Judges are trained to examine the facts of cases before them, study the relevant law and issue rulings, but some, like Richard J. McCord, who develop reputations as exceptional jurists, have an additional skill: exercising empathy while upholding the law.
McCord, one of the longest-serving elected judges in Nassau County, has been honored by having his name immortalized on the Glen Cove city courthouse where he presided for more than three decades of his distinguished career.
“As you could imagine, some cases are much more complex than others — they involve families, children, people in the wrong place at the wrong time,” City Councilman Jack Mancusi said, adding of McCord, “Deciding which case to bring the full weight of the law, and which cases to bring the understanding of a wise man, he’s just expert at that. You can’t teach anybody that. It comes from his heart.”
Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck, along with many others city officials, said that McCord was known for his fair and just decisions.
McCord’s 34-year tenure in the city’s judicial system began well before the current courthouse was built in 1993. City Hall was located at 1 Bridge Street, now police headquarters. There were plans to build a new police and court complex on the site where the Atria is now, but those plans changed when the owners of the Glen Cove Trust Co., the city’s first bank, donated the property. As buildings were remodeled and designations changed, McCord worked in a mobile construction office.
Born and raised in Glen Cove, he graduated from Jericho High School in 1970. McCord earned a Juris Doctor from Quinnipiac School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University. 1980. McCord was inspired to study law by his maternal great uncle Thomas DeBellis, who was a judge in the Bronx.
“I was always impressed by how articulate he was, and how he would simplify the law for us to understand growing up,” McCord said.
When he finished law school, he was appointed Glen Cove’s deputy mayor, and held that position from 1980 to 1983. He chaired the city housing authority from 1983 to 1988, and was then appointed associate judge of the city court, where he served from 1988 through 1994 alongside Judge Joseph Vetrone.
McCord won his first election, for supervising judge in 1995, and when he retired last year, he was the longest- serving judge in the history of not only Glen Cove, but Nassau County. In addition to overseeing criminal matters, McCord acted as a mediator, and presided over countless weddings.
By all accounts, he served the community with fairness and integrity. During his time on the bench, he initiated programs such as the Adolescent Diversion Program, including the very successful Teen Court, which McCord created after seeing how minors were intimidated by the court system. When he retired, he passed the responsibility of overseeing the educational program to Councilman Kevin Maccarone.
McCord’s longtime motto is, “Education is the best form of crime prevention.” His goals for Teen Court have been to give participants the chance to become familiar with the court system while learning the repercussions of violating the law. He wanted to make the proceedings less frightening and more educational for youthful offenders, with penalties that were appropriate for their violations.
These programs were some of the first of their kind in the Nassau County court system, and their impact inspired other courts to implement similar ones.
Outside the courtroom, McCord is the former chairman of the now shuttered All-Saints Regional Catholic School; a member of the Sons of Italy, the Elks Club and the Knights of Columbus; and a board member of the Glen Cove YMCA.