To the Editor:
Feb. 17, 2016: Judge Jim Connors was the senior justice of all the Eastchester courts, the judge whom the justices of the three Eastchester courts all turned to for advice and support. His loss is a loss to the entire Eastchester bench, including the Town of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and Bronxville.
Judge Jim Connors's passing is especially painful to me, as when I came into office, a technology lawyer who did corporate, financial, and intellectual property work, I was very apprehensive about sitting on the Bronxville bench to deal with matters far afield from what I had done as a lawyer.
Judge Connors understood this and was kind enough to invite me to sit on the Eastchester bench with him for a number of court sessions. He found me a discarded old robe to wear and sat me next to him in court. During his court sessions, he explained everything that was happening, and when he had to make a decision, he would confer with me and explain what he intended to do and why. Several times he asked my opinion and coached me in the pros and cons and the thought process of a neutral judge, in contradistinction to a lawyer who is used to acting on behalf of a client.
He taught me during those sessions that the duty of a judge is to determine what justice and the truth require and to keep an even and fair playing field between the prosecution and the defense and between a plaintiff and a defendant.
It seems so clear now, but then it was far from intuitive, as Justice Connors understood. He also taught me the benefit of holding a neutral demeanor no matter what was being said by parties before the bench.
When Judge Connors retired from the bench in 2011, all the Eastchester justices participated in a retirement ceremony in which I made a statement based on sitting on the Eastchester bench with him that was published: "He was able to maintain his dignity even when some of the statements of the people who came before him would make a statue break into laughter." I had to seriously struggle to keep my composure, yet he sat through it like a bust of George Washington--another valuable lesson for a fledging justice. After being on the bench with him a number of times, I was ready to face with at least a modicum of confidence my first experience on the bench as a Bronxville justice.
For that and his many other collaborations and kindnesses as a Bronxville friend and as our esteemed senior Eastchester justice, I am very grateful. I know that the rest of the Eastchester justices feel the same.
George C. McKinnis
Bronxville Court Justice
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