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Dan Hust | Democrat

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kane, left, received a plaque of appreciation from the Sullivan County Legislature during Tuesday’s year-end meeting in Monticello. Presenting it to him was Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis.

Judge Kane will
miss bench

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 1, 2010 — Tony Kane admitted it:
“Being a judge was not a dream of mine.”
Nevertheless, he’s sat on the bench for 25 years, and by the time you read this, Judge Kane will officially be retired.
This past Tuesday, the 64-year-old admitted something else as well: he’s going to miss it.
“I loved being a judge,” he said inside his handsome chambers at the County Courthouse in Monticello. “... It was a gift.”
That gift was given to him by county voters in election after election, from his start as a Family Court judge in 1984 to County Court judge to the New York State Supreme Court and its Appellate Division, where he reached the Associate Judge level before retiring.
But save for happy memories of painting wooden election signs, he’s not interested in talking about the politics that went into those elections, nor the politics that ultimately conspired to hasten his already-planned retirement.
Judge Kane was never in it for the politics, after all. As colleague after colleague, lawyer after lawyer, litigant after litigant has acknowledged in praise heaped upon him over the years, Tony Kane has always been about fairness, justice, empathy.
“I loved working with juries,” he recalled, “people who have really never had contact with the legal system.”
Same goes for litigants in Family Court, who often had never appeared in front of a judge before. Kane took much delight in introducing them to a system he greatly believes in – one based on allowing citizens, not just judges, to help resolve differences and determine consequences.
“What an incredibly civil way to resolve disputes,” he mulled.
This week has offered Kane a multitude of opportunities to reflect, especially inside a courthouse where he has literally lived for nearly two decades.
“Over the last 18 years, I have spent every working day here – and more weekends than I care to count,” he related with his ever ready smile. “I’ve loved coming here.”
Inside a building he considers the architectural cornerstone of Sullivan County – a monument to dignity and justice he’s helped preserve and beautify – Kane has, as he put it, “refereed” thousands upon thousands of cases.
Most memorable for him is one involving a man who killed a couple in their Kiamesha Lake home in the early 1990s – not because of the shocking facts of the case, but because the system worked as it should, and he got to be a key part of it.
“It was an emotional trial,” he said, praising the police work that ultimately led to the suspect’s conviction and life imprisonment. “It was a very intense experience, but he got a fair trial.”
Yet Kane said he found his most difficult cases not in County or Supreme Court but in Family Court, where he presided for seven years.
“I think I lost my hair at Family Court,” he joked. “I loved it, but it tired me out, no end.”
With emotions rampant and children involved, the judge often found himself spending time sensitively detailing court procedures to families – then offering an empathetic ear to lives in chaos.
“A lot of people came in angry and frustrated,” he explained. “They needed to know whoever sat at that bench would give them the opportunity to talk – and would listen.”
He sometimes worried that his family might bear the backlash from those who appeared before him – wife Nancy was employed in the Monticello Central School District, and now-grown sons Matthew and Tim went to school just down the street from the courthouse – but that never happened.
He credited that to a community that understood his role, even if people didn’t always like his decisions.
“Sullivan County has treated me and my family very well,” Kane related. “I love where I live.”
That’s why retirement will not take him away – not for too long, anyway.
“There are a lot of places I’ve never been to,” he explained.
So he and Nancy, his wife of 40 years and fellow retiree, will travel, but always with the intent to return home to Forestburgh, where they’ve lived virtually their entire married life.
Kane may also continue to be involved in cases, but on the private side.
“I’d be interested in doing some arbitration and mediation,” he said.
Though he’s been asked, Kane doesn’t plan on returning to public service, however.
“I have no present plans to run for office,” he said. “I’ve done that career, and it was a wonderful career.”
But it wasn’t a career he ever planned on having, barely making it out of a Westchester County high school and into college. Thanks to his Iona College mentor, the late Brother John Daly, Kane found a purpose in life, discovering he could help bring the same to others in troubled situations – especially youth.
That’s why he’s been found coaching children on Little League and soccer fields, even conducting a kids’ orchestra.
“We should take those opportunities to be that person kids can feel connected to and have some responsibility to,” he remarked.
His community efforts have also extended to Hospice of Orange and Sullivan, where he serves as a board member, and the Forestburgh Fire Department, where he hopes to now find the time to restart his long-dormant service.
“Though since I’m nearing 65, I won’t be running into any burning buildings,” he added with a laugh.
It’s the least he can do for the county he’s called home for four decades, a county that, as he pointed out, “has invested itself in me.”
“I have an affection for the county. It’s a wonderful place,” Kane acknowledged.
Of course, Sullivan County isn’t the only object of his affection.
“I was able to do the things I did,” he said with deep gratitude, “because I had a spouse who was always supportive and encouraging.

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