MALONE - After 12 years as Franklin County's district attorney, Derek Champagne has announced plans to seek a different elected office.
Champagne, who has been a prosecutor for 16 years, said Friday that he intends to seek nominations and circulate petitions for a new county family court judge position that will be on the ballot in November. He said he's been responsible for the prosecution of more than 15,000 criminal cases during his career, including murders, rapes, assaults and narcotic-related crimes. Many of these crimes have had a significant impact on families, he said.
"Dealing with families of those involved in the criminal justice system is one of the duties of a prosecutor, and I believe these personal experiences have prepared me for the issues in Family Court," Champagne said in a press release. "During my career in public service, and on a daily basis, I have been involved in a system that seeks to instill a sense of justice for those involved. It is this experience, along with my office's direct involvement with child abuse proceedings and the Integrated Domestic Violence Court, which leads me to seek the position of Family Court Judge."
Champagne said he has formed a committee to assist in his election efforts. He said his wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Madeleine and Madonna, are fully supportive of the decision.
During his tenure as district attorney, Champagne said he's helped reduce violent crime in the county, secured state and federal grants, expanded the DA's office using seized drug money, established a County Border Narcotics Taskforce and obtained convictions on every homicide case in the county.
At the state level, Champagne has also been involved with implementation of an ethics manual for all district attorney's offices, worked with the New York State Bar Association to establish statewide videotaping of interrogations and helped push for the "All Crimes DNA" bill, which he said has provided hundreds of names to DNA profiles on previously unsolved rapes and murders. He's also served on a number of law enforcement related councils and committees on the state level.
"I would suggest that these experiences have provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the creation and implementation of laws and the entire workings of our legal system, including Family Court," Champagne said.
Champagne noted that ethics regulations governing all candidates for elective judicial positions are very restrictive. He said those principles would limit his comments regarding any commitments, pledges or promises as to how he would rule on cases that may come before him.
The new county Family Court judgeship was one of 25 approved by the state Legislature in bills passed last week. Once the new judge takes office in January, it will be the first time the county will have a judge dedicated primarily to family court matters. That caseload is currently handled by Judge Robert Main Jr., who covers several courts, and other judges from outside the county are brought in on an as-needed basis.
Champagne is the first person to publicly announce his candidacy for the position.