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New Canaan Probate Court Closes, Moves to Darien

Karen P. Smith offered a melancholy shrug and a look of sadness as she scanned her desk Tuesday afternoon. Her desk and other areas of the New Canaan Probate Court were littered with nearly full boxes and bags. Some had files destined for the back of a moving van, others had old papers and stationery destined for a Dumpster.

"It's kind of bizarre," Smith, clerk of the probate court, said between phone calls. Those were among the last phone calls she would take in the office before continuing her work Wednesday in Darien.

It was all part of the final day of probate court in New Canaan Town Hall. Come Wednesday, New Canaan residents seeking information on settling estates or looking for passport applications will have to travel to the combined Probate Court in Darien. Consolidations are forcing the closure of many courts statewide, including New Canaan's court, located in a converted vault in the rear of Town Hall. It is unclear what will occupy the Probate Court's old digs.

Smith, who lives in Darien, said she would miss her workplace of eight years. She and three others will continue working in the probate court system in Darien, though Smith will go on as an assistant clerk for Michael Murray. "I'm sad. I met a lot of nice people here," Smith said. "I'm going to miss being here."

The closure marked the last day of work for retiring Probate Judge Russell Kimes . The longtime town resident and attorney for 30 years opted not to run for the combined judge position last November.

Tuesday was also the swan song for Liz Gesler, who worked as an assistant clerk for 16 years, the last three as a part-time helper in semiretirement. After Tuesday, Gesler says there's no more for her to do.

"I'm going to put my feet up, have lunch with some friends and life starts anew," she said.

Is the move to Darien inconvenient? Will New Canaan miss having its own Probate Court and judge in Town Hall? Leave a comment below.

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