Embattled York County Probate Judge Robert Nadeau, who is currently suspended from the bench, is facing two challengers in a race for the part-time elected position.

Attorneys Bryan Chabot of Wells and Bernard Broder of Old Orchard Beach say they are challenging Nadeau because they each want to restore dignity and respect to the busy court, which oversees wills and the distribution of estates. The race will be decided by York County voters on Nov. 8.

In July, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ordered Nadeau be suspended from the bench for 30 days for improperly using his judicial position to try to influence the outcome of a personal legal case in which he was seeking a protection from harassment order against his former girlfriend. Nadeau wrote a threatening letter to the ex-girlfriend’s attorney in that 2013 case, mentioning his position as a judge and that things could “become very bad for your client, you and your law firm.”

The justices of the high court cited the discipline that Nadeau received in two prior cases as part of the reason for the new public censure and suspension. He has been publicly reprimanded multiple times in the past and was suspended from his judicial duties for 30 days in 2007 for lying about campaign opponents.

Nadeau also has faced complaints that he changed the probate court schedule last year to hear fewer cases after the York County commissioners refused to give him the raise he requested. He has denied those accusations.

The county commissioners did give Nadeau a raise last year, voting to pay him $54,206 a year for working two days per week. They rejected, however, his proposal to work three days per week for $90,000 or five days per week for $120,000.

Nadeau was ordered to begin serving his latest suspension on Oct. 3 without pay, which allowed York County officials to use the salary he would have received from the part-time position to hire a substitute judge to do the work.

Nadeau was first elected York County probate judge in 1996 and was re-elected in 2000 and 2004. He was defeated in 2008 after his earlier suspension, but was elected again in 2012.

Nadeau, 61, of Biddeford, says he is seeking another term because the probate court needs an experienced judge with the patience, compassion and responsiveness to hear sensitive cases and handle a busy docket. He has served roughly 20,000 people in his career, he says.

“The ability to deliver meaningful, effective, efficient public service to the children, families and incapacitated adults who depend on the York County Probate Court requires experience, compassion, hard work and the courage to deal with county politicians who know very little about the probate court and are so fiscally tight that they are unwilling to properly fund badly needed judicial time, thereby doing more harm than good,” he said. “I treat everyone who comes to court with attention, respect, care and clear solutions.”

Nadeau said his current suspension involves a matter of private litigation in his personal life and had nothing to do with any cases or decision he handled as a judge. He said his first suspension in 2007 was related to a 2004 campaign ad and resulted in no lost court time.

Chabot, 37, is a lifelong resident of York County and works as an attorney at a private practice in Sanford. He said he is running for the judge position to restore integrity to the probate court.

“I really feel the residents of York County aren’t being served in the way they should be,” he said. “This is a busy election season and this is a race that flies under the radar. It has huge consequences. It deals with sensitive cases. Those are intimate issues and they need proper attention.”

Chabot, who served in Bosnia and Iraq with the Army, says he has handled felony jury trials and appeared in district, superior and probate courts. He said that experience and his character make him the best candidate for the job.

“To me, there are three things a judge needs to have: education, trial experience and character,” he said.

Broder, who has a private law practice in Gorham, said he believes it’s time for a change in the probate court given Nadeau’s current suspension.

“I believe his ethics and qualifications are in question and the people deserve better than that,” he said. “It’s creating delays in people’s access to the court.”

Broder, 58, said he believes his education and experience lend themselves well to the probate judge position. Throughout his career, he has focused on public service work, including involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He also has worked with people with substance abuse issues. If elected, Broder said he will close his private practice to dedicate more time to the probate court.

Each of the state’s 16 counties has its own probate court with an elected register of probate and judge of probate in each one.

All other state judges – in District Court, Superior Court and the Supreme Judicial Court – are nominated by the governor and then vetted by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee before being appointed for seven-year terms by the state Senate.

The Judiciary Branch does not oversee the state’s probate courts, except in appeals and in disciplinary matters such as Nadeau’s.