Michael Benedict, the current Principal Law Clerk for Niagara County Judge Sarah Sheldon, held a well-attended campaign launch Wednesday evening in Lockport at the Davison Road Inn.
The environment was casual and attracted over 150 visitors within the two hours it ran.
Benedict communicated happily with anyone who approached, kindly taking a few questions from a reporter with the Western New York Observer.
On the issue of what qualifies Benedict for the position:
“Working with Judge Sara Sheldon for the past four years. Also, practicing in her courtroom for ten years before that.”
Benedict explained, “I’ve been practicing in criminal defense. I’m familiar with that court. I went and did the confidential law clerk job for the past three years — into my fourth year now — there, I saw it was a fit for me. Something that I thought I could do and do well.”
Benedict on Veterans Court:
“I think the Veterans Court that Judge Sheldon has been running is very important. You see the number of individuals that have served our country; the difficulties they come back with, and they’re underserved.”
Benedict addressed that often when Veterans find themselves in trouble it has to do with the “things that they’re enduring” and “the fact they’re not getting the help they need.”
He discussed expansions into substance abuse and mental health treatment as another option to prison, when appropriate.
Benedict on bail reform:
“I can see the basis of where it was derived from. In terms of the need—especially in the downstate area with regard to the lag of getting defendants into court and having them languish – but I think some of the penal laws that they have made non-qualifying defenses don’t really fit what the general idea is, in regards to violent felony offenses.”
Benedict gave an example, “Attempted burglary is a qualifying offense, but burglary 2nd is not, which is counterintuitive to what you would think.”
Lastly, he added, “I think it needs to be tweaked, and if you’re being elected as a judge the community is giving you that respect and understanding that you’re going to have discretion — whether it be in bail or sentencing to some extent – it (bail reform) takes away some of that discretion.”