A commission in charge of overseeing criminal defense for people accused of crimes but too poor to pay for their own attorney has a new leader in place.
James Billings started his executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services (MCILS) today, May 22. He was admitted to the bar in 2002 having attended the University of Maine School and Law and is currently the chief counsel for the Department of Transportation in state government. He has past experience of criminal defense.
In an email to all attorneys who take court-appointed cases, Mr. Billings said: "During my time away from the defense bar at MaineDOT, a lot of exciting developments have occurred, and I’m sure there are more to come. A big thank you to Justin Andrus for turning a supposedly short-term gig into over 2 years of service as ED! Justin and the Commission turned a very small office and tiny budget into a more robust staff and significantly expanded our resources. But as always—we have a way to go yet.
"I hope to see many of you in person in courthouses throughout the state—especially in the rural areas where we always need more support."
Mr. Billings replaces Justin Andrus, who has been in the role in both an interim and permanent capacity since the beginning of 2021. Mr. Andrus's last day was last week, May 19, having previously said he wanted to leave by the end of June. It is expected that Mr. Andrus will return to private practice, having publicly expressed an interest in doing so several times.
Mr. Andrus has secured funding to get additional staff to oversee attorneys, provide and organize training, and set new rules for how the commission will do its work. He has also secured funding from the legislature to increase the amount billed by attorneys from $60 an hour, then to $80 an hour, and now $150 an hour.