BY KATHY KAHN
Town of Orangetown Justice Patrick Loftus began his legal career in the District Attorney’s office, eventually branching into a partnership that dealt mainly with civil law. His first love was working on the prosecutorial side of his chosen profession, and so Loftus has thrown his hat into the ring for one of the two empty seats in the Ninth Judicial District for a County judgeship. The term runs 10 years.
It’s Loftus’s first foray into the world of higher politics but with family encouragement and a successful history with Orangetown and working as a judge in Rockland County’s Misdemeanor Drug Court for the past two years, he feels he’s ready to take on the new mantle. Rockland has two Drug Courts—one that handles misdemeanors and one that handles felony cases—Loftus says the Misdemeanor Drug Court has seen a substantial uptick in opioid-related cases and is now accepting DWIs.
“Often, these cases come before me because the person has a drug problem—jails are not really equipped to handle drug addiction or those with a dual diagnosis or drugs/mental impairment. It’s an opportunity to turn their lives around. We’ve had more success stories than failures,” said Loftus.
“We often have past graduates come to our graduate ceremonies to let people know how the Drug Court has turned their lives around, and it is a great incentive to stay sober for these folks,” said Loftus.
What disturbs him is the alarming rise of the use of heroin, which some who have appeared before him have said that “for less than the cost of a six pack of beer, they can buy enough heroin to last them the weekend….that’s frightening. Many of these people are first introduced to heroin by opioid medications, either finding them in their own home’s medicine cabinet or being introduced to them by peers. They are lethal and highly addictive. Heroin becomes a cheaper alternative. We’ve got to find a better way to help our community and county. In the meantime, Drug Court does give people an opportunity to turn their lives around and avoid more jail time.”
As for campaigning, Loftus says, “It’s a lot of work. I ran unopposed when I ran in Orangetown, so this is an eye-opener, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’m a political novice, but judicial races are supposed to be non-political. I intend to keep it that way.”
County Executive Ed Day formally nominated Judge Loftus for the position at the June 2 GOP Convention. He stated, “His qualifications and commitment are what defines him and makes him far and away the best candidate.”
As judicial campaigns are not based on typical political issues, prospective judges are faced with a different electoral challenge than politicians. Prospective judges can make allusions to what type of judge they will be, but primarily rely on selling themselves as trustworthy and fair-minded arbiters of the law.
Word of mouth can be very influential in judicial campaigns. Loftus stands to benefit from the fact he has taken many volunteer leadership roles with community and religious organizations over the years, thus broadening his circle of trust.
Loftus will face the winner of the Democrat primary, which features former county prosecutor Larry Schwartz and Village of West Haverstraw Justice Kevin Russo. General Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.