MINEOLA, Long Island (WABC) -- The New York State Senate on Tuesday confirmed Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as an Associate Judge on the Court of Appeals, and her replacement is the first Black DA in county history.
The confirmation filled a key vacancy with a prosecutor and triggers an election this fall to select a new Nassau County district attorney.
Singas replaces Judge Leslie Stein, who is retiring in June. Acting District Attorney Joyce Smith, who was sworn in Wednesday afternoon, is a longtime special victims prosecutor.
It was a historic moment lost on no one, and very candid reference to race.
"By representing the best in us, and by us, I will be very frank, I mean the Black community," said Pastor A.R. Bernard, of the Christian Culture Center.
Smith is originally from Hollis, Queens, and graduated from the Howard University School of Law. She is the first African American DA and the third woman to serve the post in Nassau County history.
"We have a responsibility to the least among us," Smith said. "We have a responsibility and a duty to the last in line."
Singas, who was first elected as Nassau DA in November of 2015, championed access to justice for all, including creation of an Immigrant Affairs Office to focus on crimes against immigrants.
She dedicated unprecedented resources to restorative justice work through the creation of the Community Partnership Program to match those in need of services with the tools they need to better integrate back to the community post-incarceration.
Singas was previously the Chief Assistant District Attorney of Nassau County and head of its first Special Victims Bureau in the Nassau County District Attorney's Office seeking justice for its most vulnerable victims.
She also was an Assistant District Attorney in the Queens County District Attorney's Office from 1991 to 2006, holding multiple roles concurrently during this period.
Singas got her law degree from Fordham Law School after receiving a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Barnard College at Columbia University. She is a native of Astoria, Queens, and is the daughter of Greek immigrants.
Smith previously served as the Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Community Relations Division of the Nassau County District Attorney's Office since 2018, overseeing five program offices, including recruitment, immigrant affairs, victim services, school-based programming, and community affairs, as well as the Community Partnership Program Office in Hempstead, which works to combat gang and gun violence and promote efforts to reduce recidivism and build safer communities.
"What a solemn obligation we have, what a powerful, awesome responsibilities we have," Smith said. "We dare not ever take that for granted."
In her role, she spearheaded the creation of several advisory councils comprised of leaders from a wide-range of communities in Nassau County, aimed at further developing engagement efforts and fostering collaboration between police, prosecutors and the communities they serve.
Smith has broadened the office's participation in Nassau County's many diverse communities, working closely with the County Executive's team responsible for the development of the Nassau County Family Justice Center, which will provide important resources and support for families in crisis and survivors of intimate partner violence, and as a member of the Hempstead Prevention Coalition, which addresses substance abuse and addiction in Hempstead Village.
With a robust background in both criminal and civil justice, Smith previously served for four years as a staff attorney in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' Office of the General Counsel, where she investigated and recommended best practices for police-community relations and law enforcement, and three years as Executive Director for the Bronx Family Justice Center in New York City, as well as the Assistant Commissioner/Deputy Chief of Staff for the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence.
She began her career as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens, where for 15 years she specialized in prosecuting domestic violence cases, eventually elevated to the role of Unit Chief in the Special Prosecutions Division. She is also an Adjunct Professor for Hofstra University.
It remains unclear if Smith will want the job come November, and while candidate names will start circulating, she was not one of them until now.
"Well I just got 450 people I'm in charge of," she said. "I'm still trying to figure out where the copy machine is, so I don't have any plans right now to run."
Her first plan, she says, is to listen. And at a time when criminal justice reform is at the forefront and division and hate are running rampant in this county, healing is needed now more than ever.
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