WESTON, Conn. – Weston candidates were posed a set of three questions by The Daily Voice to help give voters an idea of what they might bring to the position.
Lisa Wexler is the Republican candidate running for the Weston-Westport Probate Judge seat.
1) Why are you running this year?
I am running for judge because I have a deep commitment to justice, the legal experience and education necessary to do the job well, and a record of caring about people in our community. Probate court is a place where you have the opportunity to help people at their most vulnerable, when they are grieving or stressed about a family situation. The probate judge is in a unique position to resolve conflicts before they escalate, prevent greedy people from looting estates, and assist people in transition in life. As an attorney of nearly 30 years, with vast experience in trusts, estates, real estate and probate, I have the skill set required.
I am married to Bill 31 years, the mom of two kids, Jon and Joanna, and a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, godmother and friend. I understand and value relationships. I am the recipient of a special award from the CT Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents for my work.
2) What do you hope to accomplish in your term if elected?
1. Investigate fully and resolve promptly all of the pending matters and current cases in our court, because we have only had the benefit of a visiting judge coming once a week into our court for the past two years.
2. Open the Probate Court one evening per week on a regular basis to provide access to those who cannot get there during the day, even if only to ask questions of me.
3. Clarify the new probate rules for the public and the bar.
4. Hold seminars in the community on the responsibilities and duties of conservators and guardians because (a) this is a function that many families will have to learn and (b) this is a fiduciary position that can be filled by trustworthy members of our community who are not lawyers, who can fulfill these responsibilities at a greatly reduced fee.
5. Eliminate Conflict of Interest issues in our Probate Court by refusing to accept new clients and refusing to engage in any adversarial matters with other members of the Bar.
3) How do you stand out against your competitors?
1. I am a graduate with Honors of The Johns Hopkins University (B.A., 1981). I am a graduate of The New York University School of Law (J.D., 1984). I received The American Jurisprudence Award for Excellence in Constitutional Law while at NYU.
2. I am admitted to the Bar of the State of New York as well as Connecticut, which will be helpful to the many members of our towns who own properties in both states. Much of probate work actually involves real estate title questions, and my expertise in New York real estate law as well as experience in its Surrogates Court will serve our towns well.
3. I have probated numerous estates in Westport going back close to 20 years. My opponent has never represented a single probate estate in our own Westport/Weston Court. The only matters he appears in are recent fiduciary appointments by the visiting Fairfield judge.
4. I have practiced law in Westport since 1989, primarily in the areas of trusts, estates, real estate and probate. My opponent, who practices in Fairfield, is primarily a divorce lawyer, advertising as such on a highway billboard. I have practiced law altogether for close to 30 years, 27 of those full-time. My opponent has eight fewer years of legal practice than I do.
5. I have been elected to town office, serving in a quasi-judicial capacity on both the Westport Zoning Board of Appeals and the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission for a total of six years. My opponent has never served the Town of Westport in any capacity.
6. A good judge must have compassion as well as intellect and experience. I am on the Advisory Board of Jane Doe No More, which advocates against the stigma of sexual assault. As a board member of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation, I advocated successfully in Hartford for newborn screening for the fatal disease of SCID, which must be caught at birth in order to cure the disease. To date, at least three babies have been saved. I have been a Trustee for two local JCCs as well as Congregation Rodeph Sholom. In Westport, I co-founded Women in Power CT, which held free informational events for women looking to restart their careers. I have been a continuous sponsor of Save the Children since 1986, and made five mission trips within 10 years to support an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Personally, I stood up as guardian for three children adopted out of foster care by a dear friend. One of those children has AIDS.
7. As a radio host, I share the microphone with non-profits and experts who inform the community about critical issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism, mental illness, substance abuse and elder abuse. I speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, and I will continue to do that in Probate Court, in which the clients are those with dementia or other impairments, as well as deceased individuals whose wishes are only known by their last wills and testaments.
8. Connecticut still allows Probate Judges to practice law while sitting on the bench, even though in 2011, our own Ethics Commission recommended that this policy be abolished. I believe a huge conflict of interest exists, and I have seen it in practice. If elected, I will not accept any new clients, nor will I engage in any legal practice in which another attorney is involved. My opponent defended the status quo in open debate, stating that he “did not know of any probate judge in New Haven or Fairfield County who did not practice law on the side.” My opponent will continue to practice in court and at the bargaining table. In my view, this creates an unacceptable compromise of the integrity of our court. After close to 30 years of practicing law, I am ready to be your judge — just your judge.