PORT JERVIS — Some folks look at getting older as a chance to slow down a bit. Semiretire, even. Judges are a different breed.

PORT JERVIS — Some folks look at getting older as a chance to slow down a bit. Semiretire, even. Judges are a different breed.

Take Bob Onofry, Port Jervis City Court judge for the past 11 years. Last week, he turned 59 — and kicked off a campaign to become judge of the Orange County Surrogate Court. More than 150 supporters cheered him on at a Feb. 21 $50-a-plate party at the Erie Trackside Manor.

Onofry is seeking the Republican nomination. The county GOP will pick its nominee in May; Onofry and Warwick Town Justice Peter Bartlett are both seeking the nod. The winner in November will fill a position vacated by Judge Elaine Slobod, who has been elected a Supreme Court justice. Onofry already has the backing of several local Republican committees.

If Onofry gets the nomination to run in November for a 10-year term, this may be his last year as City Court judge. He has to decide by July whether to run for another six-year term in the City Court.

If he wins, he will become the first county judge elected from Port Jervis in anyone's memory.

Onofry says he looks forward to the possibility of entering a new phase of his career and community service.

After 32 years practicing law, including 18 as chief counsel for the Port Jervis City School District, 12 years as general counsel for the Port Jervis Community Development Agency, handling more than 16,000 cases in his 11 years as City Court judge, stints as acting judge in city courts in Middletown and Newburgh, helping establish a drug court and piloting a domestic violence project through the PJ court, considerable involvement in community and county charitable organizations, and maintaining a private law practice — well, Onofry is looking forward to the possibility of laying much of the aforementioned aside to focus on one thing, the law.

"The idea that you're devoting 100 percent of your time to the craft, that's what intrigues me at this point of time in my life," he said, adding that pursuing a county-level judgeship is "something I've wanted to do for years."

As judge of the Orange County Surrogate Court, Onofry would focus on estates and affairs of the deceased, one of his specialties. Since hanging his shingle three decades ago, Onofry has centered his private practice largely around Surrogate Court matters — the practice, procedure and general administration of people's estates. He's drafted thousands of wills, trusts and estate plans, he says. "And I have been entrusted by my clients with the responsibility of implementing those plans," he says.

His municipal experience in City Court and with the CDA and his considerable legal work for the city's schools would also prove helpful were he elected surrogate, Onofry said. That's because the judge of the Surrogate Court in Orange County has historically been additionally assigned to work as an acting judge of the state Supreme Court.

Summing up his qualifications, Onofry says:

"During the course of my 11-year tenure as City Court judge, I believe I have developed a reputation, among attorneys and litigants alike, as a judge who is competent, fair (but firm) and exceedingly patient.

"In short, I believe I possess the required 'judicial temperament' to be an effective and respected surrogate; a quality that will serve me well, particularly in adjudicating the many probate and guardianship proceedings that routinely come before the court.

"Thus, I would respectfully submit that I possess both the legal and judicial credentials that qualify me not only as a credible candidate to represent the Orange County Republican Party as its candidate for surrogate in November, but also as a candidate that, if nominated and elected, will serve the citizens of Orange County with competence and distinction."

City Court Judge Bob Onofry last week kicked off a campaign to become judge of Orange County Surrogate Court. He paused for this photo Monday at his East Main Street law office. On the wall are his predecessors in the oldest law firm in town, Cuddeback and Onofry. Photo by Tom Leek