MALONE — A fixture of the Franklin County Court, a judge elected to the bench in 1987, is retiring in December.
In a press release Friday, Judge Robert G. Main Jr., of Malone, officially announced he will retire on Dec. 31, marking the conclusion of a 34-year judicial career.
“It’s bittersweet,” Main said. “I wasn’t ready to go four years ago when I ran for my current term.”
According to the County Court press release, the state Constitution requires most state trial court judges to retire when they reach the age of 70.
“Turning that age made the decision to step down easier, intellectually if not emotionally,” Main said. “I’m leaving a job I love.”
Main said he will miss the day-to-day interaction with attorneys that comes with being a county judge.
“I will miss interacting with attorneys, I will miss the intellectual challenges,” Main said.
Main is the longest serving court judge in the Fourth Judicial District and the state’s senior surrogate.
Main credited his staff for making his time on the bench easier and more enjoyable.
“I have the best staff a judge could ask for,” Main said.
Prior to his election to the county bench in 1987, Main practiced law in Malone for more than a decade and served as Surrogate’s Court and Family Court judge.
After the election of a separate Family Court judge, Main continued to sit in Family Court and in 1997, began to sit regularly in state Supreme Court in Franklin County and was later designated a full-time acting justice in state Supreme Court.
In addition to his regular assignments, Main has continued to preside over the adult treatment part of state Supreme Court, in addition to the integrated domestic violence part.
“The hardest part is the cases that involve abuse, cases involving children as the victim of a criminal act, or cases where children have been neglected or abused, those are the hardest cases,” Main said.
Main said over the years he has noticed an uptick in the number of cases that come before the court.
“The volume of cases has definitely increased, in both criminal and family courts,” Main said. “The drug crisis has made itself present in almost every case, there is rarely a case where drugs or alcohol are not involved. When I started in ’88 these cases existed too, but not to the extent you see today.”
Main said being a county judge also carries the opportunity to offer people second chances.
“The other side of the coin is to help someone in trouble, to offer them a second chance,” he said. “I firmly believe people, in most instances, deserve a second chance.”
Main credited the Franklin County Probation Department with working with people in these instances.
“We are very fortunate to have a fantastic Probation Department, we have had a lot of success with the people they have worked with,” Main said.
Main will be succeeded on the county bench by Judge-elect Craig Carriero, now the Franklin County District Attorney, who defeated Elizabeth Crawford for the seat in the November general election.
“Having more time, that is probably something I am looking forward to — more free time to do some of the things I haven’t been able to do as a full-time judge,” Main said. “I don’t have a list I have to do or want to do. I think I’ll take some time in the early part of the year to decompress. I look forward to the opportunity to visit family and to travel.”
Carriero said he appeared multiple times before Judge Main as the county’s district attorney.
“He had a very long and distinguished career. The way he handled himself on the court set a high standard for the position,” Carriero said of Main. “He set an incredible example. His decisions were always thought out and well regarded.”
Born in May 1951, Main is the son of the late Ann Manson Main and Robert Gordon Main Sr., a longtime state Supreme Court judge for the Fourth Judicial District.
Main has spent his whole life in Malone, attending local schools and graduating from Franklin Academy in 1969 as the graduating class’ salutatorian.
Main earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Vermont’s Middlebury College in 1973, and after completing his undergraduate studies, he attended Albany Law School of Union University, where he was awarded his law degree in 1976.
In 1977, Main was admitted to the New York State Bar in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, continuing a long family tradition and making him a fifth-generation attorney.
Main’s grandfather and great-grandfather served as Franklin County district attorneys, and his father served in the state Assembly in the 1950s, and as an associate justice of the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division for years.
Although he comes from a long line of attorneys, Main said he wasn’t always sure he would pursue a legal career.
“When I came to the end of my time at Middlebury and it was time to decide what I was going to do next, I wasn’t sure I wanted to practice law,” Main said. “However, I knew going to law school would be good for any number of things and it wasn’t until my senior year of law school I decided to practice law.”
Following his own admission to the bar, Main practiced general civil law in Malone with the law firm of Mullarney & Holland, and served as the village’s attorney.
In 1980, Main and Donald Holland formed a professional corporation and practiced law as Holland & Main, P.C.
Main left private practice when he was first elected to the county bench. He was reelected in 1997, 2007 and 2017.
“When I first started out, it wasn’t an initial goal to become a judge,” Main said. “Judge (Jan) Plumadore, my predecessor, was influential in my decision to run for the county bench. My father was certainly pleased I became a judge, but he never pushed me in that direction, though his example was certainly influential.”
Main founded the adult treatment and family treatment courts in Franklin County, and presides over the integrated domestic violence part of the Supreme Court, is the senior trial judge in the Fourth Judicial District and the longest tenured surrogate in the state.
In 2019, state Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed Main as co-chair of the Tribal Court Committee serving the New York-Federal –State-Tribal Courts and Indian Nations Justice Forum.
As a member of this forum, Main led a local pre-trial supervision initiative.
In addition to his time in Franklin County, Main has sat in all but two counties in the state’s Fourth Judicial District, including time on the Supreme Court in Monroe County and regular appearances in St. Lawrence County, where he currently presides over the Judicial Diversion Program.
Main served several terms on the Third Department’s Law Guardian Advisory Committee by appointment of Appellate Division Presiding Justice Anthony Cardona, and was a member of the family court’s curriculum committee, which determines the courses to be offered to family court judges at annual seminars.
At the direction of Administrative Judge Jan Plumadore, Main was responsible for assisting in the design of the expanded space the court system acquired and the redesign of its original space during a 2007 renovation project at the Franklin County Courthouse in Malone.
During this project, four modern and bright courtrooms were built or renovated together with waiting rooms and space for private conferences, while the public areas of the court system were brought closer to the building’s entrances to make them more accessible.
“It was congested and it wasn’t as safe as it could be before the renovation,” Main said. “The project spanned a couple of years, it was done in phases. The county did all of the work, and that not only saved thousands of dollars but got it done a couple of years before it would have been completed if we had gone through a bid process.”
Following the completion of the project, Main has fostered a practice of using court space for displaying of public art, including stained glass maps of county villages on the third floor of the building.
Main said the first map to be displayed was a map of Malone in 2009, followed by one of Saranac Lake in 2011, and most recently, a map of Tupper Lake this year, with plans for a map of Chateaugay to be added in the future.
“It started out with the first piece being raffled off, and the person who won it gave it to me as a gift and I decided to display it at the courthouse,” Main said. “It later spread to include maps of other villages.”
Main said local artist Michael Hart worked with area students to complete each piece, work that was funded by the Bev Quenville Art Fund.
Main is a communicant of St. Andre Bessette parish in Malone, where he serves as a lector and Eucharistic Minister.
Main was a parish trustee and is a parish council member, serving as president of the parish council in the 1980s. He also served as a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg’s Pastoral Council and Long Range Planning Committee, and as a member of the Bishop’s Heritage Circle.
Prior to serving on the bench, Main was a committeeman and vice chair of the county’s Republican Committee, serving as an alternate delegate to the 1984 Republican National Convention.
Main is now in his second term as chair of the Alice Hyde Medical Center Board of Directors. During his first stint as chair, the local medical center expanded its services to include renal dialysis, radiation oncology and cardiac rehabilitation.
Additionally, outreach clinics were established in Chateaugay, Fort Covington and Moira, and the medical center campus in Malone was expanded to include the construction of the ambulatory surgery center, which his family helped to endow and which bears his father’s name.
Main served as president of the Farrar Home in Malone for 20 years, and led its expansion from a 14-bed to 30-bed facility with the construction of a new wing.
Main was a member of the corporation of Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh; is a member of the Franklin Academy Board of Trustees, and chaired the school’s scholarship committee; and is a member of the board for Malone’s Morningside Cemetery.
Main is a member and past secretary of the Franklin County Bar Association and a past member of the New York State Bar Association.
He is a member of the Malone Lodge of Elks and the Franklin County Historical Society, and is a former member of the Kiwanis Club, where he was a director and editor of the club’s weekly “Kronikles.’”
During the 1980s, Main was a member of the adjunct faculty of North Country Community College where he taught business law.