Hearing held in Greenfield for local woman’s judgeship

Governor’s Councilor Tara Jacobs and Probate and Family Court judgeship nominee Alexa Flanders listen as Judge Kathleen Sandman, first justice of the Probate and Family Court, speaks about Flanders in a public hearing in the jury pool room at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday.

Governor’s Councilor Tara Jacobs and Probate and Family Court judgeship nominee Alexa Flanders listen as Judge Kathleen Sandman, first justice of the Probate and Family Court, speaks about Flanders in a public hearing in the jury pool room at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Governor’s Councilor Tara Jacobs, left, and Probate and Family Court judgeship nominee Alexa Flanders during Flanders’ public hearing in the jury pool room at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday.

Governor’s Councilor Tara Jacobs, left, and Probate and Family Court judgeship nominee Alexa Flanders during Flanders’ public hearing in the jury pool room at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Probate and Family Court judgeship nominee Alexa Flanders, front left, and Governor’s Councilor Tara Jacobs, front right, at Flanders’ public hearing in the jury pool room at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday.

Probate and Family Court judgeship nominee Alexa Flanders, front left, and Governor’s Councilor Tara Jacobs, front right, at Flanders’ public hearing in the jury pool room at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 06-12-2024 4:45 PM

GREENFIELD — A Greenfield woman is likely a few weeks away from becoming a judge after she received rave reviews at a public hearing held in her hometown.

In May, Alexandra Flanders, a judicial case manager, was nominated by Gov. Maura Healey to be an associate justice of the Probate and Family Court, an institution she has been associated with since 2013. All nominees go up for consideration by the Governor’s Council, and Councilor Tara Jacobs, who represents District 8 in the western part of the state, helped arrange for a local public hearing at the Franklin County Justice Center on Monday so residents wouldn’t have to drive to Boston to make their comments.

“[It was] very humbling and very moving, and I’m so grateful to people for being willing to do this,” Flanders said inside the third-floor jury pool room, “because this feels like a big ask — to come speak in a roomful of people.”

According to the state’s website, Flanders’ job as judicial case manager makes her responsible for providing legal expertise to judges and responding to questions from staff, attorneys and the public. The website states she was part of the creation of the first family treatment court in Massachusetts, which serves families affected by substance use disorder. Flanders earned a bachelor’s degree from Bard College in New York and a law degree from New York University School of Law.

Flanders told the Greenfield Recorder that the eight-member Governor’s Council is scheduled to hold a hearing in Boston on June 26 and vote within the following week or two whether to appoint her as a judge. She has been nominated to a newly created circuit position and is unsure where she would be assigned.

“As many of you know, applying to be a judge is a lengthy process and requires a lot of work. Thank you to the people that have mentored and encouraged me, many of whom are in this room, and who have talked me down and offered support during this process,” she told guests to some laughter. “I’ve been so fortunate to work with many talented judges during my time with the Probate and Family Court. I’ve learned so much and I’m so grateful to the judges who have been willing to answer my questions, engage in dialogue about perplexing issues and who urged me to take this step.”

The Probate and Family Court Department handles matters that involve families and children, such as divorce, child support and wills.

Monday’s hearing in Greenfield was attended by roughly 45 people, and commenters consisted of Flanders’ past and present co-workers, all of whom sang her praises.

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Kathleen Sandman, first justice of the Probate and Family Court, said she has for years known Flanders, who a handful of years ago became her judicial case manager.

“She has managed our court and provided exceptional ability and leadership in executing that role,” Sandman said of Flanders. “She is without a doubt the glue that holds it all together here at Franklin Probate.”

She also emphasized Flanders’ intelligence, experience and accessibility.

Retired Judge Geoffrey Wilson said Flanders has a knack for connecting with people.

“You know, there are a lot of people who understand the law. But not all of those people know how to relate it to other people and to understand what other people are saying, and particularly who have the patience to listen to what other people are saying,” he said. “The intelligence is only a part of becoming a good judge. The demeanor is really the most important thing, and I’d have to say Alexa has it in spades.”

He also said Flanders’ sense of humor and sympathetic nature will do her well on the bench.

“I think … she’s the ideal choice to be a judge,” he said. “I don’t think that in the commonwealth of Massachusetts you’re going to find somebody who’s better qualified.”

Jodie Nolan, Flanders’ predecessor as judicial case manager, said Flanders has worked with and learned from numerous judges over the years.

“This has given Alexa a unique and intimate perspective on the day-to-day work of a Family Court judge,” Nolan said.

Benjamin Simanski, the first assistant clerk magistrate who organized Monday’s hearing, said Flanders “truly is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met.”

Debra McLaughlin, coordinator of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, also spoke in favor of Flanders’ appointment to the bench, as did local attorney Leslie Powers.

In addition to Flanders, Healey also nominated Jessica Dubin, Mikalen Howe, and Carla Salvucci as associate justices to the Probate and Family Court.

“The Probate and Family Court plays an essential role in providing justice for families across the state, and I’m confident that these distinguished attorneys will make strong additions to the bench,” Healey said in a statement. “I’m proud to nominate them and appreciate the Governor’s Council’s consideration.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.