Preside Show: An Ugly Estate Case Spotlights a ‘Side’ Judge

by Mark Davis, Seven Days

Preside Show by Marc Nadel

Paul Kane filed a motion to try to avoid testifying in Windsor County Probate Court, but a judge ordered him to talk. As soon as he took the witness stand last November, it was obvious why he’d been reluctant. For 90 minutes, an attorney grilled Kane about whether he’d bilked an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease of roughly $500,000.

Brattleboro attorney Jodi French asked Kane why, after the ailing Catherine Tolaro granted him power of attorney, he purchased an $180,000 annuity with her money and named himself the beneficiary.

Under French’s questioning, Kane claimed that he did so with Tolaro’s interests in mind.

“Making sure if she needed money for care, she could get it,” Kane stammered.

“Was there any other function in your mind?” French asked.

“No, making sure if she needed the money for care, we could get it,” Kane repeated.

Despite his apparent discomfort throughout the hearing, Kane knows his way around the courtroom. In fact, he’s a Windham County assistant judge who was elected two years ago. But like most of Vermont’s 27 other assistant judges, who advise regular judges in civil and family court cases and occasionally preside over minor cases, Kane does not have a law degree.

Read the rest of the story from Seven Days.