After the surfacing of a 1988 photo of state Supreme Court Justice Craig Doran in blackface, Doran announced Friday that he is resigning immediately as the Seventh Judicial District’s chief administrative judge.
Doran has held the district’s top judicial slot since being appointed to the post in 2011. He was first elected to the bench as an Ontario County judge in 2000 and has served as a Supreme Court justice since then. Most recently elected to a 10-year term to the Supreme Court bench in 2016, Doran plans to continue as a Supreme Court justice.
“I am deeply sorry for my decision to appear in this manner,” Doran wrote in a statement issued Friday. “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.”
His three-decade-old decision to appear as a “well known figure of color” at a Halloween party “in no way reflects my beliefs and principles,” Doran added.
In a statement of support issued Friday, local human rights attorney Tina Monshipour-Foster praised Doran for having provided “opportunities for diverse community members to reform the justice system.”
She cited as an example a Community Justice Council that Doran set up in 2019 to bring in community members to advise him and the court staff about their experience and concerns about access to justice.
Monshipour-Foster is executive director of JustCause, a nonprofit formally known as Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County Inc. that connects needy clients with pro-bono private legal services. She said her statement of support for Doran is not made in her official capacity but as a private individual.
Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Christian Leadership Ministry, also issued a statement of support for Doran.
“Judge Craig Doran and I have worked together for over eight years,” he said. “We conversed by phone on Thursday concerning the incident involving Blackface which took place in 1988, (and) he expressed his sorrow and regret that this foolish and racist behavior happened. He is truly repentant.”
Added Stewart: “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.”
The appointment of a successor to Doran as the Seventh Judicial District’s chief administrative judge is up to Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the state’s Unified Court System. As of Friday, DiFiore had not yet issued a statement.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct an error. Janet DiFiore is chief judge of the state’s Unified Court System