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The new 33rd District Probate Court Judge Jeannine Lewis sworn in by Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, Jr. Lewis starts work as probate judge as of Saturday, July 28. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
33rd District Court Judge of Probate Terrance Lomme turns 70 on Saturday, July 2; under state rules, he must retire. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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On July 23, six days before Probate Judge Terrance Lomme turns 70 and must retire, his successor, Attorney Jeannine Lewis, was sworn in by Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, Jr. Lewis was the winner of a special election to fill Lomme’s seat.
“It’s a joyous occasion to swear in our new judge of probate, Jeannine Lewis,” said Fortuna. “I’ve known Judge Jeannine for over 10 years. She’s a great mother, a superior lawyer, and an exceptionally good person. Those attributes will make her an exceptional judge of probate.
“Nine towns recognized her intelligence and enduring compassion,” said Fortuna in commenting on her solid special election win.
The District 33 Probate Court over which Lewis will preside has its offices on the third floor of the Old Saybrook Town Hall on Main Street. The court serves nine towns: Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. This type of court handles various family matters including appointments of conservators, civil commitments, appointments and oversight of guardians, paternity claims, granting of adoptions, granting of name changes, removing life support, and removing a child from custody of parents who fail to provide suitable living conditions.
The swearing-in ceremony and celebration of Lewis’ new post was held under the canopy at The Kate on the Town Green. Representatives from many of the nine towns she’ll serve attended alongside Town of Old Saybrook staff, elected officials, and her family and friends.
After being sworn, Lewis spoke of her path to the judgeship, and of the challenges she faced along the way.
“Many of the you know I had a humble upbringing in a shoreline town. I got into Brown where I [earned] a degree in biology,” said Lewis.
The job she secured after graduation, relying on her biology degree, was working for Pfizer in neuroscience research. The switch to law came later.
Just before she started a family, she decided to leave Pfizer and go to law school; she graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2005. While still nursing and caring for a one-year old, she studied for and passed the bar exam, a time she describes as incredibly challenging. Starting her own private law practice came after that. It was from this platform that she launched her bid to become probate court judge.
Her recent career highlights included being appointed to serve on the Conservatorship Guidelines Committee, a committee composed of attorneys who appear before probate courts as well as probate court judges, and acting as co-author of a 70-page training manual titled Court-Appointed Attorneys in Courts of Probate.
“There are 54 probate judges in Connecticut and [of those judges], 14 are women. Only a handful are under the age of 50,” said Lewis, one of those judges under age 50.
Then she spoke directly to the young people listening, and in particular, to her own children who were there in the audience.
“For young people, when we defy unimaginable odds, it’s a sign we’re on a path we’re supposed to be following. You have to push forward, one goal at a time. We need to teach them their destiny’s is about overcoming fear of failure,” said Lewis. “I think you for the honor and privilege to serve today as your probate judge.”
Lewis’s first day of work at Old Saybrook Town Hall’s Probate Court offices will be on Monday, July 30. Although her name will appear on the November ballot as a candidate for probate court judge, with no opposition, Lewis will be elected then to serve her first four-year term as probate court judge of District 33.
Get ready to celebrate the holidays with our helpful guide