After 12 years on the bench, Campbell Municipal Court Judge Patrick Cunning no longer displays the wide-eyed surprise of a rookie, but he certainly hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the law or his desire to serve the community.
Indeed, Judge Cunning, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 7 to a third six-year term, is most proud of his reputation as a fair, even-handed judge.
“… I have endeavored to treat everyone who has appeared before me with respect and dignity,” Cunning wrote in a candidate questionnaire sent to him by The Vindicator. “I am guided by the principles of honesty, integrity and justice. If re-elected, I will continue to provide our citizens with a safe, efficient and respectful court.”
In his meeting with the newspaper’s Editorial Board, the judge’s commitment to the proper administration of justice came through loud and clear as he answered a myriad of questions.
Cunning is being challenged in his re-election bid by Atty. Mark Kolmacic, who has run twice before for the judicial office. Kolmacic, son of longtime Campbell Municipal Court Judge Joseph Kolmacic, also has served as Campbell law director.
“I believe that if elected, I will serve with honesty and integrity and can help shed the negative image that has fallen upon our city,” he wrote in his candidate questionnaire.
But when asked by The Vindicator if the Campbell court had been ill-served by Judge Cunning, the challenger replied:
“I would not go that far to say that the Campbell court has been ill-served in the past 12 years.”
In a race such as this in which both candidates are obviously experienced and well-versed in the law and share many of the same goals for the court, the question voters must ask is rather straightforward: Is there anything Judge Cunning has done – or not done – that would disqualify him from serving another six-year term?
We looked, but did not find anything in the incumbent’s record, or in the answers he gave to the questions we asked, that would give us pause.
We, therefore, endorse Judge Cunning – not only because of his accomplishments over the past two terms, but because of the priorities he intends to pursue during his new term.
“Substance abuse and addiction disorders are pervasive in our communities,” he contended. “These people feel trapped and require comprehensive services to cope with their addictions. Unfortunately, the cost of treatment can be prohibitive. Nonetheless, courts must continue to offer interventions through every means possible.”
It is worth noting that Atty. Kolmacic also considers the drug problem an important issue that needs to be addressed by the court system.
But the two candidates part ways when it comes to actually tackling the problem.
Judge Cunning is a proponent of a more muscular probation department, but he also believes that establishing a drug court would be ideal. While acknowledging that such a court within the municipal criminal justice system is a “big investment,” Cunning believes the results would be worth the cost.
By contrast, Kolmacic believes a strong probation department would ensure that drug offenders don’t relapse into drug abuse. In the case of repeat offenders, the former law director says time behind bars would be necessary to ensure treatment.
The incumbent and the challenger also cite security in the court and modernization of the court’s computer system as being priorities.
While Judge Cunning has purchased metal detectors – one is located at the entrance to the municipal building – and has secured a technology grant to upgrade the computer system, the challenger believes such moves should have been made earlier in the judge’s tenure.
But even that criticism of the judge is muted at best.
As we said at the outset, we believe Judge Cunning has served on the bench admirably and has earned re-election.
However, we are confident that Kolmacic would be up to the task of administering justice equally and fairly were he to win.
In a race such as this, voters need a compelling reason not to give the incumbent another term. There isn’t one, which is why we endorse Judge Cunning in the Nov. 7 general election.