Doran steps down as administrative judge over 1988 Halloween photo
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — An email hit our in-box Friday morning that sent a shockwave through the entire legal system in Rochester.
The email said the highest-ranking judge in our area is resigning his leadership post because of a nearly 33-year-old photo of him at a Halloween party that "has been circulated."
The judge is Craig Doran. As the administrative judge, he supervises every county, family, and Supreme Court judge in our eight-county region and hears cases.
"It has come to my attention that a photograph taken of me at a Halloween party in 1988 in which I appear as a well-known public figure of color has been circulated," Doran’s statement begins. "I am deeply sorry for my decision to appear in this manner. I did not comprehend at the time the hurtful nature of my actions. I know now that an act of this nature is considered to be racist."
In 1988, Doran was a student at Albany Law School.
He said he’s stepping down as the administrative judge but staying on the bench as an elected judge.
"I can assure you that this event in 1988 in no way reflects my beliefs and principles," Doran wrote in his statement. "I ask for forgiveness from those who have been hurt by this, those I may have embarrassed, and from the people who have taken time in their lives to educate me about the hurt my actions caused."
Doran declined my offer to talk, but his office suggested I talk to Rev. Lewis Stewart, an outspoken critic of inequality in the justice system and a friend of Doran.
News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Rev. Stewart, have you talked to Judge Doran about this situation?"
Rev. Lewis Stewart, United Christian Leadership Ministry: "Yes. Judge Doran called me yesterday."
Stewart said Doran described the photo he was in as racist and offensive.
Stewart: "And I said to him, ‘alright, judge, I agree with you on all those things, but I said in the trajectory of our lives,’ I said, ‘none of us, our characters should not be judged based upon what we did 30-something years ago.’"
Brean: "Reverend, have you seen this photo in question?"
Stewart: "No. I have not seen the photo.
Brean: "Did Judge Doran describe it to you?"
Stewart: "He described it to me."
Brean: "What did he tell you?"
Stewart: "He told me who the public figure was, and I don’t want to go into that."
Brean: "Why not?"
Stewart: "Why not? Because I don’t think it’s my place. It’s his place to do that."
Stewart did not describe or provide a copy of the photo going around.
Brean: "This was 33 years ago when he was in law school. Does timing matter? The length of time ago, does that matter?"
Stewart: "I think it does matter because I’m a minister. And I have to look at the fact that everyone is in need of redemption. Everyone is in need of forgiveness. I do not see him as a white racist. I saw him caught up in a culture of white privilege as this nation is. Yet, he has managed to extricate himself from that and to move forward."
In his statement, Doran writes, "I will no longer be exercising my responsibilities as Administrative Judge of the Seventh Judicial District."
Brean: "Do you think he should resign as a judge?"
Rep. Joe Morelle, (D) 25th District: "I think there’s going to be a review certainly. I think it’s an open question. I don’t know that he can say he can’t serve in an administrative capacity but can continue to dispense justice as a Supreme Court justice. So, I think it’s a question we very much have to consider, and he has to consider."
Doran is up for reelection as State Supreme Court justice in 2025.
Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said Justice William Taylor will serve as the acting administrative judge.
Read Doran’s full statement below:
The Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA) released the following statement on the resignation of Doran as administrative judge of New York’s Seventh Judicial District:
"The Monroe County Bar Association is saddened and troubled by the past action of Judge Doran in choosing to dress in apparent mockery of a well-known African-American public figure. The MCBA trusts that Judge Doran now knows and understands that when any of us choose to demean and mock anyone based on the color of their skin it is not funny nor entertaining. While the MCBA strongly condemns Judge Doran’s past actions, we believe that Judge Doran should not be judged as a whole by this past act. Judge Doran has been a champion of diversity within the bench and bar and has worked with the MCBA in its attempts to bring about real and substantive change. We can all condemn the actions of individuals without condemning the individuals themselves.
As the facts and circumstances surrounding this situation are still new and developing, the MCBA is still in the process of assessing the issue. The MCBA offers its support and understanding for all of those that have been hurt by Judge Doran’s past behavior."