CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire judge who took senior status in August has an unusual notion of retirement: trying back-to-back high-profile cases.

Judge Larry Smukler spent the days and weeks after his Aug. 1 retirement as presiding judge in Merrimack Superior County Superior Court preparing for the rape trial of a recent St. Paul’s School graduate that drew national media attention.

With the Owen Labrie case behind him, Smukler is now holding hearings in advance of another headlines-grabbing case: the kidnapping and sexual assault trial next year of Nathanial Kibby, who prosecutors say held a teenage girl captive for nine months in a bunker-style trailer before releasing her.

The 65-year-old Smukler declined to be interviewed, but those around him say they’re not surprised the tech-savvy jurist is still in the spotlight.

“The ‘retirement’ is in quotes here,” quipped Chief Judge Tina Nadeau, who assigned Smukler to the Kibby case.

“He is so hard-working, so committed to the cause of access to justice for everyone and a real solid voice on the court in terms of policy,” Nadeau said.

Smukler – who Nadeau marveled always seems to have the latest iPhone in-hand – presided over the first case in the state to use electronic filing: a complex wrongful death action filed in 2000 against tobacco giant Philip Morris USA. Those familiar with the case say Smukler orchestrated the electronic filing system to accommodate the number of litigants involved.

“He was on the cutting edge of technology use from day one,” said recently retired Merrimack chief clerk Bill McGraw.

Smukler three years ago chaired a task force that made policy recommendations for public access to electronic files once the courts become fully automated, and mentors others who may be struggling.

Lawyers describe him as fair, studious, unfazed by the media and unafraid to do the right thing – whether it’s dismissing a case or handing down a maximum sentence.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Lauren Noether served as Belknap County attorney for 13 years and had 30 jury trials with Smukler presiding.

“You could see pain on his face when there was pain in the courtroom,” Noether said. “He was invested in the justice he was meting out, invested in trying to do the right thing.”

McGraw says he’s not surprised Smukler was tapped for the Kibby case.

“He’s never been afraid of a major case,” McGraw said. “He’s got the experience to deal with it.”

Four years before the Labrie trial, Smukler presided over the trial of man charged with raping a 15-year-old fellow church member – a case that besmirched the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord for arranging the girl’s move to Colorado and adoption of her child. The case remained unsolved for years because police could not find the girl to question her.

He also ruled unconstitutional a sex offender residency requirement in Franklin.

Smukler graduated from Penn State and received his law degree from Temple University in 1976. He was appointed to the bench in 1992, after serving three years as the chairman of the state’s Public Utilities Commission. Before that he headed the civil bureau at the Attorney General’s Office.

Smukler is not the first senior judge to be assigned a complex trial. Senior Judge Peter Fauver presided over the 2013 MTBE trial pitting the state against Exxon Mobil.

Nadeau said the Kibby case, involving more than 200 charges, “is probably going to be a very long, complicated case.”

In his “spare” time, Smukler – an avid photographer – is pursuing a master of fine arts degree from Maine Media College in Rockport.