The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the state of Maine‘s judicial system. It is composed of seven justices, who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Maine Senate. From 1820 until 1839, justices served lifetime appointments with a mandatory retirement age of 70. Beginning in 1839, justices are appointed for seven-year terms, with no limit on the number of terms that they may serve or a mandatory retirement age.[1][2][3]

Known as the Law Court when sitting as an appellate court, the Supreme Court’s other functions include hearing appeals of sentences longer than one year of incarceration, overseeing admission to the bar and the conduct of its members, and promulgating rules for all the state’s courts.[4]

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is one of the few state supreme courts in the United States authorized to issue advisory opinions, which it does upon request by the governor or legislature, as set out in the Maine Constitution.[4]

It is also unusual for a state’s highest appellate court in that its primary location is not that of the state’s capital city, Augusta, partially because the Kennebec County Courthouse did not have a courtroom large enough for the Supreme Court’s proceedings.[5] The court did meet there from 1830 until 1970, when it permanently moved to the Cumberland County Courthouse. The renovation of the Kennebec County Courthouse in 2015, which included expansion of the bench in its largest courtroom to permit all 7 MSJC justices to sit there, will allow the court to meet there at least twice a year. It will also continue to meet in Portland, Bangor, and at high schools around the state.[6]

Maine Supreme Judicial Court, 1859-1862. Standing, from left to right: Daniel Goodenow, , , and future Chief Justice John Appleton. Sitting, from left to right: Edward Kent, , Chief Justice John S. Tenney, and Jonas Cutting.

The MSJC is also authorized to rule on the fitness of the Governor of Maine to serve in office, which it does upon the Maine Secretary of State certifying to the court that the governor is temporarily unable to carry out the duties of that office. The court must then hold a hearing and, if it agrees that the governor is unfit, declare the office of governor temporarily vacant and transfer its duties to the President of the Maine Senate, who would serve as acting governor. If the Secretary of State later certifies to the Supreme Court that the governor is fit to resume office, the court would then decide whether it agrees.[7]

Current justices

As of June 8, 2021, the justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court are:

NameBornResidenceAppointed byService beganLaw schoolPrior positions
Valerie Stanfill, Chief Justice1957/1958 (age 63–64)[8]WayneJanet Mills (D)June 8, 2021MaineJudge Maine Superior Court (2020–2021)
Andrew Mead1952 (age 68–69)BangorJohn Baldacci (D)March 22, 2007New YorkJudge Maine Superior Court (1992–2007)
Ellen Gorman (1955-11-09) November 9, 1955 (age 66)FalmouthJohn Baldacci (D)October 1, 2007CornellJudge Maine Superior Court (2000–2007)
Joseph Jabar (1946-07-09) July 9, 1946 (age 75)WatervilleJohn Baldacci (D)September 1, 2009MaineJudge Maine Superior Court (2001–2009)
Thomas E. Humphrey (1945-11-19) November 19, 1945 (age 76)SanfordPaul LePage (R)June 9, 2015Boston CollegeChief Judge Maine Superior Court (2004–2015)
Andrew M. Horton (1949-08-28) August 28, 1949 (age 72)FalmouthJanet Mills (D)February 4, 2020GeorgetownJudge Maine Superior Court (2007–2020)
Catherine Connors (1959-01-26) January 26, 1959 (age 62)KennebunkJanet Mills (D)February 4, 2020Northwestern

There are two active retired justices.

NameBornResidenceAppointed byService beganEnded serviceActive retired
service began
Law schoolPrior positions
Robert W. Clifford [9] (1937-05-02) May 2, 1937 (age 84)LewistonJoseph E. Brennan (D)August 1, 1986August 31, 2009September 1, 2009Boston College (JD)
Virginia (LL.M.)
Chief Justice of Superior Court
Jeffrey L. Hjelm (1955-09-30) September 30, 1955 (age 66)CamdenPaul LePage (R)August 1, 2014December 2019February 2020Case Western ReserveSuperior court

See also

References

  1. ^ Constitution of 1820
  2. ^ Amendment to the constitution, 1839
  3. ^ Current constitution
  4. ^ a b “State of Maine Judicial Branch: Supreme Court”. State of Maine Judicial Branch. 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  5. ^ “Talks continue on Kennebec courthouse parking area”. Kennebec Journal. June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  6. ^ “Historic Kennebec County Courthouse in Augusta to host Maine Supreme Judicial Court again”. Kennebec Journal. September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  7. ^ “What it takes to remove a governor from office”. Kennebec Journal. August 26, 2016. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  8. ^ “Janet Mills names Androscoggin County judge to lead state’s highest court”. news.yahoo.com. May 10, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  9. ^ Judy Harrison (2009-05-30). “Justice leaving Maine supreme court”. Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 2009-07-02.

External links