Letter to the Editor: judicial system reform needed

7 mins read

When a Washington D.C.-based group called HALT (Help Abolish Legal Tyranny), came out with their 2008 report card on judicial accountability, Maine got a flunking grade.

We got one of the two lowest scores in the nation! Mississippi also failed the test, and half of the states received grades lower than a C. This confirmed what I’ve known for a few years now… that nothing gets done in Maine when judges violate their own code of ethics, or abuse their discretion, or even violate a person’s constitutional rights!

The Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability was created in 1978, to address complaints against judges. Complaints the Committee receives are kept confidential, unless an investigation is made. I filed three complaints, and each one was dismissed… including one filed against the entire Maine Supreme Court regarding a decision we received in 2005. Since the Maine Supreme Court decides the Committee’s budget, I don’t think they’ll ever vote to investigate any of the high court’s officers; and if they did, their decisions would likely be biased. I don’t know how much money Maine taxpayers are paying the Committee; that’s also confidential, and I haven’t made a Freedom of Access request to get the information… yet.

Anyway, while disciplining judges is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t change a bad decision. And though some would say there is a process for correcting a flawed decision, called appealing a decision, it’s effectiveness is questionable if not fraudulent… when combined with the current lack of oversight! In a system where there is no oversight of judges, pedantic rulings – and even violations of the court’s own rules – force a party to appeal in order to get justice. After what I’ve experienced, I conclude that appeals are little more than job security for judges and lawyers… who are, after all, officers of the court. This has to change.

On Thursday, March 12, 2009, there will be discussion on LD 491, which would eliminate some of the hurdles in the judicial system currently existing. The LD as it’s been drafted, is posted at my website. I’m working on a book about the cases which prompted me to propose changes. My website is www.dirtydecisions.com. Please call or write your legislators. The phone numbers and e-mail addresses are listed in bold yellow print at my site.

Some of our cases are listed in the right hand column, but you won’t get a full appreciation of the magnitude of the injustices until you read the book, which includes the court exhibits from small claims court and transcript from Superior Court, and more. If you want to know when it’s available, write to me. I’m starting a list of names. When it’s ready for sale, I’ll contact you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of my webpage, you’ll see that I’ve linked to other stories of injustice. There may be an issue, or a judge, you’re interested in knowing more about. If you want me to post something regarding an injustice you’ve suffered, send me the request and I’ll consider it.

I understand there’ll be a work session scheduled about a week or two after the public comment hearing; however, though the public may attend the session, there’ll be no opportunity for comments then. Until that day though, a person can voice their concern to their legislators. Better yet, put your concerns in writing, in the form of an email, so you have proof of it if you ever need it.

The legislation isn’t perfect, nor is it set in stone; but even if you don’t agree with portions of it, it’s important to voice your concern for keeping discussions alive… so that legislators don’t kill the “Act to Reform the Maine Judicial System” for lack of support and we can work toward a solution to the crisis. Don’t wait until your constitutional rights are trampled on by the judges themselves before jumping on the justice train.

I made that mistake myself. I received a letter from the Maine Supreme Court. They will not reconsider their decision, which was an affirmation of a denial of any trial at all in my son’s case. The decision was on appeal from Androscoggin County Superior Court. My son has a case of obvious medical misdiagnosis, which I believe we can prove in laymen’s terms. We’ve been trying for nine years to get a trial. We had a lawyer on it for the first six years. A nice man, I really mean that. However, he dropped the case after an unfavorable vote by a biased medical malpractice panel. It’s difficult to get a lawyer to take a medical malpractice case because they are so difficult to win in Maine because of the way the laws are written. My son’s injury was a broken arm, which went undetected. Physicians assumed he had a dislocated shoulder and tried to put the arm back into joint… ouch, need I say more?

Call or write your legislators today! Or, show up and testify about the changes you’d like to see made. Senate: 287-1515 (D), 287-1505 (R); House of Reps: 287-1430 (D), 287-1440 (R).

Paula Michaud
Lille (Aroostook County)

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