A courtroom in the Putnam Supreme and County Court building has been named after the late Putnam County Court Judge James Reitz, thanks to a bill sponsored by State Sen. Pete Harckham, D-Peekskill, and former Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, R-Mahopac, who is now the Putnam County executive.
The bill was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul at the end of last month, and designates Room 301 as the “Judge James F. Reitz Memorial Courtroom.”
Reitz passed away in the courthouse from a heart attack at the age of 57 in June 2019.
“Judge Reitz was a beloved figure, whose professionalism, integrity and compassion on and off the bench brought him renown from around the state,” said Harckham. “His remarkable service to his community and love for his family stand as an example to us all, and I am very happy to know that his memory will live on in the Putnam Supreme and County Court.”
The idea of naming the courtroom for Reitz came from Byrne.
“On behalf of all the lives Judge James ‘Jimmy’ Reitz touched and served, I’d like to extend our gratitude to Gov. Hochul and all my colleagues in the State Legislature for their assistance in advancing our proposal to become law, properly honoring Judge Reitz’s remarkable service to our community,” said Byrne. “Special thanks to State Sen. Harckham for carrying the same-as proposal in the Senate and to my retiring colleague Assemblywoman Sandy Galef for co-sponsoring our bill in the Assembly.”
Byrne, who was sworn into office for his second term in the Assembly by Reitz in December 2018, said it was fitting this was the last law he passed before leaving the Legislature to serve as Putnam County executive.
“Judge Reitz was a wonderful human being and a great friend who dedicated much of his life assisting those in need and giving back to the place he called home,” said Byrne. “He believed in giving people second chances and holding people accountable, but also providing them an opportunity to learn and grow. Jimmy loved his family and the people who lived in his community. Simply put, Putnam County is a better place because of the work and character of Judge James Reitz and we will not forget the legacy he has left us.”
A lifelong resident of Putnam County and graduate of Carmel High School, Reitz received a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College and his Juris Doctor from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He worked as a lawyer in private practice from 1991 to 2006, and served as a Carmel town justice from 1996 to 2006, before winning election as a Putnam County Court judge in 2007.
Reitz also served as an acting justice with the New York State Supreme Court. One of his many achievements included instituting his own Drug Treatment Court in Putnam County, which gave many residents a second chance in the judicial system. The court’s success made it a model for similar courts around the country, and was featured in an Emmy Award-winning documentary.
A third-generation life member of the Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department, Reitz was also a member of the Rotary Club of Carmel.
In addition to his wife, Barbara, he is survived by his children Alyssa, Jaime and Michael; as well as six grandchildren, and numerous other family members.
Barbara Reitz, who was in attendance in the Senate when the bill was passed in May, said that every day since her husband’s passing, someone shares a story of him – about his kindness and compassion, and how his strong support saved the lives of countless souls and continues to do so.
“This honor goes beyond any legacy of any one person I will ever know,” she said. “Jim’s lifetime journey centered in Putnam County and most specifically the county seat of Carmel. His lifelong friendships became strong family relationships, and that spirit endures right here in the community that he loved so much. He bound us together through his love, and for all who knew him, the naming of this courtroom is just an incredible honor. I thank everyone for recognizing Jim with this dedication, and I hope his legacy of helping others lives long in the minds of future generations.”