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Two vie for new Monroe County Family Court seat

An additional seat is being added to the bench in Monroe County Family Court, and two attorneys are hoping to claim it.

Maritza Buitrago

Maritza Buitrago

Maritza Buitrago and James A. Vazzana, both residents of the Town of Penfield, are on the ballot for the general election, which is set for Tuesday.

Buitrago has served in the family court section of the public defender’s office, Legal Aid and the state Attorney General’s Office. She has more than 15 years of legal experience, and has handled more than 7,000 cases in court, including in the Monroe County integrated domestic violence court and mental health court.

Buitrago was admitted to the bar in 2000. She began working in August 1999 with the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, handling family offenses, orders of protection and matrimonial cases

She also has a master’s degree in teaching, and has taught at the University of Rochester and in Rochester city schools.

She is rated “exceptionally well qualified” and “commended” by the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys, “highly qualified” by the Monroe County Bar Association and Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission, and “highly qualified” and “highly sensitive” by the Rochester Black Bar Association.

“I think that I can bring my diverse personal background and professional background to help the families and children in crisis that we see every day in Family Court, and to make a difference in their lives,” Buitrago said. “I care about justice for families and children. My entire career … you can tell that I’ve been committed to making sure that justice is equally accessible to the clients I represent.”

James Vazzana

James Vazzana

Vazzana was admitted to the bar in 1991, and he estimates that about 99 percent of his legal work has focused on family law. He has been named to best Lawyers in America from 2012 to present, and has been named Rochester Lawyer of the Year in family law.

He was also named to the New York State Citizens Review Panel for Child Protective Services in the Western District, and served as its first chairman.

In January, he stepped down as managing partner of Chamberlain D’Amanda Oppenheimer and Greenfield LLP, to focus on his run for the court seat. He remains a partner there, and has been chief litigator in their family law department. He has also served on the board of St. Joseph’s Villa (now known as the Villa of Hope) for nine years

He is rated “qualified” by both the Monroe County Bar Association, the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys, the Rochester Black Bar and the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission.

Vazzana said caring for families and children in crisis has been the driving theme of both his professional and volunteer work.

“My calling is to protect families and children. It always has been. It always will be,” Vazzana said. “I know that I can do more as a family court judge to fulfill that calling.”

“I’ve represented all sides of cases that would appear before me, meaning mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, in all types of proceedings that are heard in family court.”

The winner would become a judge for the family court in Monroe County. Currently, that court has six judges: Patricia E. Gallaher, Joan S. Kohout, Joseph G. Nesser, John B. Gallagher, Dandrea L. Ruhlmann and James E. Walsh.