Essex resident Terrance D. Lomme is a busy man. Not only is he the personal attorney for private clients, such as the New York City developer involved in the Foxboro Point case in Essex, but also Lomme is also a sitting state Judge of Probate, who has exclusive jurisdiction over probate cases in nine Connecticut towns.
It should be noted that Lomme’s representation of private legal clients, while serving at the same time as a Judge of Probate, is perfectly legal under Connecticut state law.
Furthermore, when it comes to any conflicts between his two roles, as private attorney and judge, Lomme says, “I have never had a problem.” However, he did admit in a recent interview, “I do have to be very sensitive to conflicts, and the appearance of conflicts.” Also, Lomme said that he had mentioned his position as a Judge of Probate to the private developer of Foxboro point, Frank Sciame, Jr., and, “It was never a problem.”
Judges of Probate Are Paid $110,000 a Year
In addition to the monies that he earns from his private practice of law, as a State Judge of Probate, Terrance Lomme also receives an annual salary of $110,000 a year from the state. This amount is calculated at 75% of the salary paid to a Connecticut Superior Court judge.
However, judges of the Superior Court, as well as judges of the Appellate Court and Supreme Court, are prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law. Among these judges, only Judges of Probate are permitted to have private law practices.
Lomme’s Very Public, Private Practice of Law
Terrance Lomme has some high profile clients in his practice of law, as illustrated by his appearance as the private attorney of the would-be developer of Foxboro Point. Not only did Lomme represent the developer at the at the July 12 meeting of the Essex Planning Commission, he has done the same at five previous hearings as well.
Lomme estimates that there could be two or three more Planning Commission meetings on the Foxboro Point development before all outstanding issues were resolved. Lomme, himself, will be on hand at every one of these future meetings, as the developer’s private attorney.
Also, on July 16 Lomme appeared before yet another Essex regulatory body, this time it was the Essex Zoning Commission. Lomme was representing as a private client, the developer of a senior citizens housing development in Essex. In this appearance Lomme made an extensive presentation, complete with large picture boards that he showed to the commission. He also participated in an extensive discussion of his client’s application with commission members.
Lomme’s arguments on behalf of his client were successful in this instance, and the Zoning Commission approved the construction of the senior citizen development with certain attached reporting requirements.
Lomme also had a second private client at the July 16 meeting of the Zoning Commission, which was the Foxboro Point developer. However, the commission deferred consideration of this matter for a future meeting.
Lomme’s Official Duties as a State Judge of Probate
In his official position as a Judge of Probate, Judge Lomme decides probate cases in the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. Also, the judge is assisted in his official duties by a staff of nine clerks.
Lomme’s probate headquarters is located in the Town Hall of Old Saybrook, and it consists of a multi-room suite of offices and an official hearing room. Whenever there is a probate matter to be adjudicated in the judge’s nine town district, it will be done by Judge Lomme, acting on his interpretation of the law and the facts of the case.
Limits on Practicing Law by Judges of Probate
Although expressly permitted to engage in the private practice of law, under the state’s Code of Probate Judicial Conduct, there are some general prohibitions that Judges of Probate must obey. They include a provision that, “A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in the judge’s activities.”
Also, “A judge shall conduct all extra-judicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.” In addition, the Code includes a specific reference to the fact that a Judge of Probate law, “Can maintain a private law practice.” Under the Code, there are eight specific Canons that must be obeyed by the state’s Judges of Probate.
Jurisdiction of State Judges of Probate
As for the kinds of cases that the state’s Judges of Probate decide, they are limited although extremely important. Among the powers of Judges of Probate, in addition to the probating of wills, they include passing on the formation and maintenance of Trusts and Estates, as well as overseeing testamentary and living trusts.
Also, a Judge of Probate has extensive jurisdiction over Guardians, Conservators and Civil Commitment cases. These include the power to appoint the guardians of a child, as well as to order the sterilization of a person of intellectual disability.
In addition, a Judge of Probate like Lomme has jurisdiction over removing children from unfit parents, and hearing the claims of paternity of unwed fathers. Also probate judges can grant name changes, approve or disapprove of the marriages of persons under the age of 16, and can assist persons in obtaining passports.
And these are by no means all of the significant powers of state Judges of Probate.
Finally, the web site of the Judges of Probate makes the point that, “In carrying out their responsibilities, the probate courts strive to protect the rights of individuals while affording those involved in probate matters an approachable and consumer friendly environment.”
Still, unless there is a change in state law, Judges of Probate such as Judge Lomme will be permitted to continue to represent private legal clients, while at the same time they exercise their important judicial duties.