Joins race after fellow Republican drops out
By Holly Crocco
Putnam County Court Judge James Reitz has joined the race for an open seat as a state Supreme Court justice for the 9th Judicial District, which includes Putnam, Dutchess, Westchester, Orange and Rockland counties.
The Supreme Court is not the highest in the state — that is the Court of Appeals, whose seven justices are nominated by a committee and appointed by the governor. Instead, there is a Supreme Court for each county, with 324 justices statewide, each of whom serves a 14-year term. They primarily handle civil cases.
There are 29 justices in the 9th District, which is headquartered in White Plains. A spot opened on the ballot when Mike Martinelli, the chief judge of the Yonkers City Court, withdrew because of continuing health issues affecting his brother and father. The Republican Party asked Reitz to fill the ballot line.
Voters will be asked to select up to seven names from a list of 10 candidates representing the Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform parties. Three candidates are incumbents.
9th District Supreme Court Candidates
Voters will be asked to select up to seven of the following:
Kathie Davidson DEM/REP/CON/IND [incumbent] David Everett DEM [Westchester County judge] Robert Freehill REP/CON/IND/REF [Orange County judge] William Giacomo DEM/IND [incumbent] Hal Greenwald DEM [Yonkers Family Court] Phillip Grimaldi Jr. REP/CON [Attorney from Hawthorne] Joan Lefkowitz DEM/IND [incumbent] James Reitz REP/CON [Putnam County judge] Barry Warhit DEM [Westchester County judge] Thomas Zugibe DEM/CON/IND [Rockland district attorney]
Reitz said he was contemplating a run for the Supreme Court’s appellate division (which has 60 judges) after Judge John Sweeny Jr. completes his 14-year term on Dec. 31. However, with Martinelli withdrawing, he accepted his party’s offer to step in to the 9th District race.
“It was a last-minute thing,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m trying to get my name out there.”
Reitz, who spent 19 years as a prosecuting attorney, was elected as a part-time town justice in Carmel from 1996 to 2006 before being elected to a 10-year term as a Putnam County Court judge in 2007. He was re-elected in 2016.
He also has been an acting state Supreme Court justice since 2007, overseeing personal injury and wrongful death suits, matrimonial and divorce cases, and land ownership and property claims.
County courts handle family and custody issues, including visitation and adoptions; surrogate matters such as estates and inheritance; alcohol- and drug-related offenses (Reitz oversees the drug treatment court); and criminal matters such as burglary, assault, and other felony and misdemeanor charges.
New York Courts
Court of Appeals (state’s highest court), 14-year term
Seven justices, nominated by commission, appointed by governor
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 14 years
60 judges, nominated by commission, appointed by governor
Supreme Court: 324 justices (one court per county), 14 years, elected
County Courts: 125 judges, 10 years, elected
Court of Claims, 9 years, appointed by governor
Family Court, 10 years, elected (outside NYC)
Surrogate Court, 10 years, elected (outside NYC)
District Court, 6 years, elected
Town and village courts, 4 years, elected
If elected, Reitz said, he would like to continue presiding over the treatment court, which gives offenders the chance to complete a two-year rehabilitation program to avoid imprisonment for drug-related offenses. There are about 90 cases going through treatment court and another 10 to 15 being evaluated.
“I would like to keep that and keep working with all those cases,” he said.
Reitz lives in Carmel with his wife, Barbara, who retired earlier this year as coordinator of the Putnam County Youth Court.
The general election is Nov. 6. If Reitz is unsuccessful in his bid for a Supreme Court seat, he will keep his position at the county level.