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CANDIDATE OPINION: The ‘right experience’ for the job

By Patrick Birney

With less than two weeks before the election for Wallingford’s next probate judge, an army of bipartisan residents has asked me to share the journey that started on July 10 and, to date, has resulted in my knocking on over 4,200 doors throughout the town’s nine voting districts.

Although word limitations prevent a full publication of my walking journal, three initial points must dominate the lead: (i) Whoever steps into the shoes of our retiring probate judge, the Honorable Philip A. Wright, Jr., has incredibly large shoes to fill; (ii) the court’s team of professionals have positively impacted and helped, in truly the most stressful times, more people than they would ever know; and (iii) the “right experience” above all else, should guide the voter’s decision-making process as to  who our next judge should be.   

Regarding the third point, more than 4,200 Wallingford doors have provided an unscripted opportunity to exhibit to Wallingford’s residents that I have the right experience to be our next probate judge. This experience is grounded in an unequivocal and unapologetic disclosure that the last 24 years of my legal career have not been spent practicing exclusively in Connecticut probate courts. While the first court I ever appeared in was the Guilford Probate Court; while my first trial was a probate trial; while my first Connecticut appellate victory was a probate victory; and, while my first public speaking engagement in Wallingford was on a cutting-edge probate issue; the richness of my experience comes from handling a diverse array of legal matters.

I have practiced in state and federal courts across the United States for nearly a quarter century. During that time, I have represented a broad swath of businesses, not-for-profits and individuals, including the elderly and the underserved. I have lectured nationally and internationally. I am an author and editor. For more than a decade, I have been a partner at one of Connecticut’s largest and oldest law firms, Robinson + Cole, LLP, where I co-chair a department of 17 lawyers, plus paralegals and staff. My years managing teams of lawyers and staff give me the right experience regarding the administrative and management aspects of being a probate judge.

During my time at Robinson + Cole, I am particularly proud of my pro bono work, including that as a trial attorney for our Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) Program, which I helped launch and lead.  I represented countless individuals who were the victims of domestic violence. My efforts were recognized by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV).

It is these richly diverse experiences as a practicing lawyer — including most importantly my extensive courtroom experiences (where I have learned a lot about judicial temperament) — that too vests with me the right experience to be our next probate judge.    

I have also served Wallingford. I am on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of Masonicare, where I, along with other board members, were recently recognized for our “tireless work” in support of the organization. I have helped my family raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Gaylord; and I remain on the board of Wallingford’s G.R.O.W.E.R.S, Inc., which I helped establish in 2009 and which employs, educates and protects the intellectually disabled.  

I’ve spent the last seven years serving as vice-chair of the Wallingford Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the Town’s Electric, Water and Sewer Divisions.  The complex issues that face our utilities are a matter of public record. I am proud of my work overseeing the construction of our new multi-million dollar water treatment plant, keeping rates low and reliability high and protecting Wallingford’s water supply and electric grid.  Before that, I spent 15 years on the Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission, where I first learned how to make tough decisions based on the facts and the law.

I am grateful to have walked across Wallingford and share with the voters my richly diverse legal experiences, my lifetime of service to Wallingford and my record of commitment to the elderly and underserved, which collectively provide me the right experience to help fill the large shoes of Judge Wright and lead the court’s amazing team of professionals. Vote Patrick Birney (10B) for probate judge on November 8.

Republican Patrick M. Birney, of Wallingford, is a candidate on November's ballot to replace Wallingford Probate Judge Philip A. Wright, Jr., who is retiring after 30 years in office. Learn more at www.birneyprobate.com.


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