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Judge Was Handling Family Law Matter When He Suffered Fatal Heart Attack In Putnam County

Judge James Reitz
Judge James Reitz Photo Credit: YouTube

The Putnam County Court judge who died after suffering a heart attack while on the bench fell ill while he was handling a family law court matter on Friday, June 14.

A Legal Aid attorney and a lawyer for children were in the courtroom when Judge James Reitz suffered a heart attack, according to a new report by The New York Law Journal.

After performing CPR, court officers using a defibrillator in an attempt to resuscitate him, were unable to revive him, the 57-year-old Reitz was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Reitz had carried out one case Friday and then asked a court officer for help, according to The New York Law Journal.

"He (Reitz) said, 'John, I think I need you to help me,' " Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell told the Law Journal. 

A former lawyer who practiced at a private firm for years, including a decade as a Carmel town justice, Reitz, a Mahopac resident, was elected as the Putnam County Court Judge in 2007 and re-elected in 2016. He graduated from Mercy College in 1986 and earned his law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1989.

An outpouring of sorrow followed Reitz's death

"James F. Reitz who was so much more than a judge, he was family to all of us at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office," Putnam County Sheriff Robert L. Langley, Jr. said. "Judge Reitz was a man who changed people’s lives through his passion for the drug court in which he always had the support and active participation of members from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. 

"We could go on endlessly on Judge Reitz’s accomplishments and passion for serving his community not only as Judge but as a friend to many. This is a tremendous loss for our community and he will be greatly missed by many.

Langley said Reitz was "a friend who I respected and admired."

"In my life, I have met few people of greater character, loyalty, and dedication than Judge James Reitz," said former State Sen. Terrence Murphy, describing Reitz as "a giant" in Putnam County.

Visitation for Reitz will be held from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, June 17 at the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services on Old Route 6 in Carmel. A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. the following day on Tuesday, June 18 at the St. James the Apostle Church on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel.

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