An analysis of the known background of many of Maine’s judges has revealed a significant proportion of former prosecutors and state lawyers get elevated to the bench.
This practice used available public information to determine the background of judges and their areas of practice before they were nominated. Many have been judges for so long that it was too difficult or impossible to discern. In all, the names of 63 judges, mostly (65%) serving in the district court, were examined. However, only 48 had some kind of background given in the nominating process that could be found.
This exercise was intended to determine whether anecdotal criticism about the proportion of former prosecutors who get elevated is accurate. Past experience of actually representing clients, particularly for criminal defense, can potentially affect attitudes. So can having government as a past employer.
Of the 48 judges where there was reference to past employment history in nominations, or that history was known, just over half (52%) were previously employed by the government in some form - mostly as prosecutors, but sometimes as, say, civil litigators for the Attorney General, working as a lawyer at an agency, or as counsel for a politician for example. This includes those who also did both public and private work for law firms, where criminal defense may have been a part.
Only nine judges specifically mentioned or are known to have done criminal defense. However, this is almost certainly a significant undercount, since this relies solely on that work being explicitly stated in any public profile or publicity giving a judge’s background in the nomination process. This practice is trying to get an accurate picture.
The majority of current Maine judges are also men (62%). This includes those who are active retired judges.
A significant majority of Maine judges (61%) graduated from the University of Maine School of Law. Just over three quarters went to any law school in New England - including schools in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut, as well as Maine Law. Only a small proposition went to any law school outside of New England (22%).
This practice is actively trying to get a broader picture of all those named as current judges by the Judicial Branch, including those for whom information is still being sought. Some new names have been added and the current lists of superior and district court judges appears out of date. A new post with updated information will be published.