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Home | News | Local News | What’s in a name — a middle name, that is? Judge Peter Fox Cohalan explains
Riverhead Town Justice Allen Mowbray Smith, right, and his longtime friend, retired State Supreme Court Justice Peter Fox Cohalan. Photo: Denise Civiletti

What’s in a name — a middle name, that is? Judge Peter Fox Cohalan explains

Riverhead Town Justice Allen Mowbray Smith was sworn in to his fifth term of office yesterday at Riverhead Justice Court.

Retired State Supreme Court Justice Peter Fox Cohalan, Smith’s longtime friend, administered the oath of office before an audience that included Southold Town Justice William Price Jr.

Cohalan insisted on Smith using his middle name — Mowbray — in the oath. The Suffolk County historian used the opportunity to give a brief history lesson to those assembled for the ceremony.

A nobleman of the House of Mowbray accompanied William the Conqueror — Duke William of Normandy — at the conquest of England in 1066. For his support, he was granted approximately 280 English manors.

“I’ve always bugged him to use his middle name in all official publications as I do,” Cohalan said. “I use my middle name Fox for all purposes to keep me from being confused with relatives in the family who might be reprobates,” he joked.

“With that in mind, I’m going to swear him in as Allen Mowbray Smith,” Cohalan said — and so he administered the oath.

Smith raised his right hand and placed his left on a Bible held by Charlene Halsey Mascia, and took the oath of office for justice of the peace.

Retired State Supreme Court Justice Peter Fox Cohalan administers the oath of office yesterday to Town Justice Allen Mowbray Smith as Charlene Halsey Mascia looks on. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Smith, 73, a Republican, ran unopposed in November in the only town race on the ballot.

The lifelong Riverhead resident is a graduate of Riverhead High School, Hobart College and Syracuse University College of Law. He served as Riverhead town attorney (1974-1975). Smith, then a Democrat, was elected town supervisor in 1975 and re-elected in 1977. He was upset by political newcomer Joe Janoski in 1979.

Smith served in the county attorney’s office and has maintained a law practice in Riverhead since 1985. He was appointed to the bench by the town board in 2000, upon the death of sitting justice Henry Saxtein. He was elected to his first full four-year term as justice that year.

Smith is a 38-year member of the Riverhead Fire Department, Red Bird Hook and Ladder Company and a 46-year member of the Riverhead Rotary Club. He is also a past member of the Riverhead Board of Education.

Smith is a designated a drug court judge and serves in the East End Regional Intervention Court.

And he is, apparently, a descendent of a Norman nobleman who helped King William conquer Britain in the 11th century — a fact that would probably not surprise many lawyers who’ve appeared before him or opposite him on a case.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended since first published to correct the mislabeling (as Brittany) of the region conquered by William. Thank you to reader Peter Vibert for pointing out this (quite ironic) mistake.

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