WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - After nearly 20 years as Jefferson County Court judge, Kim Martusewicz is getting ready to retire.
Judge Martusewicz grew up on a farm and learned what it was like to work hard. It was a lesson that served him well throughout his entire life.
Ever since he was sworn in as Jefferson County Court judge on January 1, 2000, Kim Martusewicz has been a busy man.
"This court has been the busiest felony court in the 5th Judicial District, which includes 6 counties, Onondaga, Oneida, Jefferson, Herkimer, Oswego and Lewis," said Martusewicz.
During his time on the bench, he has disposed of more than 10,000 felony cases. Out of all those cases, Martusewicz has had only one case overturned and dismissed due to violation of speedy trial law. Only 5 or 6 other cases came back on appeal.
“Every one of those cases have resulted either in some type of conviction or a different type of plea, even after the second proceedings are done. So that’s another record that I’m quite proud of,” he said.
Martusewicz has presided over all kinds of criminal cases - murder, rape, drunk driving fatalities - and they have deeply affected him over the past two decades.
"What do you tell the family of the victims? So those cases have been very, very difficult," he said.
Martusewicz is most proud of creating the county Drug Court in 2002, well before it was mandated throughout the state. The court offers treatment and supervision of offenders with substance abuse problems. There have been around 300 drug court graduates. The judge keeps a gift from one of those graduates on his desk.
"That reminds me that no matter how bad or how dire your situation is, it's not written in stone. Things can change." "That's beautiful."
Martusewicz is retiring as New York state adopts sweeping justice reforms.
"I was afraid you were gonna ask me (laughing). Like so many things that come out of Albany these days, there's some good things and there's some not so good things," he said.
Martusewicz agrees with the mandatory exchange of information and evidence between prosecution and defense. He has concerns about bail reform, which eliminates cash bail for most defendants - those charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.
"It's another unfunded mandate. A lot of these bail reforms are gonna put the police back on the streets, trying to corral and bring people back to court that would have been there to begin with, but for their addiction or their additional crime spree are not there," he said.
Martusewicz says the complexion of the county has changed over the last 20 years and he'd like to see more diversity in the local criminal justice system.
"It's not reflected in the court system. It's not reflected in the probation department, the DA's office, police agencies, and I think we need to make an effort to do that," he said.
As Martusewicz gets ready to hang up his robe, he says he hopes people remember him as an impartial judge who treated victims, defendants, lawyers, witnesses, and jurors justly.
"Anybody I interacted with in court, I hope they would say that I was fair because that's what I tried to do for the last 20 years," he said.
The judge’s last official day on the job is December 20. He says his plan for retirement is to do nothing and just rest - at least at first.