Judge Craig J. Doran’s familiar face will be seen around the Hall of Justice more frequently now that he’s been appointed administrative judge of the eight-county Seventh Judicial District.
He will still take an active part in the family courts he has supervised since 2006, but looks forward to his expanded role in the court system.
“I certainly have always been one that enjoys challenges,” he said. “Having been supervising judge of the family courts, I have a view into the business of being a judge.”
A lifelong resident of Canandaigua, Judge Doran was first appointed to the bench in 2000 and has served in multiple capacities including as an acting justice of the Supreme Court.
“I really do enjoy being a judge,” he said. “I think it’s one of the greatest privileges anybody could have. I’m very much looking forward to taking on these new responsibilities.”
Judge Doran is taking the reins — as well as guidance — from Judge Thomas M. Van Strydonck who will continue serving as a justice of the Supreme Court, but is relinquishing the chief administrative role after nearly 11 years.
Judge Doran’s appointment was announced Tuesday by Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau whose decision was made in consultation with Judge Michael Coccoma, deputy chief administrative judge for the courts outside of New York City and Justice Henry J. Scudder, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.
“He’s done an excellent job as a county court judge in Ontario County for the last 11 years,” Justice Scudder said of Judge Doran.
“He was active almost from the beginning in the judicial associations and the different committees that were formed to advise the court system on certain things.”
Justice Scudder said Judge Doran “absolutely excelled” in his performance as supervising judge of the family courts and it was that, as well as his continued work in the administrative part of the judiciary, that make him well-qualified to take on the expanded role.
Justice Scudder also mentioned Judge Doran’s ability to administer policies in a forthright and friendly manner, as well as his ability to get along with everybody.
“Those are just a few of the characteristics that he has that will serve him and everyone well in his new position,” Justice Scudder said. “He’s just one of those people who is liked and likeable.”
Ontario County, where Judge Doran has been a lifelong resident and has spent much of his career, will not be left in the rear-view mirror.
“I have an obligation to continue seeing the people of Ontario County, but am mindful of the need to be available around the district,” he said. “Right now, my priority is to work with Justice Van Strydonck and make sure the transition is a smooth one. It’s also a priority to make sure I’m being supportive of the judges and the staff during these challenging times.”
One of his first jobs will be naming his successor to supervise the family courts, a decision he said he will not make alone. He expects the process to take a couple of weeks.
“The biggest challenge we have every day is the workload becomes more voluminous,” Judge Doran said. “Many of the cases and the people we work with are under stress so the nature of the work is stressful. That is a challenge.”
He said budgetary issues continue to require staff to do more with less, but that the people have responded tremendously.
“My leadership style is to take some time to listen,” Judge Doran said, noting he is supportive of capturing his staff’s individual passions and allowing them “to explore out-of-the-box ideas” for the betterment of the court system.
“I want people to enjoy what they do,” he said. “I want people to believe in what they do. Our mission is to serve the public. I believe very strongly in collaboration. None of us do our jobs in a vacuum It’s important that we work with our partners in and out of government who are also dedicated to justice.”
Judge Doran is quite familiar with the legislative side of things too, having served in the state Assembly from 1994 to 1999, so he brings a somewhat unique perspective to the post.
He is passionate about the many programs he initiated in the family courts and hopes his successor will carry them on.
For example, he’s proud of the School Attendance Partnership which collaborated between the family courts, Rochester City School District, Family Access and Connection Team, Department of Human Services and Probation to get truant kids back in school.
Judge Doran cannot say enough about the people he works with — and at all levels — in the various courts in Monroe, Cayuga, Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.
“One of the things I enjoy most in life is working with people with common interests,” he said. “Every time I show up in a courthouse, I’m reminded of how tremendous the people are who work in the court system.”
He said he constantly sees people behind the counter going out of their way to help people who come in, often going above and beyond what their duties require.
Judge Doran just loves the law and the whole process of the judicial system.
“The more I learn about the process, the more fortunate I feel we are,” he said. “I also love the way the law in our country is able to be applied to unforeseen circumstances. No two cases are the same, yet the law can be applied to those. That’s a pretty neat thing. I feel very passionate and strongly that our system is the best in the world.”
Judge Doran, a graduate of Canandaigua Academy, said he knew “pretty early on” that he wanted to pursue a career in law. He said it was apparent to him his strengths were best suited to a career in law or public service.
“My teachers used to tell me that I was a good talker,” he joked. “They didn’t necessarily use that term.”
Judge Doran also wants his colleagues — judges and non-judicial staff and attorneys — to know he is accessible; his door is always open for anyone with questions or concerns about how justice is being administered.
Judge Doran earned an undergraduate degree, cum laude, at the State University of New York at Albany and graduated, also cum laude, in 1989 from Albany Law School where he worked on the Albany Law Review.
Judge Doran also teaches at Keuka College and Finger Lakes Community College; and serves on the Seneca Waterways Council of Boy Scouts of America; the advisory board, Ontario County Alternatives to Incarceration; Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency’s Regional Health 2020 Performance Workgroup; and is a member of Canandaigua Merrill Hose and Geneva Hydrant Hose fire departments, Thompson Health Healthy Kids Advisory Board and Canandaigua Kiwanis Club.
He and his wife Eileen (O’Neill) Doran, a native of Rochester, live in Canandaigua with their three children.