Measuring right from wrong

NORWICH – America thrives on the dream of social mobility, that anyone who works hard enough can pull themselves up from poverty through determination and chance. One’s luck will often prevail if their convictions hold steady.

One of the only members of his family to attend college, New York State Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dowd has been a judge for the past 23 years and his ascent represents an embodiment to those founding inspirations.

“I think public service is a very high calling and the judgeship is to me the highest principle of that,” Dowd said.

One of nine children from a large Irish Catholic family that was trapped in poor economic circumstances and led by a father who struggled with a drinking problem, Dowd was elected into judicial service at the relatively young age of 36.

Dowd became a Supreme Court Justice in 1999 after serving as Chenango’s County, Family and Surrogate Court judge since 1986.

“The joke that gets told in my family is that I was the only Dowd ever to pass the bar – the rest stopped to have a drink,” laughed the judge.

Growing up as a shy child, Dowd learned to confront his anxieties. He said he always wanted to be a lawyer, but didn’t think he could be a criminal lawyer or a judge due to a fear of public speaking.

Today, the well-known judge often uses his quick wit and sense of humor to ease tensions in the courtroom, speaking directly to attorneys and defendants even in the face of political correctness or social norms.

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