Judge James Reitz of Putnam County Court had just finished a case on the bench Friday morning when he asked for help from a court officer.
"They were preparing to call the next case when Reitz told the justice officer who accompanied him:" John, I think I need your help here, "he said. CNN MaryEllen Odell, head of Putnam County, told CNN.
Reitz then collapsed. The officer performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the judge until he was driven 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 years old.
Reitz was known for his drug court program, which offered people whose crimes related to addiction an opportunity to seek treatment and avoid prison.
Terrence Murphy, a former senator from the state of New York, told CNN that he often worked with Reitz in the drug court. Murphy was chairman of the New York State Senate Working Group on Heroin Addiction and Opioids.
"He was running the best drug court in the state of New York," Murphy said. "He's literally saved the lives of people, he's an iconic person and we'll miss him tremendously.Our professional relationship has gone further, in a personal friendship, with him and his wife Barbara.I'm still in shock . "
Odell said that Reitz's death was a loss for the community.
"He was a giant among the men of this community and we will feel his loss for a very long time," said Odell. "I personally lost a dear friend and Putnam County lost a dedicated public servant whose passion was to help those in need of help."