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Candaras details issues in Register of Probate campaign

Date: 10/24/2014

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Gail Candaras sees several levels of issues that are affecting the operation of the Register of Probate in Hampden County.

In an interview with Reminder Publications, the attorney turned legislator detailed her concerns about the job and what she would do if elected.

 Candaras noted the court system for Hampden County is “on any given day is the busiest or the second busiest in the state.” The operations of the court system, though, are hampered by deteriorating buildings and less than state of the art systems.

She noted that all of the records maintained by the Register of Probate are still on paper, while Register of Deeds Donald Ashe had had his property records digitized and accessible through an on-line database. Candaras said it could take a week for requested paperwork to be delivered to an attorney.

Candaras believes that how both the public and attorneys are treated can be greatly improved. She wondered why the Hampden County courts did not apply for participation in a pilot program offered by the Commonwealth that would have established a court service center. The centers offer help to people who need assistance understanding the legal system. The only such local center is at the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield.

What she charged the current interim Register Suzanne Seguin is that she has “no interest in becoming better.”

Candaras would make the office experience “more user friendly.” Noting that former Register Thomas Moriarty was not an attorney, she said people without legal training “tend to look at things differently than an attorney and legislator.”

The condition of the older courthouse in which the register's office is located and the larger and newer Hampden County Hall of Justice next door are additional concerns for her.

“Every time it rains, the roof leaks like a sieve,” she said of the older courthouse. The water has caused problems with mold, she added.

The building is not large enough to accommodate the people who use it, Candaras said. There are not enough rest rooms, for example, she added and the drug testing that must be done is conducted is in lavatories instead of a separate area. The elevators in the building are inadequate. “Employees are terrified of being stuck [in them],” she said.

In 2008, the Legislature allocated $35 million for the Courthouse Bond Bill, but is required is for officials to petition Administration and Finance within the Patrick Administration to “float the bonds” to make any improvements happen, Candaras explained.

She noted there is a proposal for a study committee in the Legislature that would examine the need for new court facilities here.

Another issue facing the courthouse complex is MGM Springfield. Candaras said the construction of the casino would remove much of the parking lots used by court employees and the public with business at the court. The issue has been made worse due to the closing of some of the parking beneath Interstate 91. Although she said a plan has been proposed to shuttle people from outlaying parking areas to the courts, she doesn’t believe it will well serve “the busiest courthouse in the state.”

Candaras said, “This is going to be a fight for the future of the courts. This is going to be a fight for the future of the people who work in it. This is going to be a fight for access to justice for the people of Springfield.”