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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 4, 2010
By Philippa Stasiuk
VOORHEESVILLE After 24 years on the bench as village Justice, Kenneth Connolly still believes in a fundamental aspect of human nature: People are inherently good.
The 71-year-old lawyer is running unopposed for re-election on March 16. Connolly won the village justice position in 1986 after the previous judge moved away from the village. Connolly was already serving as town judge in New Scotland and continued to hear cases in both places for a number of years. He was also a village trustee in the 1970s.
In his years of hearing cases, Connolly said that the smallness of the village court contributes to what he likes most about his job. “You can really devote some attention to those that need it. It’s not just running people through, particularly with younger people. I can devote some time to them and get them going on the right path. You hope it’s the only experience they’ll have in a criminal setting.”
Connolly retired in 2003 from the State Division of Criminal Justice Services where he served as deputy commissioner and general counsel. In just two months, he realized he did not wear retirement well, and took a position as counsel for the senate majority leader where he worked in criminal justice legislation until 2009. While he describes himself as “pretty much retired,” Connolly also hears cases at the Criminal Court in Albany, Albany Civil Court, Troy Civil Court, as well as other towns and villages in the Capital District.
“It’s true. Age is a state of mind, and I really enjoy working,” said Connolly about his active life. The septuagenarian also runs three miles a day and has an appetite for mystery novels but admits, “While I love to read, you can’t do that all day long. So I took up golf this past summer.”
As the only judge hearing cases in the village, Connolly sits on the bench twice a month and hears up to 1,000 cases each year. Most, he says, are traffic infractions but there are some criminal, small claims, and civil cases. He is paid $10,000 per year for his work for the village.
Upon reflecting on his years as village justice, Connolly said that what surprises him the most is that, despite continually more stringent drinking and driving laws, people are still doing it.
“We see a steady flow of people arrested in Voorheesville they’re not necessarily from the village, but they’re drinking and driving in the village, and their blood-alcohol content seems to be getting higher. Plea bargains used to be freewheeling but they’re a lot more restrictive now but people don’t seem to get it. It’s surprising.”
Connolly has lived in the village for 42 years and has three grown children. He was born in Brooklyn, raised on Staten Island, and attended St. John’s College in Brooklyn for law school.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, I have a lot of experience and I enjoy it very much,” he concluded. “I’d like to think I’m fair and I’ve heard people tell me I am. I’ve developed a good reputation and the court administration has me filling in with judges in the area. It indicates that I’m competent enough to do it.”