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Frank P. Geraci Jr.geraci-4x5

Chief Judge

United States District Court for the Western District of New York

Years in current role:9

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The ability to provide justice both in criminal and civil cases by treating each case and litigant individually. In many cases there are complex legal issues that need to be resolved. Our decisions can have a lasting impact on future proceedings. The rulings issued by our court can have a profound effect on a person’s life. As a District Judge we have the power to decide whether an individual remains free in the community. Daily we need to balance the rights of a defendant against the need for victims to be compensated for their loss.

Our decisions need to deter wrongful conduct and encourage lawful activity but at the same time always be in a position to offer a defendant the opportunity to become a constructive member of our society. These challenges are what make this job meaningful.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?

No classes in law school or training as a judge prepare you for dealing with a pandemic. This was a challenging year because in addition to maintaining a large civil and criminal caseload it was my responsibility to assure that the court staff, judges and public were safe while we carried out our constitutional duties. When the coronavirus hit in March 2020 all we knew was that we were dealing with a highly contagious and deadly disease that did not have a cure. Saving lives became a critical function. There was no playbook informing us how to handle this situation. Fortunately I had the assistance of a small task force of very skilled leaders that helped us work through this crisis. A lot of sleepless nights, prayers and a little luck helped us navigate these troubling times.

What do you see as the biggest changes in the legal industry in the next 3-5 years?

I believe that the recent pandemic has caused us to take a different view regarding how we handle cases in a courthouse. Remote proceedings will become the norm and personal appearances will be experienced less. This crisis hopefully also will cause everyone to reflect on the important things in life. Recent events in our communities have also opened minds regarding the possibility of exploring alternative approaches to law enforcement and how we dispense justice. It is always good to take a step back and not just continue to operate in the same way because it has become routine. Creativity in approaching justice can lead to positive change.

What advice would you give law students who are graduating this year?

Pursue what will make you feel that you are making an impact in our society. Let your heart and mind dictate the direction of your legal career, not your bank account.

Find a balance between your professional life and your personal life. Lean on your colleagues for advice and support and be willing to help them as well.

Join the Bar. Stay active in your community. Lifelong relationships will develop from these interactions. Always practice integrity. Be a person of your word. Be respectful to all court staff, other attorneys and anyone you may meet.

What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?

Hugging the grandkids.Shaking hands.Enjoying gathering with friends and family.Walking down the street without needing to walk away from your neighbor. Exchanging laughs over a beer. Replacing fear with joy.

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