Legal community mourns Federal Judge Feuerstein, victim of Florida hit-run
Tributes poured in on Monday after Judge Sandra Feuerstein, 75, a well-known federal district judge who had served in the Eastern District of New York, was fatally struck in a hit-and-run incident by a car whose driver reportedly swerved onto the sidewalk in Boca Raton, Florida, on Friday.
Nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2003, Judge Feuerstein had been deciding cases in the Eastern District’s Central Islip, Long Island, courthouse for nearly 20 years, prior to which she served as a state judge for 16 years.
She first served for several years as a Nassau County district judge, then was sworn in as a state Supreme Court judge in 1994 by her late mother, Judge Annette Elstein of the Immigration Court in New York. They are believed to be have been first mother-daughter judges in the United States, according to Columbia Law School.
From 1999 to 2003, she served as an associate justice of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department, located in Brooklyn Heights, a statement from the Eastern District said. She was a former vice president of the New York State Women’s Bar Association.
Charged with vehicular homicide and other felonies connected with the crash was Nastasia Snape, 23, who reportedly was acting erratically, driving around stopped traffic and finally driving onto the sidewalk. After striking Judge Feuerstein, she drove back onto the roadway, allegedly striking 6-year-old Anthony Ovchinnikov, who was taken to a local hospital with undisclosed injuries.
Police say Snape then fled into neighboring Delray Beach, where she crashed. A Delray police officer said Snape appeared to be having convulsions, but was able to get out of the car.
Police say that in the ambulance, Snape began screaming and fighting with medics while yelling she was Harry Potter. The medics drugged her. Police say they found in her purse the synthetic drug commonly known as “bath salts,” which can cause psychotic episodes. She remained jailed Sunday on $60,000 bond.
In a statement, Eugene Corcoran, the Eastern District’s executive, said Feuerstein’s “eccentric style and warm personality lit up the courtroom. She will be missed by her colleagues and litigants alike.”
“As we mourn her tragic death, we also remember Judge Feuerstein’s unwavering commitment to justice and service to the people of our district and our nation,” added Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Mark Lesko.
She had been presiding over the case of a former New York City police officer, Valerie Cincinelli, who is accused of paying her lover to kill her husband. The lover went to authorities and she was arrested. Cincinelli had been expected to plead guilty this week, according to media reports. Cincinelli’s case has been reassigned to U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.
Feuerstein was born in New York in 1946 and worked as a schoolteacher for about five years before taking time off to raise her two sons. She then attended Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School, where she graduated with honors in 1979 as part of the school’s first graduating class, according to the Eastern District.
After graduating law school, she began her legal career as a law clerk in the Law Department of the New York Supreme Court from 1980 to 1985 and for Justice Leo H. McGinity of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department, from 1985 to 1987.
“She viewed a judge’s role as interpreting and not creating law,” Joshua Glick, who clerked for Feuerstein, told Newsday. “She was focused on writing clear and concise opinions that were easily understood. She was occasionally tough on litigants who she felt were not being fully candid with her, but she was always fair,” Newsday reported.
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