Residents in Bethel, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield will be voting Tuesday for a new Probate Court Judge. Northern Fairfield County Probate Court Judge Joseph Egan has left office because he reached the mandated retirement age of 70. The Court serves about 80,000 people. Each town used to have their own probate court, but the state did consolidations in 2010 in a cost saving move. The Northern Fairfield County Probate Court is located in Bethel.
Bethel Town Treasurer, former Bethel Probate Court Judge Daniel O'Grady is the Republican candidate. Democrat Sharon Wicks Dornfeld has practiced law in Danbury since 1983.
O'Grady served 20 years as a probate court judge prior to the regionalization. He says his campaign is one of experience , and notes that he's ready to step in for the retiring judge on day one. He's been an attorney since 1985. O'Grady says he enjoys working with people and helping them through difficult situations.
Dornfeld has focused her practice on representing people who need protection, and are unable to protect themselves. A lot of that has been representing kids in probate matters involving their guardianship , or in the juvenile court with neglect abuse, contested custody matters in family courts, and victims in criminal courts. She has also worked with the elderly in terms of conservatorships, or people who have been preyed upon.
The power of attorney law has been changed and clarified. There are more forms for people to fill out, which O'Grady says can be confusing for people. He says there are a number of matters brought before the court, and it's an informal setting where everyone sits around a table to talk about the situation . After listening and asking questions, O'Grady says the judge will lay out steps that can be taken to resolve the particular issue.
Dornfeld says she'd enjoyed her work, and it's work that is mainly handled in the probate court. It has typically been a part time position, but because of the increase in the population served by the court, Dornfeld said she would give up her practice. Dornfeld has run a self-funded campaign. She says that was important to her in order to appear nonpartisan and independent.