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Two candidates face off in Democratic primary for 30th District probate judge race

Two candidates are facing off in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary for the Judge of Probate for the Southeastern Connecticut Regional Probate District.

The Democratic primary features party-endorsed candidate Beth Ladwig Leamon of Stonington and challenger Sarah D. Moriarty of Groton. Attorney Matthew Berger has withdrawn from the race.

The winner will be the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 3 special election to fill the remainder of Judge Nick Kepple’s term when he retires. Kepple, who was re-elected to a four-year term in 2018, will reach mandatory retirement age in September 2021.

The 30th District covers the towns of Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington and Stonington.

Attorney Leamon, 53, managing partner of Leckerling Ladwig & Leamon LLC, located in Pawcatuck and Madison, said she practices exclusively in the area of trusts, estates, wills and probate and has a deep knowledge of probate law. She was named Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2019. Leamon, who grew up in Mystic, serves on the Stonington Housing Authority, the local library board, and also does pro-bono work.

She said she is compassionate and fair, and her passion for working with children, families and the elderly and her knowledge of the law dovetailed into her being a good fit for the probate judge position. As a member of the Stonington Democratic Town Committee, she said she is also active in local politics and has been committed to the region her entire life.

“Sometimes you see a purpose calling you, and I thought this would be a great job,” Leamon said. “I could put all of my skills and my passion to use.”

She said the Southeastern regional court is run extremely well, so one of her goals would be to continue that exceptional service and be timely and responsive to people who use the court system. She also would like to continue Kepple’s work of doing local outreach and bringing educational programs to the public so they understand what the probate court does.

Attorney Moriarty, 43, grew up in Stonington and is the owner of the law firm, Deasy & Moriarty of Mystic. She practices estate planning, probate and elder law, as well as real estate and business law, which she said enables her to serve the whole needs of her clients. Her civic involvement includes chairing the Mystic Historic District and volunteering for Mystic River Congregate, Groton Community Meals, and Mystic Eats, along with pro-bono work.

She said she is running for the position because the work is important to her and she thinks she would be good at it.

“The people who go through the probate court are important to me,” she said.

As a lawyer, she said she’s helped people in difficult situations, and similarly the people who go before a probate judge are at challenging points in their lives. She said they need to be guided and treated empathetically and kindly and she said she would be really good at doing that.

She said the 30th District probate court already is one of the most efficient probate courts in the state. If elected, her priority is to ensure people who are coming through the court system are treated with as much respect as possible and to educate them as much as possible.

She would like to hold small forums, such as at the library or the senior center, to talk with people about the process for estate planning or adoption, for example.

Attorney Salvatore Ritacco of Pawcatuck, who serves on the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and is a corporate member of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, is the Republican-endorsed candidate for the 30th District Judge of Probate race.

k.drelich@theday.com

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