This week on Beaconites, we speak with the two candidates running for Beacon city court judge.
First up is Tim Pagones, three-term judge and lifelong Beaconite. That interview is followed by one with Greg Johnston, a public defender with 17 years’ experience who has been endorsed by the local Democratic Committee.
Pagones and Johnston are competing in both the Democratic and Working Families party primaries on Tuesday, June 22. Early voting is underway.
Pagones says the best case for his candidacy is his long experience.
“I’m the best candidate because I’m the most qualified,” he says. “I’ve done prosecution, I’ve done criminal defense, I did private practice, I did civil work. I was the assistant judge for three years, where I gained the experience and the knowledge to become the judge. I think I have the best all-around experience.”
Meanwhile Johnston, a public defender with 17 years’ experience who has been endorsed by the local Democratic Committee, emphasizes his empathy and his skill in the courtroom.
“I’m very detail oriented. Being a public defender… when I started the job, we would have 120 cases easily. You need to keep track of the clients, nothing can fall through the cracks because this is people’s lives. That’s always been something I excelled at.”
There has been a fair bit of controversy in this race as you’ll hear – probably more than average for a judicial primary. Top of the list is Pagones’ party change in 2019, from Republican to “no party.” Some on the Beacon Democratic Committee say the move was calculated to increase the judge’s chances in a changed city where Republicans are unlikely to beat Democrats. Pagones says his Republican affiliation was always an honor paid to his father, rather than a closely held political identity. After his father passed some years ago, he says disaffiliating himself from any party was the right thing to do.
“All through my years on the bench, I’ve never been political,” he says. “I was a Republican because that’s what I was registered as. My father passed away, I waited a little bit, I switched to ‘no party,’ because I believe a judge should not only be impartial but should look impartial.”
Also in this episode: A secondary point of contention is Judge Pagones’ practice of asking people before his court if they are a US citizen. He says he does this as part of a legal requirement to inform them of their rights, while Johnston insists the issue should only be breached when a defendant is preparing to submit a guilty plea, and that it should not be phrased as a question (are you a citizen?) but rather as an advisement that for non-citizens, a guilty plea could lead to their deportation. Both candidates address this issue.