Editor's Note: This week, The Cortland Voice is publishing interviews with political candidates vying for office ahead of the upcoming Sept. 12 primary.
Robert DeMarco, who currently serves as Assistant District Attorney for Cortland County, is looking to become the next town judge for Cortlandville. He spoke with The Cortland Voice's Sara Sampson about his election campaign.
Do you think your experience as Assistant District Attorney for Cortland County gives you a unique perspective for Cortlandville Town Justice?
For 14 years, I’ve stood in the courtroom representing the People of the State of New York. In that time, I’ve prosecuted thousands of cases, developing a true sense of justice; a sense which comes from interacting with members of the community, victims of crime, and those charged. In doing so, I have acquired knowledge and skill that can only be obtained from actual courtroom experience.
What are some of the biggest problems facing Cortlandville today? How can you remedy them as Town Justice?
From a legal standpoint, the biggest problem facing Cortlandville is the same problem facing Cortland County and Central New York: opioids and methamphetamine. There is no one solution to this problem that affects so many, but I believe alternatives to incarceration—such as treatment, and early education—are tools that could help, while acknowledging the difference between those who possess these substances due to an addiction and those who possess these substances for financial gain.
What can you bring to this position? What experience do you have?
I have worn all three hats in the justice system: I’ve been a defense attorney; a court sworn referee, deciding civil issues between litigating parties; and an Assistant District Attorney. I have the knowledge, experience, and ability to start serving as our next judge on day one.
Why should voters care about judicial elections?
Voters and all residents in our community should care about all judicial elections. Aside from being one of the three branches of government, judges make decisions that not only affect the parties which appear before them, but decisions that affect us all, either directly or indirectly.
What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any?
In one word: access. The justice system, and the goals it seeks to achieve should be accessible to all,not just those with financial means.
What are the major influences in your life? Why?
My mother and father. My parents instilled in me a work ethic, enabling me to become a successful civil servant. A belief that through honest work and perseverance, anything can be achieved.
Who are your judicial role models? Why?
The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, who I had the honor to meet. Listening to him speak inspired me to become an attorney. Hearing him speak and the way he explained some of his decisions and the rationale behind them, in my mind, made the law come alive—as opposed to being a bunch of words in a stuffy textbook.