SYRACUSE — After 16 years working as a trial attorney in the state Supreme Court, Danielle M. Fogel said she thinks she has the experience and expertise required of a justice.
That’s why she’s running as a Republican candidate for the newly-created state Supreme Court seat for the Fifth Judicial District, which covers Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, Herkimer, Oneida and Onondaga Counties.
“I have tried a ton of cases in the Supreme Court, and it has always been an interest of mine to take that next step to become a judge,” she said Wednesday.
She said, after nearly two decades of trying civil cases in the court, she has a deep knowledge of the state court system.
After graduating from Syracuse University with her law degree in 2004, Mrs. Fogel has worked as an associate attorney in a number of law offices in Syracuse and Albany, and briefly taught as an adjunct professor of Constitutional Law at Cauyga Community College in Auburn in 2007 and 2008.
She said those early jobs allowed her to begin trial work earlier than many other attorneys, so she has a great deal of experience in the courts for someone her age.
“I was trying my own cases pretty early on in my career. That gave me the opportunity to try a large number of cases at a younger age than most,” she said.
From 2007 to December of 2019, Mrs. Fogel was a partner at Syracuse-based Sugarman Law Firm, where she took on jury trials and worked on medical malpractice litigation.
In 2019, Mrs. Fogel left Sugarman to become an attorney at Fager Amsler Keller & Schoppman in Syracuse, where she represents physicians, healthcare providers and hospitals against medical malpractice suits or complaints.
“I know what it takes to try a case, and how to handle the things that don’t go to trial,” she said. “There’s motion practice, there are conferences, there are a host of things that happen before you even end up in trial that I’ve been through a hundred times,” she said.
She said all her experience has fostered the right kind of qualities that would make her an excellent justice. Besides experience, she said it’s important a justice have the right temperament, and be willing to listen to both parties in litigation. She said she also feels it’s important to be familiar with the region and the people coming before the court, to understand their specific points of view.
Mrs. Fogel said while she has largely focused in Onondaga and Oneida Counties, she’s tried cases in courtrooms all across the Fifth Judicial District. Typically, when a justice is elected to the bench in the state Supreme Court, they serve out of the nearest courtroom that is convenient for them, which would be Syracuse in Mrs. Fogel’s case.
She said she would be happy to work with the court administration and serve from whichever court has the greatest need of an additional justice.
“I know some judges have sat in Onondaga County for a period of time and then gone elsewhere, so it’s really where the need is,” she said.
There is definitely need in the court system right now. After months of virtual proceedings held due to the coronavirus pandemic, the courts are backlogged. The seat Mrs. Fogel is pursuing was added by law in May, to bring the number of justices back into line with the state Constitution, which mandates one justice per 50,000 residents.
“I think extra hands on deck will definitely help the caseload, and I know I have the capacity to hit the ground running and immediately take on the work that needs to be done,” Mrs. Fogel said.
Mrs. Fogel announced her candidacy on Monday, the same day former Democratic N.Y.-22 Congressman Anthony J. Brindisi announced his run for the same seat in Rome.
Mrs. Fogel said, despite Mr. Brindisi’s advantage in name recognition, they’re both running for a very different office than the one in which Mr. Brindisi has served.
“This position is not a political position, a judge is tasked with applying the law,” she said. “We’re not going to be in a situation where we politically debate one another, that isn’t what this is about.”
Mrs. Fogel said she thinks voters will look at each candidate based on their qualifications, experience and background in the legal system, as well as their involvement in the community and familiarity with the people.
“I’m involved in the community, and as I campaign that’s what I’m going to focus on, to make sure people know who I am and what my qualifications are, and hopefully that will convince them to vote for me in November,” she said.
Both candidates will appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot this year, and the winner will take their seat on the bench in January 2022.