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Top judge in Suffolk courts to retire

Suffolk County District Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs

Suffolk County District Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs speaks at a news conference about a drug treatment program in 2018. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

A respected state Supreme Court justice, C. Randall Hinrichs, who has handled some of Suffolk County’s most memorable cases — first as a prosecutor and then as a judge — is set to retire at the end of the month, officials said Monday.

Hinrichs has been state Supreme Court justice and administrative judge for Suffolk courts since March 2011, a post in which he supervises 80 judges and more than 900 court employees, according to a news release issued by the state Unified Court System announcing the judge’s departure.

His last day at work will be July 29, a retirement date that caps off 38 years of public service.

“Judge Hinrichs’ decade as the Administrative Judge of the Suffolk County Courts has been exemplary in every way,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, in the release. “He was a strong and caring leader who inspired others through his tireless work ethic, selfless dedication to public service and extraordinary competence and command of court operations.”

Hinrichs, who had worked as prosecutor in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office from March 1982 to December 2001, entered the judiciary as an elected Suffolk County Court judge on Jan. 1, 2002 and was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2009, officials said. He began handling felony criminal cases in January 2003 and was appointed supervising judge of the county court in 2008.

“During his tenure as a County Court Judge, Judge Hinrichs had a very active trial part and presided over many felony trials, including 29 homicide trials to verdict,” the release said, a post where he garnered the respect of prosecutors and defense attorneys alike who saw him as a fair jurist.

“He was a phenomenal trial attorney,” said Michael J. Brown, a Central Islip attorney who recalled trying three murder cases before Hinrichs and who had worked alongside him when both served as assistant district attorneys. “Juries just loved him when he was a prosecutor and when he was a judge. He appreciated the advocacy and zealousness of defense attorneys and he was as down-the-middle as they come.”

Hinrichs was also known as an innovator, officials said.

“Judge Hinrichs responded to the Suffolk County zombie homes crisis by creating a Vacant and Abandoned Properties Part to streamline the foreclosure of abandoned properties blighting Suffolk communities,” court officials said. “Among other achievements, he established the Suffolk County Access to Justice committee and marshaled the collective efforts of the legal community to provide legal assistance in public libraries through the Community Legal Help Project, which became a model for courts statewide.”

Hinrichs had also served on a task force exploring ways to improve operations in the courts and as co-chairman of the committee for the implementation of the 2020 criminal justice reform act for the state courts. He was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics for New York.

“Under his leadership, treatment courts and other specialized courts have been expanded to meet the needs of the County’s litigant population and allow defendants to lead more productive lives,” officials said.

Hinrichs was honored as Judge of the Year in 2007 by the Suffolk County Criminal Bar Association, by the Suffolk County Bar Association at its Judiciary Night in 2011, at the Bar Association’s Lawyers Assistance Foundation Dinner in 2012, and in 2015 by the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association and the Suffolk County Bar Association, earning the latter’s President's Award.

“I have been very fortunate to work with an outstanding group of judges and professional staff in Suffolk County and honored to have served the citizens of Suffolk County," he said in the news release. "The relationship in Suffolk County between the bench and bar has always been outstanding. I have benefited from that relationship throughout my judicial career.” 

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