Bethel, Ridgefield attorneys running to represent four CT towns as probate judge

Two local attorneys are emphasizing their experience and their desire to give back to their community as they vie to be the next probate judge for the Northern Fairfield County Probate District.

Jennifer Collins, the endorsed Republican candidate from Ridgefield, and Steven Boa DeMoura, the endorsed Democratic candidate from Bethel, are running against each other to succeed Judge Daniel O’Grady, who died in March and served the regional district since his 2016 election. The district includes Bethel, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield.

“I have something in me that has always wanted to do public service, to give something back to the community,” said DeMoura, who practices law in Bethel as a sole practitioner. “I want to make sure I can do something to help people dealing with issues. It’s why I am running for probate judge.”

Collins is a Connecticut magistrate and senior partner for Cramer & Anderson, a law firm with six offices in Fairfield and Litchfield counties. She ran in 2016 for probate judge in the race O’Grady ultimately won.

“I’m running for judge of probate to help people and families that find themselves, often in difficult times, needing to access part of the legal system that can seem intimidating and complex,” Collins said. “ My legal career of more than two decades is built on a foundation of integrity, compassion, and service, which are also the core values that will guide how I administer the Probate Court for Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel, and Newtown.”

A probate judge’s job includes handling legal matters pertaining to affairs of the deceased, estates, some parts of family law and conservatorship. It is a four-year term.

“My practice is focused on real estate, but I have represented individuals by appointment from the local probate courts in various cases,” DeMoura said. “I have experience with issues coming to the courts.”

DeMoura grew up in Bethel attending St. Mary School and Bethel High School. He and his wife, Kathryn Kilian DeMoura, have three children, Maxwell, 9, Carter, 7, and Chloe, 6. Kathryn Kilian DeMoura was a teacher in Ridgefield for 10 years at Branchville Elementary School before leaving to raise her three children.

DeMoura began his legal career in 2005 with the Danbury firm of Pinney Payne, P.C. after graduation from Quinnipiac law school. He was an undergraduate student at the University of Rhode Island where he played soccer.

“I’m diligent with all matters that come to court, I’m a good listener and I have the tools and personality to be a good probate judge,” DeMoura said. “I will do the hard work so dockets are not backed up. I want to carry on the good service of Dan O’Grady.”

As senior partner at Cramer & Anderson since 2016, Collins works closely with the regional law firm’s elder law and trust & estates attorneys. She also leads the firm’s social security disability section. She has 23 years of litigation experience as part of a law practice that also focuses on personal injury law, and workers’ compensation. Prior to Cramer & Anderson she guided her own greater Danbury firm as managing member of Collins & Associates, LLC.

Collins’ focus in her career has been to help clients who most need compassionate and powerful advocacy, she said.

“The ability to effectively listen to people is critical in managing litigants as well as advocating for clients,” she said in a statement. “I intend to utilize all of my judicial, litigation, and management experience to effectively serve the residents of Bethel, Newtown, Redding, and Ridgefield.”

Collins was previously honored with a 2021 Distinguished Leaders Award from the Connecticut Law Tribune, in recognition of her work as an attorney, her law firm leadership, and giving back to the legal profession through pro bono, and volunteer service, which includes her 11 years of service as a state magistrate.

The Connecticut Chief Court Administrator of the Judicial Branch appointed her as a magistrate. She has issued more than 300 written decisions, adjudicating motor vehicle infractions and small claims matters.

Collins said since 1998 she has always represented people, mostly injured and disabled individuals, who have needed assistance rebuilding their lives after an unfortunate accident or event.

“This type of practice requires compassion, empathy, the ability to listen, but also the ability to become an advocate and a voice,” Collins said. “As part of my law practice, I have always agreed to assist the probate courts, taking on assignments in matters involving child welfare, adoption, conservatorships, and matters involving the elderly.

Collins studied at Fairfield University and received an undergraduate degree in English, with a minor in art history and political science in 1994. She attended the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., and also previously earned a Juris Doctorate Doctor of Law degree in 1997.

Collins lives in Ridgefield with her husband, John, their two children, Jillian and Alex, and Alex’s autism service dog, Chelsea.

She said she wants to build on the legacies of O’Grady and other past probate judges.

“I have some very big shoes to fill, and I’m excited for this next phase in my legal career,” Collins said. “I will utilize my integrity, experience, compassion, and commitment to service to ensure that the probate court works efficiently and effectively for the people. The probate court is meant to be a community-friendly court, and I will combine my vast legal experience with my core values to make this happen.”

Sandra Diamond Fox contributed to this report.