This is the first of four stories about candidates for Onondaga County Court. Voters can pick two on their ballot. Two judges — Thomas Miller and Stephen Dougherty — announced their plans to retire earlier this year, opening up two spots on the bench. The elected judges will serve 10-year terms.
Earlier this year, Ted Limpert heard a rumor: Judge Thomas Miller was retiring from the county bench. So Limpert went up to Miller and asked the judge himself.
Miller confirmed it to Limpert. That’s when Limpert decided to run to be an Onondaga County Court judge. Later in the year, Onondaga County Court judge Stephen Dougherty announced his own retirement.
“The two remaining judges on the bench will be former prosecutors,” Limpert said. “I would argue that it’s important to have balance on the county court bench. I was never a prosecutor, so I think that is an important perspective to help bring balance to a court that in the past has had a lot of former prosecutors.”
Limpert, a Democrat who lives in Strathmore, has a long history on the bench and in Syracuse politics.
He served as a Syracuse Common Councilor in the 1990s and ran for mayor about two decades ago. In 2009, then-Mayor Matt Driscoll appointed Limpert to serve on the city court bench. He was then re-elected as judge one year later. Limpert served there until he lost a re-election campaign in 2020.
In city court, Limpert presided over human trafficking court and veterans treatment court, the latter of which was created under Limpert’s leadership. He spent 20 years in criminal law as a defense lawyer. Limpert is a veteran and longtime member of the Air National Guard.
His experience in city court expanded his empathy, Limpert said. He saw the economic disparities faced by defendants and the trauma that could lead someone to have committed a crime.
“What I’ve learned, especially from human trafficking court, was that people have had trauma in their lives that affect their judgment and their reasoning,” Limpert said. “I think that’s something you have to understand.”
He counts former defense lawyer John Kenny, former city court judge Langston McKinney and former judge Brian DeJoseph among his mentors.
Limpert is one of only two candidates to be commended by the Central New York Women’s Bar Association (the other being Annaleigh Porter, who is the president of the association). A commendation from the bar association means a candidate is sensitive to gender issues and works to maintain gender equity.
As a judge, Limpert said he kept a list of core attorneys to be assigned to cases and always made sure at least half were women.
“I think it’s significant that I received that,” Limpert said. “I think it reflects my work in human trafficking court.”
One question we asked every candidate
As a county court judge you would have a lot of power over people’s lives. How do you grapple with that power?
“You have to be very humble. I would call it more responsibility than power. You have a tremendous responsibility to be just, fair and you have to weigh that with the level of the crime. You have to be fair and follow the constitution. On the other hand, when someone is found guilty after trial, then you have to make sure that you’re assessing the correct punishment. I think that as long as you recognize you have that impact on people — it’s not just the individual you also have a responsibility as a judge to be fair and impartial but also to the community to make sure that the punishment fits the crime. I just think there’s a balance and you have to be really cognizant of that.”
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