Judge Doran steps down as administrative judge, apologizes for 1988 Halloween photo

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Justice Craig Doran has stepped down as the administrative judge for New York’s Seventh Judicial District and issued an apology for a photo from a 1988 Halloween party.

In the apology, Doran says the photo that has been recently circulating, depicts him appearing as “a well-known public figure of color.” He said at the time, he didn’t comprehend the hurtful nature of his actions and it in no way reflects his beliefs.

Although Doran will be stepping down as administrative judge, he said he will continue his work as an  elected State Supreme Court justice.

It is not immediately clear who will succeed Doran in the administrative judge role.

Justice Doran released the following statement:

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. 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. I can assure you that this event in 1988 in no way reflects my beliefs and principles.

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.

In accordance with the Chief Judge’s zero tolerance policy on matters of racial bias and insensitivity, I will no longer be exercising my responsibilities as Administrative Judge of the Seventh Judicial District. I plan to continue my service to the District as an elected Supreme Court Justice. I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue the work I have devoted my 30-year career to, bringing justice to all, particularly those who have been and are the victims of ignorance, bias, racism, or injustice. I pledge to make the transition to a new administrative judge seamless.

President Of the United Christian Leadership Ministry Rev. Lewis Stewart released a statement on Friday expressing support for Doran. “I told Judge Doran that his behavior 33 years ago was highly offensive and racist but does not reflect who he is today,” Rev. Stewart wrote.

“Judge Doran has matured in his thinking, attitude, sensitivity and conduct since that time, about race and racism in America. In fact, Craig has advocated for systemic change when it comes to implicit bias in the courts and criminal justice system.”

When asked if there is room for forgiveness, Stewart said, “of course there’s room for forgiveness. I would be disingenuous and not a minister if I said that there is no room for forgiveness. There should always be forgiveness,” Stewart said in an interview with News 8 adding, “And so I have a great deal of admiration for him. And I’m sorry that what happened 33 years ago is still wreaking havoc in his life.”

Attorney Bob Brenna of Brenna Boyce also coming to the defense of Doran today. “I was really devastated when I heard about this today,” he says.

Brenna says blackface is intolerable but at the same time, “I think we have to stop superimposing today’s sensitivity and values… to behavior from 30, 40, 50 years ago.”

Both he and Doran he says working in the courtroom to combat racism in the community. He hopes Doran’s hard work is not diminished. “We are judging people’s behavior from decades ago with today’s norms,” he says.

Rev. Lewis Stewart’s full statement:

Judge Craig Doran and I have worked together for over eight years.

We conversed by phone on Thursday concerning the incident involving Blackface which took place in 1988, he expressed his sorrow and regret that this foolish and racist behavior happened. He is truly repentant. I told Judge Doran that his behavior 33 years ago was highly offensive and racist but does not reflect who he is today.

Judge Doran has matured in his thinking, attitude, sensitivity and conduct since that time, about race and racism in America. In fact, Craig has advocated for systemic change when it comes to implicit bias in the courts and criminal justice system.

We have worked together on several projects beginning with the Brenda Hardaway incident in 2013, a pregnant black woman who was physically assaulted by a Rochester Police Department officer, to developing strategies and informing the community regarding diversifying the jury pool, to presently implementing UCLM’s Judicial Observation Project, which has not been officially announced yet.

The purpose of the JOP is to transform the NY State Court System of the 7th Judicial District of Systemic racism and implicit bias. Judge Doran and his team of Judges and the UCLM team met over the past year to develop this unique and significant project. He has certainly been a supportive and enthusiastic advocate for this program.

I can say unequivocally that Judge Doran is not a racist. Many of us are not who we were over thirty-three years ago. Hopefully, human beings will change and do change.

It is regrettable that the Chief Administrative Judge is bowing to political correctness by removing Craig Doran from his position and especially as an advocate for this praiseworthy and potentially transformative project

The Chief Administrative Judge’s decision will have a negative impact in effectively combatting systemic racism and implicit bias in the NY State Courts system via the Judicial Observation Project and Judge Doran’s vital and positive role assisting with this project. This is what happens when you have bureaucrats making odious decisions which undermine the systemic change you had hoped for.

In the final analysis, I have the highest regard for Judge Doran. I consider him a friend and fellow traveler advocating for systemic change

Statement from the Monroe County Bar Association:

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.  

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.

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