us to focus locally and make sure justice, fairness, compassion, and respect for the law are part of the fabric of our community.”

Clenahan said he has also written several laws, including the medical marijuana law and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

He has also worked on criminal justice reform issues, he said: discovery reform, bail and pretrial-detention reform, and speedy-trial guarantee reform. It will fall to municipal courts to enact those changes, he added.

In terms of bail reform, he explained, “There have been many cases of bail being used to pass judgment before trial. It’s created a two-tier system that is unfair to economically-challenged defendants.”

The concept of a constitutional right to a speedy trial “has struggled in New York State,” Clenahan said. “We need to really work hard to make sure criminal cases proceed to trial without unreasonable delay, and people are not held for long periods of time.”

New York State has one of the most restrictive discovery processes in the country, Clenahan said. “The ability for information to be withheld, usually from the defendant’s side, is wider than I think reasonable.” He looks forward to reforms, he said, “but, until that happens, city, town, and village justices are going to have to make sure there’s as much fairness, openness, and transparency in the discovery process as possible.”

Since coming to Guilderland more than 21 years ago, Clenahan has had a “real commitment to public service,” he said. He has served in the county legislature for 11 years; he has served on the zoning board as a member, counsel, and chairman; and he has been town prosecutor. He also was a member of the town’s Conservative Advisory Council, he said.

He has been on the boards of several not-for-profits: Boys and Girls Club of Albany and the Albany Community Action Partnership, serving on its Head Start council. He is also a member of the Irish American Heritage Museum board, he said.

If he is elected judge, he will “certainly step down from the county legislature,” Clenahan said. And he plans to resign from his position as counsel to New York State Senator Diane Savino, he said, “so I can concentrate on being a judge and working on my law practice here in Guilderland.”

He will be, Clenahan said, “easily available for court all the time.”

His judicial philosophy would be, he said, to always be compassionate to people, but strong on issues of justice. That would mean, he said, helping people to try to get back on a good track when possible, and trying to enforce justice when necessary.

Good examples would be, Clenahan said, the work that some local courts have done working with veterans who have real post-deployment readjustment issues and have wound up in the court system. “We can, when appropriate, use a veteran-court type of system as an alternative to get counseling or other help they need to get their lives back on track,” he said.

He said he can envision the same kind of approach with people struggling with opioid addiction — ”where appropriate, I would like to use drug-court types of systems as an alternative, to get people the help they need to beat their addictions.”

These will not always be appropriate, Clenahan said, but he feels that, during his time in public service, and especially his time as the town prosecutor, he developed his ability to read and understand people and make good judgments about when diversionary programs are appropriate.

One of his first priorities, he said, in the county legislature, has been “to defend and support the Crime Victims and Sexual Violence Center in Albany County.” He went on, “In my first term in the legislature, there was a major effort to close and/or downsize or privatize the center. I led the fight against that, and we restored the center, in its full capacity and full range of services in the county budget.

“And a few years ago, as part of charter reform, I proposed making the center a permanent part of the county government by putting it into the county charter. That was successful, and now there will never be a concern that the center won’t be there.”

Clenahan said that he “would be looking to greatly increase the role of the Crime Victims and Sexual Violence Center in our town court, and prioritize giving support to crime victims throughout the court process.”

He looks forward to bringing the center “much more into the Guilderland Town Court,” he said. Ways that he might do this would be to make sure all crime victims are aware of the services the center provides, and are able to contact them.

“I can also envision,” Clenahan said, “crime center representatives being at court and having more of a presence.”

Another priority for Clenahan, he said, is animal protection. “I wrote and passed a law to create an animal-abuser registry, and I also wrote and passed a law that established very strong health-and-safety standards for pet stores and pet breeders in Albany County.”

In court, Clenahan said, he would like to use these laws “to a much greater degree, and provide much greater protection of animals.”

He will “absolutely” be available any time that he is on call as a town justice. He says he can be in court in “probably 5 or 10 minutes.”

He has the ability to schedule trials and hearings during the day in the weeks that he is not on call, he said.

About repeat offenders, Clenahan said that any situation must be determined on each individual set of facts. “I think it would be very fact-driven on the particulars of each case. But the law does allow for that, in certain cases, and I can envision certain cases where that would be appropriate.”

About recusal, Clenahan said that, in any case where he was particularly familiar with any of the parties — “certainly friends or family, and possibly in cases involving acquaintances also” — he would “err on the side of caution” in recusing himself, “to truly guarantee fairness of the process.”

He said that that dovetails with his judicial philosophy. “One of the most overarching things is we have to make sure everyone who comes to court believes they will have a fair hearing,” he said.

“I think that the reform that has been pursued by the state is a good idea,” Clenahan said about Raise the Age, adding, “I think it will lead to increased fairness.”

He said, “I think it will still fall to judges to use their discretion, exercise their compassion, and enforce justice when appropriate.”

Community service can be “a tremendous benefit,” in the appropriate circumstances, Clenahan said. He added, “I used it a lot when I was town prosecutor.”

It has two benefits, he said. A lot of important work gets done for the community and for not-for-profit organizations, and, for the defendant, it can have a positive effect as well: “I have seen a lot of cases where they really saw the value of that work, and really came to enjoy that work.”

In terms of setting bail, Clenahan said, there has to be fairness and an overall understanding of the purpose of bail, “which is to guarantee appearance in court.”

Clenahan said that, in some courts — he did not believe this had happened in Guilderland Town Court — ”there have been cases where bail has been used as a pre-trial means of jailing.” He continued, “The concept of ‘innocent until guilty’ is one of the bedrocks of our society, and the setting of bail has to comport with that.

“That being said,” he added, “we have to recognize that actual threats to public safety have to be addressed.”

Clenahan said that he does have a judicial temperament, which he describes as “tremendous patience, strong compassion, but also a dedication to the concept of justice.”

All of those traits need to be exercised with a strong sense of judgment, he said, adding that he believes he has that, from his years in public service and his years as town prosecutor.

He added that a good judge “also has to have a strong work ethic, a willingness to work hard.” The position of town justice is challenging and requires a lot of preparation and familiarity with many issues and concepts, he said.

“I’m certainly willing to work hard and show the work ethic required to be an effective judge,” he said.

Clenahan grew up in Albany; his family moved to North Bethlehem when he was 18. They lived, he said, on “the last street before the Guilderland border.”

He then moved to Guilderland just after he finished law school. His mother still lives in North Bethlehem, he said; his father died four years ago.

Randall is 47, and married to psychiatrist Griffan Randall.

“My parents were tremendously supportive and a huge factor in a lot I’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. He added, “My wife is also incredibly supportive.”

His in-laws are “also wonderful and very supportive,” he said of Denise Randall — one of Guilderland’s three town justices — and her husband, Bob Randall; the Randalls are attorneys and have their own law practice, the Randall Law Firm, in Guilderland.


Christine Napierski

Christine Napierski has practiced law for 28 years.

A graduate of Syracuse University and Albany Law School and a member of the bar in New York State, she opened her own law firm with her father and brother and another partner. “We  have since grown that practice,” she said, “to where we now have a dozen lawyers —  22 employees in total.”

In her private practice, she does civil litigation, which means that she tries cases in Supreme Court, the bottom rung of the state’s three-tiered court system. “I’ve tried jury trials all over the state of New York,” she said, “throughout the Capital District, and west to Utica, Syracuse, upstate to Plattsburgh, Greene County, Columbia County — all throughout the 3rd Judicial District and in parts of the 4th Judicial District.”

She understands litigation, she says, having handled “numerous complex personal-injury cases, wrongful deaths, medical malpractice, also general-liability, car accidents, slip-and-falls.” She has argued appeals in the Appellate Division — the state’s middle-level — many times.

Napierski said has a lot of experience in litigation and appeals.

“I have a deep understanding of our law and our legal system,” Napierski said, “and I think that makes me the most qualified candidate of the three running to be Guilderland Town Justice.”

Also, in her early years, she served as an intern in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office for a couple of years, she said. “That gave me a nice background in criminal law, which of course I use a lot now as the current town judge.”

Her judicial philosophy centers on fairness and impartiality, she said.

“I hear everyone,” she said, adding, “I hear both sides of every argument. I let the lawyers make their arguments in full.”

She demands that attorneys be respectful of the court and court personnel; she also thinks it’s important to be respectful to the attorneys, she said, and “not let them off the hook — but they’re there representing their clients, and they should have their say.”

She also thinks, she said, that everyone should be prepared and ready to go, to move cases forward.

“Preparation is nine-tenths of the battle. If everyone knows their file and knows the law, then we get things done and can move things faster,” she said.

“And we work hard,” she continued. “We have great lawyers on both sides in Guilderland Town Court. People work hard, and they advocate vigorously on each side. And I think we do a good job in Guilderland Town Court.

“I just want to emphasize how important I think it is to be fair and impartial. I consider myself to be a very impartial and fair person to everyone — I treat everyone equally, and I give everyone a fair hearing. And I don’t prejudge anyone in my courtroom.”

Napierski said she has already had to recuse herself on a couple of cases. “I don’t want to discuss specifics,” she said, “but yes, when you know an individual, or someone knows your family, has a close association, then you can’t be impartial. You have to recuse yourself.”

But recusal is not a problem since there are three town justices, she said.

“It’s not an issue — just transfer it to another judge’s calendar. And you’re right, it is a small town, so from time to time, you’re going to run into people that you know.”

Would she treat repeat offenders more harshly?

“No, no, I treat everyone fairly and believe every case is different,” she said. “Every case should be judged individually, so no, no. I don’t feel that way at all.

“Everyone is treated fairly, and everyone is judged on the facts of the case, and I interpret the law as I see it,” she said. “Certainly if they violate their sentencing, and it’s an appropriate sentence — but yes, I treat every case, every person, individually.”

Asked about impending changes under Raise the Age, Napierski said, “I can’t really comment on how I would treat anyone who would come forward. A judge would not do that, should not do that. I follow the law. I just follow the letter of the law. If it says 16-year-olds are to be transferred to Family Court, then that’s what I do.”

Regarding community service, Napierski started out by saying that she could not say what she would do in any particular circumstance. “That would be wrong and unethical, and I would be censured for that.”

But she said that community service is an appropriate sentence in some cases. It is often given for petty offenses like marijuana possession or failure to pay fines. Rather than having people break their sentence by not paying a fine, she said, and then sending the police out to arrest them on a bench warrant — “which uses up the resources of our police and then uses up the resources of our courts to bring them in again” — community service is a “satisfactory sentence that punishes them, and it also does something good for the community,” she said.

“Community service is a way for people to pay back the community for what they’ve done; it holds them accountable,” she said, adding that this is preferable in some cases to putting people in jail, “which makes them lose their jobs, and causes all kinds of havoc with their families and their jobs.”

Decisions about community service are made on a case-by-case basis and take into account recommendations of the prosecutor, she said.

Napierski said bail is not a punishment.

“There are very specific factors involved in deciding a bail amount,” she said. “Bail is set only to keep people coming back to court. I only have authority to set reasonable bail. The factors are whether someone has a connection to the community, whether they’re going to come back and return to court, whether they have family in the area to make sure they come back to court — those are the things you have to consider.”

Under Criminal Procedure Law, Napierski said, other factors to consider include a defendant’s habits and mental condition, as well as employment and financial condition. She explained, “If someone is poor, you cannot set a very excessive bail that would keep them in jail forever.” She named other conditions, including length of residence in the community, criminal record, and whether they’ve ever missed court before.

About bail, she said, “It’s to ensure that they return for their court appearance.” She reiterated, “It’s not meant as a form of punishment.”

Napierski talked about improvements that she would like to see in the court system, “not just in the town of Guilderland, but everywhere.”

She believes mental-health courts “would be a big help in our community.”

Right now, she said, “individuals with mental health issues come before the court and there’s very little that can be done to ensure that they’re going to return and get into treatment.” She believes that “mental-health court would be very important to support these individuals, make sure they are held accountable, and also get them into treatment and get them appropriate sentences, in order to prevent future re-offense.

“I think that’s the future,” she said, “and should be looked at, along with youth courts and drug courts. I’d love to see something like that happen in Guilderland as well.”

Guilderland’s traffic court could use some modernization and upgrading she said. “At our traffic court, people wait all night sometimes.” These changes, she said, “are things that I, as town judge, would work very hard to bring.”

People don’t always know, she said, that they can take care of these matters by mail or by email. More information on a website might be needed, she said, along with a better way to pay fines.

“The credit-card machine is just not up to capacity for such a large town. It’s kind of frustrating for people to have to wait a long time to just pay their fines.” Finding the funds to upgrade the credit-card machine might make it possible for people to get out of the court more quickly, she said.

Napierski said, “I’ve always thought I have a very fair and even temperament. And I’ve been before many judges, and not all of them have what I’d say is judicial temperament. You have to be a very patient person, and you’ve got to be very respectful.”

Napierski mentioned a letter she placed earlier as an advertisement in The Enterprise. “Ten of the top — and I mean top — trial lawyers in our area have all endorsed me as town judge in the town of Guilderland. I’m talking about the best trial lawyers in the Capital District. I’m very proud of that.”

Those 10 lawyers are “nonpartisan,” she said: “There are some Republicans, there are Democrats, there are plaintiffs’ attorneys, defense attorneys, men, women — the only thing they have in common is that they’re all excellent trial lawyers. And they all know me. I’ve been working with them for 20-plus years.”

She is proud, she said, that they all agreed to endorse her for Guilderland town judge, based on her temperament.

Napierski grew up in Guilderland. Her family moved to the town when she was 4 or 5 years old, she said, and she went through the school district, from Westmere Elementary and Farnsworth Middle School, on to Guilderland High School. Her two brothers and sister all attended Guilderland schools as well.

Napierski talked about the influence her parents have had on her life. Her family has always impressed on her the importance of working hard, being honest, and being fair.

Her father, she said, was the “first person in his family, pretty much, to go on to college and law school.”

One thing my father told me is your credibility is always going to be the most important thing, and whatever happens, never do anything that will reflect badly on your credibility, because it’ll come back to haunt you. You will never be a respected advocate again if people can’t trust you. So we’ve always been very honest — honesty and ethics have always been very important to the family, and in my practice.

Her mother was “a strong, independent Irish mom who raised four kids and worked as a manager at Oxford Heights Apartments,” Napierski said. Her mother worked full-time and went back to school for a master’s degree in business administration. She did this, Napierski said, “while she was taking care of us. I saw her do that, and I knew I could do that too.

“She always raised me to get an education, and taught me I could do anything the boys could do. She taught me to take care of myself and stand up for myself.” Her mother died a couple of years ago, Napierski said, from Alzheimer’s disease.

Describing her own family, Napierski said that she has a “wonderful husband, Tony Siracusa,” who works for a not-for-profit company in Altamont called Rehabilitation Support Services. Her son, Luke, is 14. She also has two stepsons, Christopher and Alex Siracusa, who are Guilderland High School graduates.

“So I have a deep connection to this community,” she said.

“I would mention,” Napierski said, “to all the working moms and working families out there that I’m one of them. I raised my son as a single parent for 10 years before I married my husband. And I’m well aware of the pressures that ordinary working families face day in, day out, because I’ve experienced that firsthand. I still experience it. It’s tough out there for families to raise children and work.

“So I’ve been a single mom,” she said. “I’m happily married now and my husband’s adopting my son; it’s a wonderful thing. I support families. I support children. It’s all very important to me. That’s part of my desire to be a judge, to help people.”

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