BUFFALO - A former state attorney general's office prosecutor and law clerk to a sitting Supreme Court judge will ask voters to elect him as an 8th Judicial District Supreme Court justice next Tuesday.
Paul B. Wojtaszek, who has been a practicing attorney for 23 years, is seeking the Supreme Court judgeship on the Republican and Independence lines. He serves as principal law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, a post he has held for the past 16 years.
Rated "superior" by the Niagara County Bar Association, the highest rating possible, Wojtaszek is rated "highly qualified" by the 8th Judicial District's Judicial Election Qualification Commission and "well qualified" by the Erie County Bar Association. Wojtaszek was also rated "highly qualified" by the Women's Bar Association of New York State, Western New York Chapter.
Wojtaszek got his first taste of the issues that come before judges while still a pre-law student at SUNY Brockport, when he took on an internship in the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division during the Reagan administration.
"I learned a great deal about law, about Constitutional rights, and about the dignity of the individual during that internship," Wojtaszek remembers. "When I later served as a prosecutor under New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco, lessons I learned in the Justice Department helped guide me."
It was under Vacco, the Buffalo-based U.S. Attorney who was elected New York state attorney general in 1994, that Wojtaszek first cut his teeth prosecuting cases tied directly to government policy. Wojtaszek served as Special Assistant Attorney General in the Medicaid Fraud Unit, going after individuals and businesses that sought to profit illegally from the state's medical insurance program for people of limited means.
Wojtaszek also served five years in the Niagara County District Attorney's Office, where he headed the Narcotics Bureau and prosecuted welfare fraud, drug trafficking and homicide. Currently serving on the Niagara County Legislature, he brought his prosecutorial experience to his county's government, seeking out state grants to establish a Medicaid fraud specialist charged with prosecuting the same type of crimes he once prosecuted at the state level. The first Medicaid fraud specialist hired by Niagara County in a model program later reported his office had saved taxpayers approximately $3 million.
"The courts, and government in general, must innovate," Wojtaszek explained. "We found a place where the taxpayers were being cheated, and we fixed it."
The North Tonawanda lawyer, who has four children with his wife, Colleen, is active in his community. He is a lector and Eucharistic minister at Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church, and has been involved in Cub Scouting with his son.
Wojtaszek said he hopes that voters look at his record and that of his opponent, as well as their peer ratings.
"The most important thing in a judge is experience," Wojtaszek said. "Experience and temperament. When the voters look at my record, they will find someone they can trust."