Upstate New York judge dies after having a heart attack on the bench

Putnam County Court Judge James Reitz had just finished a case on the bench when he asked a court officer for help. He later died after suffering a heart attack.

Posted: Jun 16, 2019 9:00 PM
Updated: Jun 16, 2019 9:00 PM

A judge in upstate New York died after suffering a heart attack in his courtroom.

Putnam County Court Judge James Reitz had just finished a case on the bench Friday morning when he asked a court officer for help.

"They were getting ready to call the next case when Reitz said to the court officer that was with him, 'John, I think I need you to help me here,'" Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell told CNN.

Reitz then collapsed. The officer performed CPR on the judge until he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, Odell said. The hospital worked on him for about 30 to 45 minutes before he was pronounced dead. He was 57.

Reitz had been a judge in Putnam County since 2007, according to the New York Law Journal. Before that, he was a lawyer with a private practice.

Reitz was known for his drug court program, which offered people whose crimes were related to addiction an opportunity to seek treatment and avoid prison.

Terrence Murphy, a former New York state senator, told CNN he worked with Reitz often on the drug court. Murphy was chair of the New York State Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.

"He ran the best drug court in New York state," Murphy said. "He literally saved people's lives. He's an iconic person and will be sorely missed. Our professional relationship went beyond, into personal friendship, with him and his wife Barbara. I'm still in shock."

Odell said the death of Reitz was a loss to the community.

"He was a giant among men in this community. We will be feeling his loss for a very long time," Odell said. "I personally lost a dear friend and Putnam County lost a dedicated public servant whose passion was helping anyone who needed help."

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