Jeannie Michalski praised her 20 years of experience as a prosecutor, defense and family lawyer, and city judge by announcing her candidacy for the post of judge of the County Court of Livingston.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for almost a decade,” Michalski said Sunday afternoon at the Avon Inn. “I have worked hard to be the best and most complete candidate I can be for our county.”
Michalski, an East Avon resident and current Avon City Judge, spent the first seven years of her legal career as an assistant district attorney in Monroe County. She began by processing misdemeanors in city and town courts and continued with serious crime cases in County Court and Supreme Court.
When she began practicing in private practice about 13 years ago, she began dealing with criminal and family law cases and saw where cases often overlapped.
“I saw that I can serve clients in a more holistic approach and be a better advocate for them,” she said in an interview after her announcement.
Michalski has also worked part-time in the Livingston County Public Defender’s Office, representing needy clients in family justice cases involving domestic violence, child custody, alimony, visitation, neglect and abuse. and duty-free hearings.
In 2017, Michalski – who has served on the City of Avon board of directors for the past two years – was elected to a four-year term as a judge of the City of Avon. She ran unopposed on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
“I saw the criminal justice system from all three angles,” said Michalski. “It helped me learn not only about the accused, but also about the victims and gave me valuable insight into our system.
“I am ready to take these difficult decisions with composure and experience,” she said. “I’m already doing it now, right at city level.”
Michalski is the third person to declare his candidacy for one of two county judge positions that are expected to become vacant at the end of 2019.
Current Livingston County judges Robert Wiggins and Dennis Cohen are due to retire by year-end due to a New York constitution mandate that requires judges to retire on the last day of December of the year of their 70th birthday. Wiggins and Cohen are both 70 this year.
Michalski joins former federal prosecutor Jennifer Noto, who announced on November 28, and Geneseo-based defense attorney Kevin Van Allen, whose November 13 announcement was the first in the race for judges.
Noto is the lawyer for the Livingston County Department of Social Services. Van Allen previously applied for the judge’s post in 2015, but withdrew from the race after Wiggins and Cohen were cross-approved by the county’s Republican and Conservative committees.
A primary would take place in June.
About 50 people attended Michalski’s announcement at the Avon Inn, including Avon Town Supervisor David LeFeber and former Republican County President Livingston Lowell Conrad.
Michalski was introduced by Gary Wheat, a former city council member who met Michalski several years ago when she applied for a nomination for a city council seat.
“I became convinced that she was highly skilled, very talented and that she would work as hard as possible on whatever happened to her,” said Wheat.
“Someone with all of these attributes is indeed a scarce commodity and someone we need to encourage and support,” he said.
Michalski maintains his private law practice in Avon, which involves much of the law involving children and domestic violence. She also gives presentations on the effects of domestic violence and has taught legal courses at colleges in the region.
It was while working on a research project with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester – and also becoming a mother – that Michalski said she had a passion for domestic violence and learned all of it. facets of family law to better help people in complicated legal situations. She has been a family court attorney for over 10 years and is chair of the board of directors of Chances and Changes Inc., a Livingston County non-profit organization that helps victims of domestic violence. (Jennifer Noto is secretary of the Chances and Changes board, according to the organization’s website.)
Michalski said a county court judge’s appeal is that it involves both criminal and family law.
“The position I am looking for is that of a civil servant. It is not about power or prestige. It’s about service and responsibility, a very big responsibility, ”she said. “The county court judge has to wear more than one hat.”
She said that in criminal court the judge must know and understand the criminal law and how it affects both communities and victims.
“You need to know that your judge can make tough decisions and hold people to account,” she said. “It can mean a state prison. It can mean rehabilitation. Or, a combination of the two.
Likewise, she said, judges face tough decisions in family court, like removing a child from a household. These decisions, she said, also call for compassion.
“One thing I have learned in 20 years as a lawyer is that experience is not a substitute,” she said. “I am in court almost every day. I love it. I like to find solutions, to protect the children, to help find a way out of these difficult situations. I won’t say it’s not difficult. It’s… But it’s worth knowing that you are making a difference to the people in your community.