October 21, 2021

Masler brings life lessons from farming, swimming to state Supreme Court

Experiences serve as guide

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Mark Masler, the newest state Supreme Court justice from Cortland County, used to be a dairy farmer from Truxton, works out routinely at the YMCA, and now oversees civil court cases.

Mark Masler has played many parts in his life, including banker, farmer and lawyer.

He now plays the part of Supreme Court justice, a position he believes is crucial to maintaining order.

“It (the Supreme Court) provides an orderly and peaceful resolution of disputes so people don’t have to resort to violence to solve those disputes,” he said recently. “It’s a very important function for our society.”

Masler was sworn in on New Year’s Day, succeeding Justice Phillip Rumsey, whose law clerk he had been for for 11 years.

Rumsey, who retired last year after serving as justice for 26 years, couldn’t be happier with the choice of his successor.

“The position’s in great hands,” Rumsey said. “He’s going to do tremendously and I’m excited to see how he progresses in that position.”

Masler’s character, loyalty to his family and dedication to helping write just outcomes were some Masler’s strongest characteristics, Rumsey said.

“He knows the impact it (decisions) will have on people and you can’t ask for more from a judge than that,” Rumsey said.

Masler first met Rumsey in 1983 when Masler and his wife, Bernice Potter-Masler, moved to Truxton to work on Potter-Masler’s family dairy farm, Masler said. Masler’s father-in-law, Bernard Potter, was on the Cortland County Republican Committee with Rumsey.

Before that, Masler had been an agriculture loan officer at NBT Bank in Norwich. The jobs gave him a better understanding of people and issues, Masler said.

“Dairy farming is a demanding job.” Masler said. “It’s a character-building job. You learn about responsibility and perseverance and what it takes to see things through.”

It also helped his law career by providing background knowledge for trial cases in areas like machinery, mechanical repairs, construction and more.

Masler went Cornell Law School in 1990 and was admitted to the bar in New York in 1994, he said.

He practiced law with Harris Beach PLLC in Ithaca before being picked as Rumsey’s law clerk in 2008.

As law clerk, he helped Rumsey research and write decisions. Masler helped Rumsey determine “what would be a just outcome and start drafting decisions on cases that way,” Rumsey said.

Swimming, too, has been a big part of Masler’s life.

Masler frequently swims at the pool at the Cortland YMCA along with using the fitness center, said Noah Beck, the executive director of the YMCA.

Masler was also on the board of directors and was a volunteer swim coach, Beck said.

“He’s a great guy,” Beck said. “He’s very community-minded and given a lot of time to the YMCA.”

Masler recalls swimming many times with Rumsey’s predecessor, Paul J. Yesawich, who served as the Supreme Court justice for the Sixth Judicial District from 1970 to 1993.

“I think is very important for people in these positions to live a normal life, to be seen and be accessible to people — within the rules of conduct,” Masler said.

While Masler’s position may have changed, his approach to the law hasn’t.

“It’s not about the power that’s given to the individual who holds the position,” Masler said. “It’s about exercising the power of the office in a responsible manner by following the law.”