Concerns that a newly-appointed town justice would not be able to take the bench for several weeks because she was not an attorney turned out to be unfounded. With a temporary certification, Claudia Andreassen presided over her first court night last Wednesday, May 23, following her swearing-in earlier the same day. The temporary certification will allow Andreassen to preside over the court immediately, provided she goes to Potsdam regularly, where she can view training videos and work with a mentor judge.
Andreassen has experience in the criminal justice system, having worked as an Ulster County probation officer from 1986 to 2011. She has taken courses in criminology and abnormal psychology and holds a master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz in professional studies in humanistic education.
Her appointment to the job vacated by former justice Wendy Ricks was criticized by councilman Fred Costello and Ricks herself because it was thought that there would be a lag of several weeks before she could take office, which would be difficult to manage with the town’s current court load. With the temporary certification, that’s not an issue.
With that bar cleared, concern has disappeared. Andreassen said Ricks called to congratulate her and offer help. “She was very gracious,” she said.
Justice Dan Lamb, the other town justice, sat with Andreassen on her first night on the bench, and has generally been helpful, Andreassen said.
She also praised the court clerks, who have helped her get through the first weeks.
“I’m very thankful to everyone; I couldn’t have done it without them,” Andreassen said.
Supervisor Kelly Myers said it is not unusual for the state to grant waivers until training is available.
“Claudia is taking courses online, and then she’ll have to do it again, so she’ll actually get the training twice.”
Woodstock Justice Frederick Engel swore her in. He noted that it is not unusual for judges to fill-in in neighboring towns, when necessary. Engel said that while attorneys are not required to take the tests that go with the courses, they may need training more than someone like Andreassen, who has worked in probation for years. Some lawyers specialize in corporate or business law, and really need the training as much as non-judges. Engel took the tests, as it gives credibility and “it creates good will,” he said.