A lawyer who used to help people donate money to help panhandlers afford meals will now be holding court on Church Street.
The lawyer, Robert M. Spector, has been named the new magistrate judge for the Connecticut U.S. District Court, based in the New Haven courthouse, effective April 30. He succeeds Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis, who has retired.
While studying at Yale Law School, Spector ran a not-for-profit called New Haven Cares, which raised money for food and shelter vouchers to homeless people as an alternative option for people who didn’t want to give money to directly to panhandlers. After his 1998 Yale graduation, he clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Alan Nevas, worked as a state prosecutor, then became as an assistant U.S. attorney, focusing on firearms and violent crime cases. He leads a task force focused on the opioid epidemic.
A selection committee reviewed 37 applications for the judgeships then narrowed the list to five finalists, from which district judges chose Spector.
“The district court is fortunate in its selection of an attorney of Rob Spector’s caliber, intellect, and commitment to justice,” Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall stated in a release issued Thursday. “He is an excellent lawyer and possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience. We are confident that he will serve the people of our state well, and we look forward with great enthusiasm to welcoming him to the ranks of judicial officers in our district.”
Magistrate judges function like the other (U.S. District Court) judges in federal court, with a few exceptions: They can conduct bond and detention hearings and sign arrest warrants for felony criminal defendants, but can’t try or sentence them. Also, the president appoints U.S. District judges to lifetime terms; the local District Court judges appoint the magistrate judges, to eight-year terms.