File photo: Denise Civiletti

Candidates have been tapped to run for the seat on the Riverhead Justice Court bench left vacant by the death of longtime town Justice Allen Smith last month.

Former town supervisor Sean Walter of Wading River has been selected as the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party candidate, Suffolk County Republican Chairman Jesse Garcia said.

Democrats have given the nod to retired law professor Joseph DiBenedetto of Riverhead.

The election will take place in November. Smith’s four-year term was to expire Dec. 31. First elected in 2000, he would have been seeking election to his sixth term on the bench.

“These are big shoes to fill with the passing of town Justice Allen Smith,” Garcia said tonight.

“By working with our minor party partners we have positioned the Riverhead Republican candidate to be successful in this November’s election,” Garcia said. “We picked a candidate from a number of qualified individuals. We will be united to keep the town justice position this November,” he said.

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee chairwoman Marjorie Acevedo said DiBenedetto is “a very qualified candidate.” He stepped forward to seek the nomination, she said, and was nominated by the full town committee.

Sean Walter in September 2019.
File photo: Denise Civiletti

Walter said this afternoon he received a call last week asking if he were interested in running.

“I am very humbled by the confidence expressed in me by the leaders of the three parties,” Walter said.

“Allen Smith was a mentor to me,” Walter said. “I am acutely aware that these are huge shoes to fill.”

Walter, 53, has been practicing law for over 20 years. He is a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from SUNY Binghamton. Walter worked as a deputy town attorney in Riverhead prior to his election as town supervisor in 2009. He maintains a private practice in Wading River, where he lives with his wife of 30 years, Cathleen. He is the father of three grown sons.

Joseph DiBenedetto.
Photo: Pace University

DiBenedetto, 75, is a retired Pace University professor, according to Acevedo. He is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and has an MBA in accounting and taxation from L.I. University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Villanova University. Pace University’s website lists him as a professor of legal studies and taxation at the university’s Lubin School of Business.

DiBenedetto could not be reached for comment by prestige.

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