Crawford named 1st justice of probate, family court
Beth Crawford sits quietly during her swearing in ceremony on Friday.
New chief justice Beth Crawford will take over from former chief justice.
Judge Beth Crawford takes her oath at the temporary courthouse on Friday.
GREENFIELD — Judge Beth A. Crawford was sworn in as the first justice of Franklin Probate and Family Court Friday.
“I can think of no better job than being a probate and family court judge,” Crawford said at her swearing-in.
Crawford takes the place of Judge Geoffrey Wilson, who served as a sitting judge for more than 16 years.
Crawford has a passion for the position; it’s a duty she doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to help people through some very difficult times,” said Crawford. “I will have jurisdiction over some of the hardest things for families to go through, including divorce, separation and the death of loved ones.”
Many of the people who appear before Crawford are inexperienced in the legal system.
“I always try to remember that, when someone is in front of me, it may be the only time they’re ever in a courtroom,” said Crawford. “Their impression of me will form their impression of the entire court system.”
Crawford said she is excited for the advent of a pilot program designed to help people navigate the court system. Set to begin next month, a new court services program will provide support for those who need help in the courts, assistance in finding addiction treatment for their loved ones, or information about how to obtain guardianship of their juvenile relatives.
“The court process can be overwhelming for people,” she said.
Often, said Crawford, those going through probate and family court matters can’t afford to hire an attorney to represent them and are left to their own devices. At stake are things like child custody and the settlement of estates.
“It’s incredibly difficult for those who are going it on their own.”
The program is being piloted in the Franklin and Suffolk county courts. Also beginning soon is the “for the children” program, which is aimed at educating parents who have never been married.
Crawford hopes the pilot programs will serve as a model for courts across the state.
Though she was officially sworn in on Friday, Crawford has been presiding over the Franklin Probate and Family Court since December.
Crawford comes to the county courthouse after 25 years handling probate and family matters in several capacities. She began as a private attorney based in Northampton, then went to work for the state Department of Revenue, where she worked in child support enforcement. From there, she went on to become the assistant case manager for the Hampshire Probate and Family Court.
You can reach David Rainville at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279