Did you know that probate judges are the only judges in Connecticut that may practice law on the side in an unrestricted manner? As a practical matter, most probate judges do not appear in court and are careful to avoid impropriety. But in 2011, the state Ethics Commission recommended prohibiting this practice. The legislation failed.
When a judge practices law, it can distort the adversary process.Why? Because if you were being represented by an attorney whose opponent was a sitting judge, you would not get the zealous representation you deserve. Your attorney would be afraid to fight too hard for you because he would probably have to stand before the judge on another matter for another client.
If elected, I would take myself out of the adversary process entirely. I would not accept any new clients, and would only represent existing clients in estate planning and uncontested administrations of estates. I would not even do a real estate closing.
My opponent is an active divorce lawyer, admittedly appearing in court. During our Westport debate, he defended the status quo, stating that he did not know of one judge in either New Haven or Fairfield counties who had given up his law practice while sitting on the bench. If my opponent wins, our community would have a sitting probate judge representing people in court and at the bargaining table.
The probate judge must stand for integrity. I want to be your impartial and independent judge. I would not enrich myself by using this position to attract new clients. I realize that I am shaking up the establishment by making this pledge. But I firmly believe it is the right thing to do. We all deserve a probate court that does not carry even the appearance of impropriety.
I am a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and The New York University School of Law. I am a Westport resident, practicing here since 1989, married 31 years to Bill, and mom of Jon and Joanna, who attended Westport schools.
I ask for your vote on Nov. 5.
Lisa Wexler is the Republican candidate for probate judge of the Westport/Weston District.