New year, new justice

Lake Placid resident Allison McGahay celebrates election to state Supreme Court

Allison McGahay, who will be sworn in as a state Supreme Court justice for the 4th Judicial District today, is unofficially sworn in by former Gov. George Pataki at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid on Sunday. Also pictured is Jim Brooks. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid resident Allison McGahay is experiencing a lot of firsts this week. On Sunday, the first day of the new year, she was unofficially sworn in as the 4th Judicial District’s first female Supreme Court justice from the Adirondacks.

McGahay is also the first person to earn a seat in the 4th Judicial District by a margin of more than 30,000 votes, according to McGahay’s husband Bill McGahay, who served as the director of state and local government affairs under former Gov. George Pataki.

Allison McGahay, a Republican, earned 187,753 votes in this past November’s election, according to official election results certified on Dec. 15, 2022. Three state judicial seats were up for election in the 4th district. Republican Richard Kupferman netted 157,374 votes to win a seat, and Democrat Robert Muller won the third seat with 151,989 votes.

McGahay is expected to be officially sworn in as a Supreme Court justice by the Essex County Board of Supervisors today during the board’s organizational meeting. She is the first Essex County resident to earn a seat on the Supreme Court since 2008.

Allison McGahay hugs her grandmother, who gifted her a judicial robe at an unofficial swearing-in ceremony at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid on Sunday. Also pictured is her grandfather. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

Full circle

McGahay smiled as she pulled on a brand new judicial gown at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid on Sunday. The robe was a gift from her grandmother, who, alongside McGahay’s grandfather, raised her on an apple orchard in Winthrop. McGahay’s grandparents are now 94 and 97, but they traveled from their home in Malone to celebrate Allison’s win alongside her husband and two children, friends, colleagues and Allison’s campaign chairman and former Gov. Pataki.

The night was a full-circle moment for McGahay. She and Bill had their wedding and reception at the Mirror Lake Inn properties, and in December 2006, Pataki and his staff — including Bill — celebrated the last night of Pataki’s term as governor at the inn. Earlier in 2006, Pataki had appointed Allison the deputy director of elections operations for the state Board of Elections.

When Allison decided to run for the state Supreme Court, she said Pataki was one of the first people she reached out to. When she asked him to join her campaign, he said “absolutely,” according to McGahay.

Allison McGahay, right, who will be sworn in as a state Supreme Court justice for the 4th Judicial District today, walks with her grandfather, center, before an unofficial swearing-in ceremony at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

“And he’s been right by my side,” McGahay said.

On Sunday, Pataki, Allison and Bill returned to the Mirror Lake Inn to celebrate Allison’s win with an unofficial swearing-in ceremony — the same day Gov. Kathy Hochul was being sworn in as New York’s first female governor. Pataki said McGahay worked hard for her position, and everyone who met her along the campaign trail “knew that she was the right person for the job.”

McGahay partially attributed her success to Pataki’s support, as well as her campaign co-chairs, former supreme court justices Bernard “Bud” Malone Jr. — who she worked with as a judicial intern — and Dave Demarest.

“All three had encouraged me to run someday, so all three were super excited to join the campaign and help me,” she said.

Breaking barriers

McGahay said it’s a “true honor” to be the first woman from the Adirondacks to earn a seat in this district, and she recognizes the importance of that representation for other women who might be looking to run for office. She believes the win tells women, “You can do it.”

“You can be a mom, you can have two small children at home, and you can go for it and you can work hard — and you can achieve this,” she said.

Although campaigning was a “full-time job,” McGahay said, her husband and two children, Grace and Liam, were a source of support on the campaign trail. A slideshow of campaign photos on Sunday showed Grace and Liam, who are 10 and 12, respectively, in countless photos — they attended nine county fairs this past summer as McGahay campaigned, and they made appearances at four different Fourth of July parades with their mom.


As a Supreme Court justice, McGahay said that she’s most looking forward to helping lawyers and clients resolve their cases in court. In her 17 years of experience as an attorney practicing a wide variety of law — from working at the district attorney’s office as a prosecutor and serving as the deputy director of elections operations to privately practicing criminal defense, real estate and family law — she said she often looked to judges to help find resolutions to cases. Now, she wants to become the fair judge she always looked for as an attorney.

“What I as an attorney have always looked for in a judge was someone who had an even temperament and was fair. I know that I have those qualities, and I’m happy to use them to help people of this district resolve their disputes,” McGahay said. “Nobody wants to be in court, right?”

McGahay received her Juris Doctor from the Albany School of Union University and her Bachelor of Arts in public justice from SUNY Oswego. She worked as a judicial intern with Malone, the former Supreme Court justice in Albany, before a three-year stint as an assistant district attorney for the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. McGahay has served as the town of Wilmington’s attorney since 2017, and she’s been a Republican county election commissioner and a private attorney since 2013.

McGahay will be the first Essex County resident on the state Supreme Court since 2008, when incumbent justice James Dawson lost his re-election bid.

McGahay represents the 4th Judicial District, which includes Essex and Franklin counties. This past February, McGahay said that altogether, the fourth district covered 11 counties, 500,000 registered voters and 840,000 residents from Saratoga County to the Canadian border and from Washington to Fulton County.


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