PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. - When voters go to polls this month for early voting and on Election Day, Nov. 5, they will be asked to choose between two candidates for the position of Putnam County Court judge.
The post was previously held by Judge James Reitz, who passed away earlier this year and was widely acclaimed for his pioneering work in the Drug Treatment Court.
Philipstown Court Justice Camille S. Linson, a Democrat, and Carmel Court Justice Joe Spofford, a Republican, both seek to fill the post, which carries a 10-year term and includes criminal, family and surrogate courts.
Here is a closer look at the candidates:
Linson is currently the town justice for Philipstown. She grew up on a farm outside Wallkill, N.Y., and has lived in Putnam County for over 20 years, where she raised her son and her niece.
She received her undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard University and conducted her legal studies at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, Universität Heidelberg and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Germany and Oxford University in England.
“I worked for international law firms for many years, and then opened my own practice here in Putnam when my son was born,” she said. “My private practice includes transactional law for businesses as well as cost-free legal services in family, estate and criminal law for families in need. I love playing piano, trail-running in the Hudson Highlands, and competing in triathlons and ultra-marathons.”
Linson said she is running for county judge because “lives depend on the outcome of this race.”
“I stepped up for the justice’s seat in Philipstown because I couldn’t stay on the sidelines while so many families suffered the devastating effects of the opioid crisis,” she said. “As soon as I took office, I took action, integrating treatment-court philosophy and practice in my courtroom. I’m running for county judge now because we are poised on a precipice in Putnam. If a judge takes the bench who, like my opponent, has not had extensive first-hand experience implementing treatment-court philosophy and practices and has not involved himself in the treatment community’s response, we risk the effectiveness of our Drug Treatment Court. Treatment courts work.”
Linson said drug courts save taxpayers to the tune of about $6,700 per offender. If you incorporate victimization costs, the savings increases to nearly $12,000.
“I want to be county judge so that I can save lives, reduce crime, and transform families and communities,” she said. “And I’m running to reduce the financial burden that drug-related crime imposes on every Putnam family’s budget.”
Linson said she has a proven history of commitment and service to the community.
“I have been strictly non-partisan in my own campaigning. I engage and truly listen,” she said. “I ask the public to review my website and Facebook page, as well as those of my opponent. Know before you vote.”
Linson said the opioid emergency is Putnam’s greatest challenge.
“Rehabilitative judicial practices save lives when we all work to create opportunities for people to recover and reintegrate into our families, communities, and economies,” she said. “I have the relationships needed on day one to run the Drug Treatment Court effectively. I am passionate about community engagement and volunteerism, as my long history of community service shows.”
Spofford is currently a town justice for Carmel. He was born to a working-class blue-collar family. His father was a Korean War vet and FDNY firefighter. He moved to Tarrytown and graduated from Irvington High School with honors in 1979. He attended Colgate University, where he played Division 1 baseball, and graduated in 1983 with honors. He graduated from Pace University School of Law in 1986 with honors.
Spofford was admitted to practice law in Connecticut in 1986, and New York in 1987. He subsequently obtained admission to practice in U.S. Federal Court in 1989 and U.S. Tax Court in 2000. He began practicing law in Carmel in 1987. “For 33 years I have maintained a civil and criminal litigation practice within a half-mile of the Putnam County Courthouse,” Spofford said. “I have represented hundreds of people in all of the courts in Putnam County and have conducted jury trials at every trial level in this county. As a litigation attorney my practice involves representing litigants in Putnam County Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and County Court. I have tried well over 50 cases to verdict, jury and non-jury.”
Spofford said he is the only candidate for county court judge who has regularly appeared in Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and Criminal Court and has represented clients in all three courts for the past 32 years.
“My opponent has never appeared on a single occasion in any of the courts that she is seeking to preside over,” he said.
Spofford has three children: Sean, who has seven years of active duty in the Navy; Brooke, who works full time at a radio station in Seattle; and Terrence, a freshman at Carmel High School, where is captain of his football team.
Spofford has served as town justice in Carmel, the largest town in Putnam County, for 20 years.
“I have a 20-year demonstrated record of being calm, compassionate, fair and knowledgeable of the law,” he said. “I encourage everyone to consult with the members of the Putnam County Bar Association regarding my character, qualifications and judicial temperament. I trust that the hundreds of members of the bar and the litigants that have appeared before me in the Carmel Court would agree that they have been treated respectfully and that their cases have always been decided fairly, impartially and according to the law.”
Spofford has been endorsed by the Carmel PBA, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department PBA, the New York State Police PBA, the New York State Police Investigator’s PBA, the New York State Fraternal Order of Police, the Affiliated Police Associations, the Putnam County Firearms Owners Association, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and the Westchester Putnam Building and Construction Trades Council Local 456, as well as the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.