Attorney Josey Lyne Payne rounds up the latest news on the judges of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts.
UPDATES BELOW – Since our last blog on judicial appointments, which focused on Changes in the Judicial Lineup at the Norfolk Probate and Family Court, several judges have been nominated and appointed to Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts, while others have departed. Here is a rundown:
Table of Contents for this Blog
- Mary Rudolph Black Approved by Governor’s Counsel
- Hon. Jeffrey A. Abber Retires from Middlesex Probate and Family Court
- Linda M. Medonis Nominated by Baker to Suffolk Probate and Family Court
- Claudine T. Wyner Approved by Governor’s Counsel for Hampton Probate and Family Court
- Cape Attorney Susan Sard Tierney Nominated to Probate and Family Court by Baker
- Baker Acting Quickly on Probate and Family Court Judge Nominations
On March 29, 2017, Mary Rudolph Black was approved by the Governor’s Counsel by a 6-1 vote. She can now take her seat on the bench as a Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge. Black’s formal appointment is to the Middlesex Probate and Family Court; however, with a lengthy history as a respected Gloucester attorney, it seems likely she will end up at the Essex Probate and Family Court at some point. In Massachusetts, Probate and Family Court judges generally rotate between courts for a year or more before taking a permanent seat in a specific county.
On March 29, 2017, the Governor’s Counsel has approved the early retirement of Judge Abber, who was well known to attorneys in Middlesex and Essex County. Abber, who was appointed in 2010, was granted early retirement due to medical disability, which will allow him to collect a pension despite serving less than ten years as a judge.
UPDATE (4/21/2017) – Sadly, we learned today that the recently retired Hon. Jeffrey A. Abber has passed away due to the same illness that caused his retirement.
On March 22, 2017, Governor Back nominated longtime attorney Linda M. Medonis to fill the vacant seat the Suffolk Probate and Family Court. The Suffolk seat was left open following the transfer of Hon. Kevin R. Connelly to the Plymouth Probate and Family Court. A former partner at Prince Lobel Tye, Medonis spent 30 years as a probate and family attorney before taking a post as the Deputy Court Administrator of the Probate and Family Court Department in September 2013.
Medonis joins a court in serious disarray, following the suspension of Suffolk Register of Probate, Felix Arroyo, amidst allegations of corruption, racism and sexual harassment at the Court. We have no inside information on the Medonis nomination, but it is logical to surmise that her prior experience as Deputy Court Administrator of the Probate Court played a factor in her nomination to a court with so many administrative problems. Medonis’s appointment must be approved by the Governor’s counsel before becoming final.
UPDATE 4/24/17: After becoming the subject of a recent Boston Globe article, Medonis pulled her name from the running before her first confirmation hearing. She will not serve as a Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge.
On March 15, 2017, the Governor’s Counsel unanimously approved Claudine T. Wyner for a seat on the Hampden Probate and Family Court. Wyner, a former teacher and DCF attorney, spent fifteen years in private practice in Western Massachusetts before being nominated by Governor Baker in February.
On May 10, 2017, Governor Baker nominated longtime Cape Cod Attorney Susan Sard Tierney to the Probate and Family Court. Tierney spent 20 years practicing in Probate and Family Law, and is widely respected in Cape legal circles for her work as a Guardian ad Litem, mediator and pro bono attorney for low income clients. Baker did not nominate Tierney to sit in a specific county, however, Tierney’s history on Cape Cod makes her a natural fit for the Barnstable Probate and Family Court.
The two judicial seats in Barnstable are currently filled by First Justice Hon. Robert A. Scandurra and Hon. Arthur C. Ryley. We have not heard that either Judge Scandurra or Judge Ryley will be stepping down soon, but we do note that under Massachusetts law, mandatory retirement age for judges is 70. Judge Scandurra was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1974 while Judge Ryley was admitted in 1986.
Given that Judge Scandurra has been a lawyer for almost 43 years, it is fair guess that he may be approaching mandatory retirement age at 70, and that Tierney is being eyed as his possible successor in in the Barnstable Probate and Family Court.
Only a few short weeks ago, attorneys were talking about a shortage of Probate and Family Court judges following a rash of retirements across Massachusetts. Governor Baker’s office has responded aggressively to the shortfall since December. Likewise, the Governor’s Counsel has been processing and approving nominees quickly, with formal appointments frequently occurring in the month following the initial nomination. The influx of new judges may seem chaotic now, but should stabilize within the next year as the new appointees reach their final jurisdictions.
Check back here often for more news on the judges of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.
About the Author: Josey Lyne Payne is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.
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