My name is Allen Miskell, Esq. My wife and I are long-time residents of Lockport, where we raised our family. With my 45 years of legal experience, I can tell you one thing that I have learned: All lawyers do not have the same set of skills.
This year, Niagara County will have a choice for county court judge. County Court, for those that do not know, is the highest criminal trial court in our county. This is where all of the felony cases and most complex criminal matters are heard. Although county court judges also hear civil and surrogate matters, criminal cases make up approximately 90% of the calendar. Frankly, this court’s case load is mostly criminal, and has very few civil cases in comparison. With the backlog that COVID-19 created, there are hundreds of cases that are waiting to be heard. That is why it is so important to elect a judge that has extensive criminal court experience.
For that reason, I am proud to endorse attorney Mike Benedict for Niagara County Court Judge. I not only know Mike on a personal level — I am proud to call him my son-in-law — I also know that Mike has 17 years of extensive experience in criminal law. He has handled over 2,000 felony cases and participated in over 200 felony hearings. Equally importantly, Mike has worked as a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and even worked for this county’s court system as a confidential law clerk to recently retired County Judge Sara Sheldon. He had four years of on-the-job training from a highly respected county court judge for the very job he seeks now.
Mike’s opponent has also practiced law in this community. However, in stark contrast to Mike, he has not practiced extensive felony criminal law. Rather, his focus has been representing municipal and county governments. I also served as city attorney for approximately 20 years, under four different administrations, and that experience does nothing to prepare an attorney to handle criminal cases. Lawyers develop different — and limited — areas of expertise.
Like Mike’s opponent, my experience as an attorney has been focused mainly on civil matters. Despite my 45 years as a practicing attorney, I can readily admit that I am not qualified to be a criminal law judge in Niagara County Court. With such serious consequences at stake, I would not feel comfortable having a judge “learn on the job.” When criminal judges make mistakes, innocent people can go to prison and guilty people can be set free. In addition, errors by a trial judge can result in reversals and remands, causing additional stress on an already overloaded system. It isn’t fair to anyone involved in the process, whether they be parties, victims, witnesses, law enforcement personnel, or the community.
I am voting for Mike Benedict for Niagara County Court Judge on June 22 because Mike is the only qualified candidate for this position.
ALLEN MISKELL, Lockport