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Voters return area probate judges to office

November 7, 2018

Judges in the regional probate courts in East Lyme, Groton, New London, Norwich and Old Saybrook were re-elected Tuesday to four-year terms.

Incumbent Groton Regional Probate Court Judge Nicholas F. Kepple, a Democrat from Stonington, defeated attorney Salvatore Ritacco, a Republican from Pawcatuck, in the region’s only contested probate race. The vote tally was 18,117 to 11,736, according to the Secretary of the State website.

Kepple, 67, was elected in 2011 to fill a vacancy created by the death of Judge Frederick W. Palm and was re-elected in 2014. He will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 prior to the completion of his upcoming term. He said that in conjunction with the 2020 election, there would be a special election to name his successor. That person would take over when Kepple’s term ends in September 2021, he said.

Kepple will be eligible for a pension, having served 10 years in the District 30 probate court, which covers Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington and Stonington.

Republican Probate Judge Charles K. “Chuck” Norris was elected to a third term as judge of the District 29 probate court in Norwich, which covers the towns of Bozrah, Franklin, Griswold, Lisbon, Norwich, Preston, Sprague and Voluntown. He was unopposed and received 15,523 votes.

“I’m happy to continue serving the Norwich Probate District,” Norris said Wednesday. “As far as I can tell, the court runs pretty smooth.”

New London Democratic Probate Judge Mathew H. Greene, unopposed and cross-endorsed by Republicans, was re-elected to the District 31 court, which serves New London and Waterford. He received 14,775 votes. Greene was sworn in as probate judge in New London in November 1992 and said he would be entering his seventh full term.

“I’m very thankful to all the constituents and to the Republican and Democratic parties for supporting me,” Greene said. “I’m pleased to have served for 26 years and look forward to continuing to serve.”

Jeffrey A. McNamara, a Republican from East Lyme who was cross-endorsed and unopposed, was elected with 21,199 votes to the probate judge seat in District 32, which is the Niantic Regional Probate Court. The court services East Lyme, Montville, Old Lyme and Salem.

McNamara has been a probate judge for 20 years and also serves as administrative judge of the regional probate court in New London, where the judges from the Rhode Island border to the Connecticut River hear cases involving children’s matters.

“I’m happy I can continue to serve the residents in the four towns that I serve,” McNamara said Wednesday.

He said that recently he has seen a huge increase in the number of applications to appoint conservators to manage the affairs of senior citizens or others with physical and mental disabilities, and matters in the children’s court have become more complicated and complex.

Voters returned Democrat Jeannine Lewis to the Old Saybrook regional probate court, District 33, which serves the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Killingworth, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. She received 21,381 votes. Lewis had been seated in July 2018 following a special election to replace Judge Terrance D. Lomme, who retired.

Connecticut’s probate courts were consolidated into 54 district courts in January 2011. The courts are perhaps best known for the administration of estates but also handle a variety of matters involving children, senior citizens, mentally ill people and others. The judges are compensated based on the population of their districts and their workload. The top salary band is $125,000 a year. In New London County, only the Niantic court does not qualify for the top salary band, due to the population of the district, but Judge McNamara also is compensated for his work at the regional children’s court.

k.florin@theday.com

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