Maine Bar Journal
Winter 2012 #8.
The State Of The Judiciary
Maine Bar Journal VOLUME 27 , NUMBER 1, WINTER 2012 The State Of The Judiciary A Report to the Joint Convention of the Second Regular Session of the 125th Legislature
Presented by Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley February 9, 2012
We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times.
George Washington, letter to Philip Schuyler, July 15, 1777
Centralization and Consolidation: A Road Map to Improving Public Service
Good morning, and thank you, President Raye. Good morning, Governor LePage, Speaker Nutting, members of the 125th Maine Legislature, colleagues from the Maine bench, colleagues from the Tribal and Probate Courts, visitors in the gallery and, as always, my supportive family.
I am honored to have this opportunity to report to you on the State of Maine's Judiciary in 2012.
I begin with this: your individual commitment to improving justice in Maine has made a real difference in the lives of Maine people.
As difficult as the challenges have been for the 125th Maine Legislature and for a new Governor, you and the Governor have taken the time to understand the effects of these challenges on your constituents' needs for justice.
Governor: The Governor has supported a baseline Judicial Branch budget and is addressing the challenges of Domestic Violence in our courts.
Legislature: In the Legislature, many of you have worked very closely with us.
In Washington County, President Raye, and Representatives Maker, Tilton, and Burns visited the county courthouse. They will be working with us to improve that beautiful, but aging and dangerous facility.
In Aroostook County, Senator Sherman, Representative Martin, and Representative Fredette presented a session on the legislative process to lawyers in the region.
In Oxford County, Senator Hastings helped gather lawyers for a Legislative/ Bench/Bar meeting.
In Hancock County, Senator Rosen, and Representatives Malaby, Flemings, and Luchini joined us to recognize Hancock County Judicial Branch employees followed by a Legislative/ Bench/Bar lunch meeting.
In Newport, Representative Fredette assembled a large group of lawyers for a Legislative/Bench/Bar lunch meeting.
Representative Cushing met with the Law Court in Portland.
Senator Katz gathered stakeholders and is working passionately with the Courts, led by Justice Jabar, to build a consolidated, safe, energy-efficient courthouse in Augusta that will serve Kennebec County for centuries to come.
Representative Haskell has worked tirelessly to help improve the lives of juveniles, resulting in the State obtaining an Annie E. Casey Grant to help design detention alternatives for youth who might otherwise move from juvenile detention centers to the revolving doors of the county jails.
Representative Strang Burgess accepted our request to join the Children's Justice Task Force, bringing her knowledge from the Health and Human Services Committee to the table.
Many of you have taken time to visit the courts and talk with the judges, including: Senator Mason, and Representatives Stevens, Richardson, Monaghan-Derrig, Willette, Rochelo, Volk, and Pilon.
Speaker Nutting spent a day in the Augusta courts.
On the Judiciary Committee, Senators Hastings and Dill, Representatives Priest, Waterhouse, Sarty, and Maloney, assisted in reviewing the conflicting and unmanageable priorities of courts, and have made recommendations for change.
In the challenges of Domestic Violence, Representative Cain has worked closely with the courts to address an issue that I will talk about in greater detail in a minute.
And with your support, we brought real appellate court sessions to three Maine high schools: we sat at Lisbon High School at the invitation of Senator Mason, at Deering High at the invitation of Senator Alfond, and at Richmond High at the invitation of Senator Goodall and Representative Berry.
These are just examples of the collaborative work you have all undertaken, and I recognize that it is always dangerous to identify specific people, for fear of leaving others out. I hope that those I may have missed will forgive me.
But I have taken the time to identify so many of you today to make a very important point. Maine benefits greatly from your cooperative and bi-partisan support for access to justice. It doesn't happen in every State.
I am proud to tell the public that, despite the challenges of the economy, and the demands on all of you, In the Maine State House,
In the Maine State House,
Justice is not forgotten. Tank you.
Here is one small way to reward your efforts. Last year, I began my report with a discussion of events from the year 1820, with the establishment of the Maine Constitution. Tis year, rather than reaching back and beginning with the Magna Carta, in the year 1215, I will focus my comments on the last six months.
July 2011 marked the first occasion in many years in which the Judicial Branch began the fiscal year with a baseline budget that had not been significantly cut. The long-held clerk and marshal vacancies, dark courtrooms, and resulting delays and frustration for the public, caused by several years of deep cuts, led you to support the court budget proposed by the Governor that allowed us to restore critical positions.
In a time of extraordinary fiscal challenges, we are grateful for your recognition of the...