Housatonic District Probate Court eyes new location
Published 10:32 am, Friday, April 15, 2016
NEW MILFORD — For some time, Housatonic District Probate Judge Martin Landgrebe has needed more space for the court than is available at Roger Sherman Town Hall in New Milford.
Now, Landgrebe and Mayor David Gronbach are discussing the possibility of moving the court to 25 Church St., a town-owned building across the street from town hall.
“It would give the court the space it requires and the security they want,” Gronbach said. “Schematics had previously been drawn for moving the court to the first floor of the 25 Church St. building. I am in discussions with public works ... and the judge is in discussion with the state about what it would take to move the court.”
In 2014, then-mayor Pat Murphy was considering moving the court to the Richmond Citizen Center at 40 Main St., which she said would have required moving Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House out of the building, and putting Social Services into the present Loaves & Fishes space.
That plan never took place.
Landgrebe said at that time, he had indicated concerns to Murphy about meeting court requirements in the present space at town hall. He has a small private office, a small space for staff and paperwork, and uses the meeting room on the second floor of town hall for a hearing room.
Landgrebe has been looking for more privacy for people and enhanced security.
“I’ve had discussions with the past and present mayors about the need for privacy and appropriate space for judicial actions,” Landgrebe said. “Mayor Gronbach is aware of the small space that we do have and the need to have a facility that is suitable and appropriate in appearance.”
Landgrebe said the five towns covered by the Housatonic District Probate Court — New Milford, Bridgewater, Sherman, New Fairfield and Brookfield — will be involved in the process of finding a suitable new location.
“We will also be working with the current administration to get the state involved, as it will be moving computers and computerized records,” Landgrebe said.
Landgrebe said it is his understanding that if the 25 Church St. building is chosen, the probate court would be on the ground floor with Gallery25, now located there, moved to the second floor.
“There’s no specific template,” Russo said. “But the statute clearly states what a municipality must provide: a private office for the judge, a hearing/conference room, and the staff must have a private space where sensitive documents are not visible to the public. Confidentiality is key.
“As long as the location of the court meets statutory standards, it is up to the towns where it is located,” Russo said. “Usually our office will work with the towns to assure the space is correct, and we can help with installations like IT.”
Russo said it is not unusual for a probate judge with cramped quarters to let an attorney and a client meet in his private office for discussions, as Landgrebe does.
Landgrebe has been probate judge since 1999, serving three terms as probate judge for the Bridgewater-New Milford Probate Court.
The court based in New Milford Town Hall became the Housatonic Probate District Court in January 2011 after the state-mandated court consolidation of 117 courts to 54 courts.