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Lawyer laments political nature of family court

Lawyer laments political nature of family court

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A one-time Democratic candidate for Saratoga County Family Court says he has faced political retribution since running for office - and that he may campaign again next year as a result.

Kurt Mausert, an attorney with offices in Saratoga Springs, said this week he has been effectively blocked from practicing at the family court in Ballston Spa since Judge Gilbert Abramson in July recused himself from any cases in which Mausert was involved.

Abramson said in a letter to the chief court clerk at the time that he was recusing himself from any case involving Mausert because of complaints Mausert had made about the court and because he "might bear some prejudice against Mr. Mausert for his conduct toward my friend and colleague Judge Hall in the last campaign."

Mausert made his first bid to become a family court judge in 2008, unsuccessfully running against Republican Family Court Judge Courtenay Hall.

Mausert said this week that Abramson's decision to recuse himself has kept him from practicing in Saratoga County Family Court because Hall has also recused himself from hearing Mausert's cases for two years.

As a result, Mausert has had to transfer his caseload to Washington County's family court - something he said has disrupted ongoing cases and has been an inconvenience to him and his clients.

At least six cases were disrupted, he said, including one that was cut off mid-trial.

Mausert is also questioning why Abramson, a Republican, did not disclose his prejudice until early July, almost eight months after the election had concluded.

"How many decisions would have been made differently in that time?" Mausert said. "He had no business keeping that sentiment to himself."

Mausert acknowledged he has little recourse but said the situation highlights the need for judges to be put on the bench based on merit, rather than through a political process.

"We need judges that are there on their merits, not because they're in line to be politically anointed," he said. "Politics and the administration of justice do not make good bedfellows."

Mausert said, though, that as long as the electoral system remains in place, he will work within it.

That includes a potential run against Abramson, whose 10-year term expires next year, he said.

Abramson did not respond to several calls seeking comment.

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