Tossing out Connecticut’s creaky and inefficient probate system means changes for some local probate courts, including the one in Bristol.
“Bristol would be merging with the Plainville and Plymouth probate courts,” said Bristol Probate Judge Andre Dorval.
The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an overhaul of the probate court system this week that would shrink the number of courts from 117 to 54 across Connecticut. Gov. Jodi Rell has strongly endorsed the change.
The shift will take place in 2011, with judges elected for the new court districts next fall.
Dorval, who plans to seek election, said there is a natural connection between Bristol, Plainville and Plymouth so the new boundaries “make a great deal of common sense.”
The Probate Redistricting Commission considered adding Plainville to the district that includes Farmington and Burlington, but ultimately tabled the idea.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, said that "Bristol would be the hub" of the new district that includes Plainville.
The state decided to consolidate probate courts in order to increase the likelihood that quality judges would handle cases rather than small town politicians who may not have much idea what they are doing.
Dorval said last spring he would likely stop practicing law on the side if the probate district grew larger and devote himself solely to the probate court. He’s been Bristol’s judge for 15 years, earning high marks for his handling of sometimes difficult cases.
The state aims to minimize the number of satellite courts, but Dorval said he would like to leave Plainville’s probate court facility open” in addition to the court in Bristol. Plymouth would lose its court.
Dorval said the bigger district will be “a little bit more difficult for me personally” because he’s less familiar with the two neighboring towns than he is with Bristol. But, he said, he’ll work over the next year to get to know the other towns better.
The probate court traditionally handled mostly estates, but they have some to spend as much time on family issues that include adoptions, commitments, conservatorships, paternity questions and other tough issues.
New probate districts in Central Connecticut
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