Two vie for Dutchess County Family Court


POUGHKEEPSIE – Republican Dutchess County Family Court Judge Denise Watson, who also serves as an Acting Supreme Court Justice, is seeking re-election to her seat on the bench. Watson, who has served in family court since 2011, is being challenged by Democrat Rachel Saunders.

The 64-year-old Watson was appointed Acting Supreme Court Justice in 2013 and has presided over the Dutchess County Family Drug Treatment Court and Youth Drug Treatment Court which are problem-solving courts assisting parents struggling with substance use issues, to become sober in a supportive environment and works towards reunifying their families.

In announcing her re-election bid, Watson said “the work we do in family court is crucial to protect the interests of all members of our community, especially our children.  I pledge to continue to work hard every day, to listen carefully, to be patient, and to handle with respect the individuals who appear in the difficult cases that are presented in family court.”

Judge Denise Watson

A Dutchess County native who graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, Watson received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and graduated from St. Louis University School of Law in 1982. 

Judge Watson has been working in family court for over 20 years, having started in 1999 as Principal Court Attorney to the recently retired Judge Peter Forman. She has also served on several committees over the years that involve family court practices and personnel such as the statewide Partnership for Family Recovery, the Dutchess County Child Welfare Improvement Project for Abused and Neglected Children, the Dutchess County Juvenile Detention Task Force, the Dutchess County Court Involved Youth Committee, the Dutchess County Sex Offender Management Committee, the Dutchess County Juvenile Justice Victim Offender Mediation Committee and the Dutchess County Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative.

Family Court handles cases involving custody, visitation, guardianship, child support, child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, PINS (Persons in Need of Supervision), family offense, and adoption proceedings.  

Rachel Saunders

There are three other judges who serve on the bench with Watson in Dutchess County.  Hon. Joseph Egitto, Hon. Tracy MacKenzie and Hon. Jeffrey Martin.

In New York, the law requires judges to retire at the age of 70.  If re-elected to the position that pays $125,600 annually, Watson will be required to step down before the term expires due to the mandatory age retirement.  

Watson’s opponent, Rachel Saunders is 46-years-old.

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