A temporary plaque dedicating Riverhead Town's new Justice Court to...

A temporary plaque dedicating Riverhead Town's new Justice Court to the late judge Allen M. Smith was unveiled by his son, Jacob Smith, and the former judge's partner, Charlene Mascia, at a ceremony in Riverhead on Oct. 24. Credit: Newsday/Tara Smith

Riverhead’s new Justice Court will be named after a late town judge remembered for his dedication, wit and life of public service.

The future Allen M. Smith Justice Court was dedicated during a ceremony Oct. 24, which drew family, community members, judges, attorneys and town officials. Smith, who died in 2020 at age 77, served on the bench from 2000 until his death and fiercely advocated for a larger, safer courthouse.

“His dream is now a reality,” Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said.

The new court will be sited at the former town hall at 200 Howell Ave. Earlier this month, Riverhead Town moved into its new facility at 4 W. Second St. after purchasing it from Peconic Bay Medical Center for $20 million last year.

Friends and former colleagues recalled Smith’s love for the community.

A lifelong Riverhead resident, Smith served as an assistant Suffolk district attorney and Riverhead town attorney before he was elected town supervisor in 1975, an office he held until 1980. He later served as chief deputy county attorney under former county executive Peter Fox Cohalan and opened his own law practice in Riverhead in 1985. He was also a longtime member of the Riverhead Fire Department.

“He remembered the town always,” said Riverhead attorney Peter Danowski. “He was a man of principle, a guy that let you know where he stood — and it transcended politics.”

During his judgeship, Smith continually pushed for a new court facility.

Officials said the current court facility, which shares a building with town police headquarters, is outdated, lacks space and has security deficiencies.

Town Justice Lori Hulse described the facility as a “disaster” lacking an adequate jury deliberation room and secured holding areas for prisoners, with overcrowded conditions that cause long lines snaking through the lobby, down the front steps and onto the sidewalk.

“The court is run with the concept that we’re still a sleepy little town, and we’re not,” Hulse said.

Plans to renovate the former town hall building have not been finalized and officials did not provide a timeline. Aguiar said the town must work with the state Office of Court Administration to comply with mandates. “They will identify areas that may need enhancement,” she said.

Hulse hopes the town board will prioritize the project, and that Smith would be proud.

“He dedicated so much of his time and energy to getting a new courthouse because he felt strongly that the community deserved to have a legitimate courtroom,” she said.

The temporary plaque was unveiled by Smith’s longtime partner, Charlene Mascia, and son Jacob Smith, who recalled his father lobbying to install metal detectors soon after taking the bench.

“That was one of his first campaigns that kind of led to where we are today,” said Smith, 46.

Smith, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Jeanne, and their two young children, said it means a lot to have his father's legacy memorialized.

“Now every time they go by, they’ll see his name,” he said. “And they’ll remember Pop.”

Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated when the late Riverhead Town Justice Allen M. Smith served as assistant Suffolk district attorney.

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