OCBA Honors Judge James P. Murphy and Susan R. Katzoff, Esq. at 146th Annual Celebration

September 13th, 2023, Syracuse, NY –Martin A. Lynn, President of the Onondaga County Bar Association (OCBA) Board of Directors, announced the selection of the Hon. James P. Murphy as recipient of the William C. Ruger Centennial Award, and Susan R. Katzoff, Esq. as its 2023 Distinguished Lawyer Honoree.  Both will be recognized at the Association’s annual celebration on Thursday, October 26th at the Persian Terrace, Syracuse Marriott Downtown.

Ruger Centennial Award Honoree the Hon. James P. Murphy

The Hon. James P. Murphy is only the twelfth recipient of the Bar Association’s William C. Ruger Centennial Award, reserved for recognition of singularly outstanding achievement in jurisprudence and devotion to upholding the principles of our system of justice.  

In June, Murphy became the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the Courts Outside New York City, supervising operations of all courts in the Third through Ninth Judicial Districts, with 640 State-paid judges and 6,000 non-judicial employees in 57 counties.

Judge Murphy began his legal career after graduating from the Syracuse University College of Law at the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney. In 1987, he became an associate with the law firm of O’Hara & Hanlon and in 1992, returned to public service as a part-time Assistant District Attorney. In 2000, he was elected to the Onondaga County Legislature and served three terms as a Legislator, chairing the Ways & Means Committee from 2003-04.

In 2004, he was elected to his first term as New York State Supreme Court Justice in Onondaga County, serving as the Supervising Judge for the Town and Village Courts from 2007 until 2019, overseeing 210 town and village judges throughout the Fifth Judicial District. In 2018, he was re-elected to a second term as New York State Supreme Court Justice.

In 2019, he was appointed as the Administrative Judge for the Fifth Judicial District. His guidance and leadership through the pandemic kept the courts operational while maintaining a significant focus on access to justice for all.

Judge Murphy has demonstrated a commitment to the bench and bar alike. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Onondaga County Bar Association from 2013-2018 and has been an ex officio member since 2022. Judge Murphy has long been a member of the OCBA Executive Committee, holding many different titles throughout the years, including as President from 2017-2018. That same year, Judge Murphy was also a Director for the Onondaga County Bar Association Assigned Counsel Program, Inc. and worked on overhauling the structure of the Assigned Counsel Program into what it is today.

Distinguished Lawyer Honoree Susan R. Katzoff, Esq.

OCBA has been honoring a local attorney for distinguished service to the profession since 1968.  The Distinguished Lawyer Committee receives nominations and recommends a candidate to the OCBA Board of Directors for its approval.  Honorees must have devoted a full-time professional career to the law; possess exceptional lawyering skills; display a devotion or dedication to the profession as evidenced by involvement or participation in projects or activities, reflecting an unselfish donation of time to the betterment of the profession; and possess ethics beyond reproach.

Susan Katzoff has had a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors and since March 2022 has served as Corporation Counsel for the City of Syracuse, where she provides counsel and oversight on all matters of municipal law including contracts, property disposition, litigation and governance.

At the law firms of Hiscock Barclay (now Barclay Damon) and then Bousquet Holstein, where she remains Of Counsel, she demonstrated her commitment to pro bono and diversity as well as equity and inclusion initiatives with significant leadership roles in those areas at each firm. 

In 2019, Katzoff became President of the Board of Directors of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York and led that organization through the worst of the pandemic, devoting much personal time to helping the agency plan, and then work remotely during those extraordinarily challenging years. In addition, she also currently serves as a member and the secretary of the Gifford Foundation Board of Trustees.

Her practice expertise lies with public and quasi-public entities including industrial development agencies, local development corporations and port authorities in public finance transactions involving the issuance of tax-exempt and taxable obligations as well as economic development incentives.

Katzoff obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and English from SUNY Albany, and her J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.

Registration for the Celebration will open late September.  For more information, contact OCBA Executive Director Jeff Unaitis at (315) 579-2581, or JUnaitis@onbar.org.