Changes in Lineup at Norfolk Probate and Family Court with Judges Retiring

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Changes in Lineup at Norfolk Probate and Family Court with Judges Retiring


Massachusetts family law attorney Kimberley Keyes reviews recent changes in the judicial lineup at Norfolk Probate and Family Court following multiple retirements.

Massachusetts divorce lawyer Kimberley Keyes

Attorney Kimberley Keyes

MARCH 9, 2017 – CANTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Recent retirements at the Norfolk Probate and Family Court are resulting in a major changes to the Court’s judicial lineup this spring. Following the recent retirement of Hon. Elaine M. Moriarty, newly appointed Hon. Paul M. Cronan will be hearing cases in Norfolk Probate and Family Court in the weeks ahead, at least through March 2017. Cronan, who was nominated by Governor Charlie Baker in November of last year at age 56, and his appointment was formally approved by the Governor’s Counsel last month. Cronan was a long-time family law attorney in Bristol County prior to his appointment to the court.

Hon. Paul M. Cronan to Replace Retiring Judge Moriarty in Norfolk, at Least for Now

It is not clear how long Judge Cronan, who Baker appointed to fill a vacant seat in Bristol County, will hear cases in Norfolk County. It is not uncommon for newly appointed judges to hear cases in neighboring counties for a year or two before taking their permanent placement. The Trial Court Department frequently rotates judges from court to court through temporary assignments, which are not always publicly announced.

Judge Menno’s Retirement Comes Next

The changes at the Norfolk County Probate and Family Court are not limited to Moriarty’s retirement. Next month, longtime Plymouth and Norfolk county judge James V. Menno will retire, leaving still another additional empty seat in Canton for the Trial Court to fill. A veteran of both of South Shore probate courts (Plymouth and Norfolk), Judge Menno has been much loved by attorneys for his sense of humor and considerate approach to litigants and attorneys alike. His presence on the bench will be missed.

Further complicating matters in Canton is that another Norfolk County judge, Hon. Susan L. Jacobs, has been splitting much of her time lately between Norfolk and Bristol counties, with Hon. George F. Phelan frequently filling Judge Jacobs’ slot on the calendar in Canton. It is unclear if the retirements of Moriarty and Menno will result in Jacobs permanently returning to Norfolk County. The heavy turnover in Canton means that First Justice, Hon. John D. Casey, will soon be the only probate and family court judge who has consistently heard cases in Norfolk County over the last year. We will keep you posted on further developments as they occur.

Baker Nominates Claudine T. Wyner to Hampden Probate and Family Court

On February 15, 2017, Governor Baker recently nominated Claudine T. Wyner, an attorney based in Western Massachusetts, to the Hampden County Division of the Probate and Family Court. Wyner practiced family law at the law firm of Marien & Hodge, P.C. in Springfield, Massachusetts for fifteen years prior to her nomination. Wyner’s nomination will next proceed to the Governor’s Counsel.

Baker Nominates Mary Rudolph Black to Middlesex (or Possibly Essex) Probate and Family Court

On March 1, 2017, Governor Baker nominated Mary Rudolph Black to the seat vacated by the Hon. Peter C. DiGangi.  It is somewhat ambiguous where Black would sit permanently, where Judge DiGangi was officially appointed to served at the Middlesex Probate and Family Court (where he served as a time as First Justice), but spent much of the latter part of his career sitting in the Essex Probate and Family Court, in both Salem and Lawrence. Attorney Black has been a widely respected Essex County lawyer for decades, having represented clients in family law matters from office locations in Gloucester since 1986. Given her local roots, it would not be surprising if Attorney Black’s final destination is the bench in Essex County Probate and Family Court.

About the Author: Kimberley Keyes is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Schedule a free consultation with Kimberley Keyes today at (781) 741-5000 or send her an email:


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About the Author:

Kimberley Keyes is Senior Associate Attorney, Mediation Coach and Divorce Mediator at Lynch & Owens and South Shore Divorce Mediation. She is a frequent contributor to the Lynch & Owens SSDM Blogs on subjects including Massachusetts divorce, child custody and support, abuse prevention orders and Massachusetts family law. Attorney Keyes can be reached by phone at (781) 741-5000 or email at [email protected], or visit her bio page under