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Judicial selection in Maine

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Maine
Seal of Maine.png
Maine Supreme Court
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment, senate confirmation
Term:   7 years
Maine Superior Court
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment, senate confirmation
Term:   7 years
Maine District Courts
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment, senate confirmation
Maine Probate Courts
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   4 years

Selection of state judges in Maine occurs primarily through gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation. Appointed judges must be reappointed if they wish to serve additional terms.[1]

The probate courts are an exception to this rule. Probate judges are selected in partisan elections and must be re-elected if they wish to serve additional terms.[1] Under the Maine Constitution, elected judges' terms begin on January 1 after their election.

Supreme and Superior Courts

See also: Gubernatorial appointment

The seven justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and the 17 judges of the Maine Superior Court are appointed by the governor with confirmation from the Maine Senate. Whether newly appointed or reappointed, judges serve seven-year terms.

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice of the supreme court is also appointed by the governor and serves in that capacity for his or her full seven-year term. The chief judge of the superior court is selected by the supreme court chief justice and serves at will of the chief justice.[1]


State law only requires that supreme and superior court judges be "learned in the law."[1]

District Courts

See also: Gubernatorial appointment

Judges of the Maine District Courts are also chosen by gubernatorial appointment with confirmation by the Maine Senate. Like the supreme and superior court judges, district court judges must be reappointed if they wish to serve multiple terms.[2]

In order to serve on these courts, a judge must be a member of the state bar.[2]

Probate Courts

See also: Partisan elections

The Maine Probate Courts fall under the jurisdiction of the counties, not the state court system. There are 16 probate judges, each elected in partisan elections to five-year terms.[3][4]

In order to serve on these courts, a candidate must be a resident of Maine, and an attorney licensed to practice in the state. Judges of the Maine probate courts serve part-time.[2][3]


Judicial selection in Maine has undergone a variety of changes in the last two centuries. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 2001: The Maine Legislature took further steps to unify the state courts. Caseloads were shuffled among various court levels, making the district court the only court that hears family and divorce cases. The administrative court (see 1978) was abolished with its caseload and personnel absorbed into the district court.
  • 1990-2000: Several specialized divisions were created within the justice system, including the Family Division, the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Program and the Adult Drug Court Program.
  • 1978: An administrative court was established to hear appeals from state administrative decisions.
  • 1961: A more unified court system was established. The municipal courts and the trial court system were abolished, and in its place the Maine District Courts were created. The probate courts were then established to be the only courts not under statewide administration, and Maine's system became one of the most unified in the nation.
  • 1929: The state legislature created the Maine Superior Courts to help lighten the supreme court's case load.
  • 1852: The Court Reorganization Act increased the supreme court's number of justices as well as its jurisdiction. The justices were authorized to travel in circuits.
  • 1839: Established that judges no longer serve for life, but are instead appointed to seven-year terms.
  • 1820: The original constitution established the state judicial branch, accounting for the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and "such other courts as the Legislature shall from time to time establish." Various other courts were created, including trial courts, municipal courts and probate courts.
  • 1819: Established that all judges are to be appointed for life by the governor with consent of the council.[5][6]

Selection of federal judges

United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[7]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links


MaineMaine Supreme Judicial CourtMaine Superior CourtMaine District CourtsMaine Family DivisionMaine Small Claims CourtMaine Business and Consumer CourtMaine Probate CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of MaineUnited States bankruptcy court, District of MaineUnited States Court of Appeals for the First CircuitMaine countiesMaine judicial newsMaine judicial electionsJudicial selection in MaineMaineTemplate.jpg