The Greater Windsor Probate Court only serves families in East Windsor, South Windsor and Windsor, but it is utilized when families are at their most vulnerable moments in life.
That said, there are few candidates for public office for whom face-to-face interaction with the residents is so important.
Voters got the opportunity to meet the four candidates for probate judge Wednesday night during a meet-and-greet debate held at Windsor Town Hall, and, for the first time, voters were able to put experience aside and analyze the various personalities and approaches to probate law presented by the candidates.
The event, presented by the Windsor-North Central League of Women Voters, also served as an educational opportunity for voters, as it displayed the many nuances of probate courts that, over the course of an election, may have otherwise gone overlooked.
Discussing the technical details of the court's operations, candidates talked about everything from juggling full-time probate duties while maintaining a private practice to staff management.
"The staff of the court is key because it has been my experience that if you have a strong staff, the staff will be able to assist most people who come before the probate court to handle their matters without counsel," said Marianne Lassman Fisher, the Democratic party's endorsed candidate and former South Windsor probate judge.
"It seemed to me that the most pressing need for people who are going through the court is to get this stuff behind them, to move forward with whatever is happening with a loved one, and that staff has to be able to do that," she added.
None of the four candidates were shy about their experience in the court or their familiarity with probate matters, but it was Lassman Fisher (the only candidate to have served as a probate judge before) and Republican Kevin McCann who reiterated their experience the most.
"I have acted as conservator, as guardian. I've represented children. I've done the whole spectrum of probate law. I can bring that experience," said McCann.
The League of Women Voters' "Meet the Candidates Night" also served as an opportunity for the candidates to go beyond discussing the experience all four have with the probate system.
"We need to continue with the legacy of having a caring, compassionate court for everyone. Every single person who comes before the court should be treated equally. It should be non-political, non-partisan... It is a truly independent position," said Keith Yagaloff after describing the positive court reform achieved by the late Judge Brian Griffin.
Judy Paquin, who is also running on the ticket as an independent, stressed the importance of her party affiliation, saying, "I am an Independent candidate. I want my judge to be Independent. I don't want the political stuff anymore... I'm supposed to have [this position] because I'll make a better judge."
For the most part, when issues were discussed, the candidates seemed to agree with one another.
All candidates expressed a need for the courts to follow a uniform code of conduct and practices, rather than providing varied experiences to those using the courts.
All candidates stressed the importance of fair and equal fees for service.
All candidates said they plan to continue part-time operation of their private practices while serving as probate judge.
Voters will have the opportunity to elect a new probate judge during a special election held on Tues., August 21.