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Surrogate Court Judge Rogers Retires Friday


CANTON - After 25 years on the bench, St. Lawrence County Surrogate Court Judge Kathleen Martin-Rogers is ready to pack up her judge’s robe and begin the next chapter of her life.

“I would like time in my life while I’m healthy to do things that work interferes with,” Judge Rogers said during a recent interview. “I would like to enjoy my home on the river.”

Judge Rogers, 63, is retiring on Friday from a job that has kept her challenged and motivated since she took office in January 1989. She was the first woman elected to a county-wide office in St. Lawrence County and succeeded former Surrogate Court Judge John Livingston.

A Canton native, Ms. Rogers has been a fixture in the St. Lawrence County Courthouse working with her staff, lawyers and county residents from all walks of life. In retirement, she will have more time to enjoy her Morristown home on the St. Lawrence River and time with family and friends.

She’s also looking forward to the arrival of her first grandchild and her plans include staying active by running, cycling, skiing and other outdoor activities.

Making decisions in difficult cases has been the most challenging aspect of her career, she said.

“I could not do this job without emotion,” Judge Rogers said. “I’ve used a lot of emotional energy dealing with these situations, trying to find the perfect solution. With age, you learn to handle the emotion.”

As Surrogate Court judge, she is responsible for all estate proceedings, as well as adoptions and guardianships. However, her role in the county’s legal system has been much more extensive and diverse.

She’s regularly been assigned to handle cases in Family Court, County Court and Supreme Court in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. In 1996 she was designated as an Acting Supreme Court Judge to handle matrimonial cases in St. Lawrence County.

Over the years, she has presided over numerous criminal matters in County Court, including jury trials which she particularly enjoyed.

“I was a literary major. I love the stories,” Judge Rogers said. “I love listening to what people say happened and trying to figure out what is believable and what is not. I love having the jury make the final decision.”

Recalling difficult cases, she cited a case about 15 years ago in Franklin County that involved a mother smothering her child to death so she could collect Social Security payments to purchase a double-wide home.

“The fact that a human being could do that was mind boggling,” she said.

Prior to election to the bench, Judge Rogers served as law assistant to Judge Livingston. She also served as Potsdam village justice and has been a member of various civic organizations. Those include the Potsdam Rotary, Potsdam Hospital Guild, trustee of the Potsdam College Foundation, board member for the Cancer Society and board member for the Girl Scout Council.

Judge Rogers has two adult children: Jessica, a graduate of Princeton University and Columbia University and Thomas, a graduate of Colby College and the University of Montana at Missoula.

A long career of public service is not unusual in her family. Her late grandfather, Edson A. Martin, served as a St. Lawrence County sheriff and her late uncle, David O’Brien Martin, served the north country as a county legislator, state assemblyman and congressman.

Judge Rogers holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from Mount Holyoke College and a juris doctor degree from Albany Law School. She is admitted to practice before the New York State Bar and the Federal Bar.

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