Alan Honorof, a 20-year justice of the Nassau County Supreme Court known for his evenhanded and principled approach on the bench, and his fervor for sailing off of it, has died. He was 68.
Justice Honorof’s passing was announced Thursday by Daniel Bagnuola, director of the court’s community relations office. The cause of death was not announced.
Christopher Quinn, a supervising Supreme Court judge, had declared a mistrial on Wednesday in a criminal trial over which Honorof was presiding because he’d been absent for three days this week after becoming ill. Quinn noted on Thursday that staff and judges throughout the courthouse were “in complete shock” over Honorof’s death. He’d been known as a fit man who swam laps daily.
“Alan’s legacy is one of intelligence and compassion,” said Nassau County Administrative Judge Thomas Adams in a statement. “He was a well-respected judge whose mission was to always ensure justice, fairness and equality.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement, “Judge Honorof was a principled and fair jurist who led a life of service to his country and community.”
Honorof was appointed three times a state Court of Claims judge, beginning in 1996, but always sat as an acting justice in the Supreme Court, according to Quinn. He did not preside over Court of Claims cases.
As a jurist, lawyers who practiced before Honorof viewed him as “very fair, in terms of his rulings on objections, very down the middle,” and he was “somewhat of a stickler for protocol” in the courtroom, Quinn said.
Howard Sturim, a fellow acting Supreme Court justice who previously worked under Honorof for 12 years as a law secretary, akin to being a clerk, said, “He had tremendous clarity of thought and speech. He could explain things to laypeople so they could understand it.
“And he did that with jurors, and with defendants who appeared before him,” Sturim continued, adding, “He always strived to do what was right, to be fair and just, and he went to great length to consider all the equities before handing down a decision.”
Sturim said his former boss also took great pride in having served in the U.S. Army as a young man, before he went to law school and joined the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office in the 1970s. He also was a solo practitioner for years before becoming a jurist.
Honorof would tell stories of brutal training regimens from Army boot camp, Sturim said—and, always the patriotic public servant, he kept the U.S. Constitution framed on a wall in his county courtroom.
“He would reference it in court, when speaking to jurors,” Sturim said, “and explain to them the importance of their presence in court, that they were in furtherance of the Constitution and the backbone of it.”
Outside of the courthouse, Honorof’s passions were his two adult children, who survive him, and sailing on the open seas, both Sturim and Quinn said.
He would sail from Port Washington, where he lived, and was such an accomplished sailor that he gained an exception from a state ethics commission: In 2011, the commission allowed him to apply to become a licensed sailor.
He did so, developing a second career. He would be hired to sail boats up and down the East Coast, Sturim said. “He loved the sea,” Quinn said.
And he had a sailboat of his own. It was called the “Trade Wind,” according to Sturim. Honorof would tell others he called it that because he’d traded in power boats, which he used to captain, for his love of sailing in the wind.
Memorial service arrangements were not announced Thursday, officials said.