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CTnow

Editorial

Justice At Last For Disinherited Caretaker

The Smoron Farm: Owner's wishes should finally be honored

7:11 PM EDT, March 22, 2013

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The arc of history is finally bending toward justice in the case of Sam Manzo and the valuable but ramshackle farm he stands to inherit in Southington.

It has taken too long for justice to prevail — 31/2 years.

This past week, a Superior Court judge hearing Mr. Manzo's appeal of a Southington probate court order removed what is probably the last significant roadblock between Mr. Manzo and his rightful inheritance.

Now the case goes to Hartford Probate Judge Robert Killian to resolve the few remaining questions. Surely the erudite, experienced Judge Killian can wrap up the case — which has been an ugly sore on the probate system — with dispatch.

The farm was the property of Josephine Smoron, who died at 92 on June 20, 2009. Ms. Smoron wanted Mr. Manzo, her longtime caretaker, to have the farm — and especially her beloved cows. She said so, specifically, in two wills.

But while Ms. Smoron lay dying in a nursing home, a probate judge who would later be censured by the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct and a lawyer who was castigated by the Statewide Grievance Committee ignored the old lady's wishes and sought to hustle Mr. Manzo out of his eventual inheritance.

The probate judge, Bryan Meccariello, expressed doubts about Mr. Manzo's ability to take care of Ms. Smoron as she declined and wondered whether the caretaker was putting his own interests first. He terminated Mr. Manzo's conservatorship of Ms. Smoron.

Mr. Meccariello then allowed the lawyer, John Nugent, who became Ms. Smoron's conservator, to set up two trusts, transfer her assets into them and name others to be the beneficiaries — putting the farm beyond Mr. Manzo's reach. Mr. Nugent wanted the Smoron farm sold to a developer.

It was a brazen scheme. But Superior Court Judge William H. Bright, who heard Mr. Manzo's appeal of the Southington probate court order setting up the trusts, would have none of it.

He voided the trusts. Ms. Smoron's wishes may finally come true.