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INSIGHT: Gary Favro, Esq.

Updated: May 6

By Michelle St. Onge Photo by Jessica McCafferty

Hometown: Plattsburgh

Family: Wife, Debra; two adult sons, Matthew and Mark; and six grandchildren

Education: B.S., political science; B.A., communications from SUNY Plattsburgh; J.D., Albany Law School 

Occupation: Practicing attorney and Federal Magistrate Judge

Community Involvement: Lions Club, Youth sports coaching (first for his children and currently for his grandchildren), service to the Plattsburgh YMCA including Board membership, pro-bono work, volunteer Spin class instructor, and Basketball Coach.

Serving as a federal judge whose decisions often have life changing consequences for other people is a job that Plattsburgh native Gary Favro takes seriously. He assumed this part-time role over ten years ago and layered it on top of his full-time law practice that he now shares with his son, Matt. “Being a judge is not easy,” Favro explained, “It’s important for a judge to be balanced and empathetic.” In pursuit of those ideals, Favro is active in an impressive variety of community activities. You will not only find him in court, but you can also find him on the court (basketball), coaching youth sports, leading an intense Spin group exercise class, doing yard work at home, or riding a Wave runner on Lake Champlain. “I strongly believe that empathy is far more important than sympathy,” he explained, “I do a lot of different things that bring me in contact with different types of people. They help me to stay grounded in the way I look at the world.”

Favro is a proud Mount Assumption Institute graduate. After completing law school in Albany, Favro returned home where he worked as an associate in local law firms for five years before starting a solo practice in the mid-1980’s. In 2007 his son Matthew, who was practicing law in New York City, came home and joined the family practice. Today, the two men complement each other, serving clients primarily in the areas of family law, wills, real estate, and business/corporate law.

 Recently Favro accepted our invitation to reflect on what he has learned over his many years, and through his many roles.

SB: What does serving as a Federal Magistrate Judge in Plattsburgh entail?

GF: The role takes on average between 20 to 25 percent of my time, and I work strictly on criminal cases. It is a unique position here because of the proximity of the US-Canadian border. Most people do not realize how much activity goes on in Clinton County. I have regular sessions of Court and I am basically on call 24/7 signing search warrants, arrest warrants, court orders, and things of that nature. I am called to do these things multiple times, practically every day. The volume of work here surprises most people.

SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?

GF: Never give up, and don’t be afraid to fail. Listen more and talk less. You don’t learn much by talking, but you can learn a lot by listening. 

SB: What inspires you?

GF: Everyday ordinary people who quietly deal with life’s problems and challenges without fanfare and without being noticed. For example, a couple adopting three children from a horrible situation and providing them with an amazing life; or a law enforcement officer who volunteered to go to New York City after 9/11, then fell ill with cancer and died, saying that he would make the same decisions again even knowing the danger to his health; as well as countless others who show up every day and confront life’s challenges without complaining.

SB: What does success look like to you?

GF: Success starts with family at the top of the list. We’ve raised two great sons who are now raising two great families. Next, it’s about helping others. My wife was a revered schoolteacher for many years. Her former students come up to her all the time, telling her how she helped them. I’ve helped a lot of people over the years in my work, too. When you reach this point in life, success is being comfortable in your own skin, and really knowing who you are. You can be far from perfect, but it matters more that you’re always doing the best you can to do the right thing.

SB: What is your favorite quote and how does it speak to you in your life?

GF: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York has a motto that I think about a lot and share with my clients: “Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it for the right reasons.” If you can do that consistently, you will do well. You might not always be successful, but when you look at yourself in the mirror, you’ll feel good about what you did. This motto resonates at every level of life. If you follow this advice as a young attorney, you will not be led astray and you will always give sound advice to your clients. 

SB: If you could have dinner and spend an evening with any well-known person, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

GF: I would really like to talk with Abraham Lincoln and find out what he thinks about what is going on in our divided society today. I think his voice would be important to hear, and he could share some insights that would help us heal the polarized country we live in today.

SB: What is something no one would guess about you?

GF: A lot of people don’t think someone my age should be leading a spin class or playing basketball with 20-year-olds, as competitively as I can. A lot of people think I’m foolish for jumping on a jet ski and riding it like a teenager. On the other side of the spectrum, a lot of people don’t know that I also enjoy quiet time landscaping and pruning the rose garden we have at home.

SB: What is the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend or colleague?

GF: There are two books that I recommend to a lot of people. The first is Origin by Dan Brown. It is an easy novel type of read with an incredibly strong lesson about artificial intelligence, which is a very timely topic. The second book that has had a big impact on me was Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann. It is a true story that sheds light on some of the atrocities that were brought upon Native Americans. They are both really thought-provoking books.

SB: What are you most proud of professionally? 

GF: I’m proud of the times I have helped people through difficult and challenging times. That is what lawyers do. We are problem solvers. We take people’s problems and challenges and we help them get through them. Whether it is stabilizing a crisis situation, helping a struggling couple find a way to get into their first home, or helping an entrepreneur start a business and then watch it grow, helping people solve their problems is what tells me I’ve made a difference.

SB: How would you like to be remembered? 

GF: I’d like to be remembered as someone who tried to be fair and do the right things. I always hope that I have more days doing the right thing than the wrong.

SB: What do you believe the North Country community should do today to ensure a prosperous future?

GF: We need to cultivate the core values that attract people here. During the pandemic, people bought an incredible volume of real estate here. Why? I think it is because we have great natural resources and good people who are generous and charitable. In order to be successful in the future, we have to maintain an environment that is attractive to our children. Many of them will move away early in their careers, but we need to continue to grow and nurture what is here so that the choice to come back remains attractive.

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