Monday, September 28, 2015

Equal Access to Justice - Not as a Pro se litigant

In June of this year we wrote to the US Department of Justice regarding issues surrounding Pro se representation. Part of the issues a Pro se litigant has to deal with is the denial of equal rights and access to Justice. In Maine, Connecticut and New York the Pro se litigant makes up 74% or greater of the cases in court. In over 80% of these cases the Pro se litigant is up against a lawyer. Below is our letter to the Justice Department:

US Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington. DC 20530

To Whom It May Concern:

Subject: Civil Rights Complaint: 74% of Maine Family Court Users, Who are 'Pro se' Are Denied Equal Rights in Family Courts.

In Maine 74% of people in family courts are 'Pro se'. This amazing statistic comes from a personal communication from Maine's Chief Justice, and it has appeared in an essay by an Associate Chief Justice in the Portland Press Herald. There is also the statistic that in 86% of cases in family court there is only one lawyer. These limited numbers alone raise questions about whether equal justice is possible when a 'pro se' litigant is opposed by a lawyer.

Attempts to seek corrective action in discussion with leaders in the Maine Judicial Branch have gone nowhere.  Likewise, an attempt to obtain a legislative audit (see below) have been defeated, largely because of oppositional lobbying from the bar and the Judicial Branch. I am enclosing the content of the proposed bill, which aimed at obtaining further data about the nature of the 'Pro se' problem in Maine, so as to be able to move forward with rational planning to address the problem. It gives the gist of the civil rights problem in a nutshell. See below:

LD 953 An Act to Improve the Court Experience of 'Pro se' Litigants

Senator Burns, Representative Hobbins, members of the Judiciary Committee

It is a pleasure to endorse Rep Seavey's bill, LD 953, An Act to Improve the Court Experience of 'Pro se' Litigants. From my perspective as a member of Maine Guardian ad litem Alert, LD 953 is our most important piece of legislation this year. It calls for a legislative study, what one might call an audit, of the 'Pro se' experience of justice in one or more Maine family courts. The title of the bill calls for "an improvement of the court experience" of 'Pro' se litigants. But before we can "improve", we need to know "what exactly is that experience?"

We don't really know. Apart from the eye-popping statistic that 74% of litigants in family courts, we know almost nothing. I don't know, Mary Ann Lynch, Judicial Branch spokeswoman, doesn't know. The Chief Justice doesn't know. And ... most important - you as members of a legislative committee charged with constitutional "oversight of the Judiciary" don't know and need to know. You can't do "oversight" of any problem without knowing the nature of the problem and this requires data to work with.

Although the Judicial Branch will claim to be moving on the 74% 'pro se' problem, and though Justice Andrew Mead has had a committee working on the problem for a couple of years, these operations affecting the 74% majority users of family courts are not open to the public. Their deliberations are conducted out of public view. The from what we have learned, the committee aims to:

(a) raise money from lawyer donations to pay for legal services for some of the 74% 'Pro se' group,
(b) ask the bar to do more 'pro bono publico' work for the 74% 'Pro se' group,
(c) allow clerks in various courts to assist 'pro se' clients with paper work,
(d) ask judges to be more "user friendly" to 'Pro se' litigants and stop saying, "Don't come back to this court without a lawyer!" All of these efforts are fighting an ill-defined, gargantuan task with a "peashooter"! They are solving a problem with no data, no definition of the nature of the problem. From the feedback we get from our friends, these efforts are a well-intended, unsystematic, disorganized, "drop in the bucket". Normative family court pronouncements, coming from the Judicial Branch, continue to be written for lawyers. Shall we say, "Oops ... we forgot that only 26% represented by lawyers." The Norm, the usual, the average, the typical is 74% 'Pro se'.

The Judicial Branch is attempting to solve the 'pro se' problem, before they know the nature of the problem. They are posing unsystematic solutions for an unknown clientele, without involving this clientele in the solutions. Part of the problem in understanding the 74% 'Pro se' client is that the Judicial Branch has no electronic data that might shed light on these clients, so solutions are, of necessity, a "short in the dark", guess work, lacking an intervention model that fits the situation, driving blind. The Judicial Branch is not in the habit of conducting surveys or studies. The preferred approach is to assemble "stakeholders", to debate and recommend answers. Typically, "stakeholders" are politically powerful members of the "divorce industry", lawyers, judges at various levels, Guardians ad litem, who have a personal/professional stake in the answers. It is the "foxes" assessing the problems and needs of the "chickens in the hen-house"!


1. What are the demographics of the 74% 'Pro se' group? What is the gender spread? Socioeconomic levels? Education levels? Immigrants? Linguistically handicapped? Disabled?

2. What are the decisional outcomes of the 74% 'pro se' court experience? Do cases go well for the 'Pro se' litigant? How do 'Pro se' litigants evaluate their experience as consumers of family court service? What services or supports do they feel would have helped them?

3. What do lawyers, judges and GAL think about the 'Pro se' problem? Do they see it as the norm in family court or as the exception? How have they (or haven't they) adapted formal procedure to untrained litigants?

4. The 'Pro se' trajectory: How many people start as 'Pro se'? How many move to "Pro se' after they run out of money? How much money has the average 'Pro se' litigant spent before they decide to go 'Pro se'? What is the impact on 'Pro se' litigants previous experience on their savings, retirement, mortgages, college funds, family borrowing, other forms of borrowing?

5. How much time from work, vacation time, sick time, etc. must 'Pro se' litigants take to handle appearances in court and administrative activities normally handled by a lawyer? Employment consequences?

6. How do courts handle the 74% 'Pro se' litigant's lack of knowledge of courtroom procedure, rules of evidence, cross examination techniques, non-compliance with various professional protocols? Are 'Pro se' litigants treated as lawyers or as parties? Are there standards for 'Pro se' in court? What impact has the huge number of 'Pro se' litigants had on family courts? Can family courts still be considered "courts" when the participation of litigants is so unequal, uneven and out of keeping with courtroom standards and protocols?

7. 'Pro se' appeals to the Supreme Court: how many? Do they get help? What if their brief is not up to legal standards? Can a 'Pro se' simply do his/her own thing in forming a brief, or must they try to be a "junior, untrained lawyer?

The above questions are just a limited sample of things one needs to know in advance of rational frugal goal-oriented problem solving. The answers to these questions might guide planners in developing a rational plan to correct and reform family courts and address the 74% 'Pro se' problem. Family courts, in our view, are in a state of 'free fall" at the moment. Just the limited facts we have give us a "peek" into a what is a "court" in name only. 74% 'Pro se' and getting bigger. No demographic or statistical or geographic spread data to work or plan with. No standards for the 'Pro se' litigant that recognize their non-professional status and their need for tools and assistance in the name of justice. . No idea of who these people are and no idea about what might help them in their advocacy. Current Judicial Branch planning is not data based, not reality based, not consumer based. It is prescribing for others without knowing them. From our direct, personal experience, Clerks of courts give the behavioral message; they are not sure how to deal with 'Pro se' litigants and whether the 74% majority should get service priority or the priority is to serve the 26% real lawyers. They are wary of helping the 'Pro se' litigants with forms (it might be misconstrued as "legal help"). They are inconsistent from court to court in their explanations and directions. Their inconsistency leads to confusion, duplication and time consuming errors. Time consuming errors are "time off from work" for a 'Pro se ' litigant- no billable hours for a lawyer! It is as simple as that.

Finally there are the heartbreaking stories of the human wreckage of 'Pro se' litigants caused by Maine's family courts with no supervision, no oversight, no management. It cries for an audit or whatever you choose to call an assessment of this very broken system. Should it be repaired, or should it be terminated or will it simply "crash and burn on its own, if no action is taken?

We ask that the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division help the 'Pro se'  citizens of Maine, who cannot obtain equal justice when they go to court on their own and "unarmed" with the "tools" of lawyers.

MeGAL is working to bring reform to the Family Court system. If you have had issues in Family Court we encourage you to reach out to us. We may be found on Facebook or via email at

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Some questions to ask your Guardian ad litem

Our court system has us believe that the role of Guardian ad litem is at least in theory a person who is the eyes and ears of the court offering a neutral and unbiased view of the divorcing family. In practice the person who operates in this role is anything but. The Guardian ad litem’s personal values and agenda clouds the process and as a result this can be a source of conflict with you.

Ask yourself this:

How well do you know this person?

What happens if your values differ from that of this court appointed official?

Our Family Court system markets the belief that in the roll of Guardian ad litem we have a person who we are to believe is an expert in determining – where your child should live, the impact of divorce or domestic violence, visitation, custody, law, psychology and social work to name a few areas. This expertise comes from just a few hours of training with little or no focus. There is no test to determine whether or not this Guardian ad litem understands the material. There is no mentoring program after the Guardian ad litem completes training. To make matters worse - there is no oversight or management of this person in this role. Doctors, lawyers, judges, electricians, plumbers, nurses, oil burner technicians, chiropractors, social workers and dental hygienists have more training and oversight. In addition to the training and oversight we can ask people in these professions questions without the fear of being reprimanded for doing so.

You – as a consumer – need to inform yourself about the person who is being thrust into your life and making decisions which you have no control over. They should be asked before any Guardian ad litem has become a part of your life - chances are the Guardian ad litem is already wreaking havoc in your divorce/ custody. It is not too late.

These questions are being presented in no particular order or grouping. In most cases the answers will have meaning for you and should be used as a tool to help in understanding the Guardian ad litem. In asking any of these questions if the Guardian ad litem refuses to answer or gives a non-answer answer – that is a behavioral message and a clue as to the makeup of the person. The questions and answers should be entered in as evidence or asked in court of the Guardian ad litem. It becomes part of the record.

After going through this list if you can think of questions that may be appropriate to ask we would encourage you to share. A link will be provided to voice those questions. 

Presented here are some basic questions (depending on the answer there may be follow up questions): 

1     Do you have experience as a law enforcement officer in conducting investigations?
2.       What is your actual field of professional expertise?
3.       What makes you an expert in determining what is good for other people’s children?
4.       What makes you an expert in determining how other people should conduct their lives?
5.       What is your child hood family background?
6.       What is your own family history as an adult?
7.       What is your own marital history as an adult?
8.       What is your own relationship history as an adult?
9.       Why do you want to be appointed to this case?
10.   What do you see your role in this case to be?
11.   How do you separate your underlying professional behaviors from your role as Guardian ad litem functions?
12.   As a Guardian ad litem going through training were you ever tested on what you learned?
       a.       YES – What was the score you received?
       b.      NO – How do we know that you understand the material taught/ discussed?
13.   As a Guardian ad litem you are tasked as being neutral and unbiased in conducting your investigation and in making recommendations.
       a.       How do you maintain neutrality during your investigation?
       b.      How do you keep your personal bias and agenda out of the cases?
       c.       Does the judge provide supervision and oversight when you are appointed to a case?
14.   As a child did you ever experience issues involving the absence of one or both parents?
        a.       YES – What was that experience like for you?
        b.      NO – How can you understand what the issues are?
15.   Do you have experience with research in dealing with child custody?
       a.       YES - What specific research can you sight?
       b.      NO – If not then please explain how you are able to conduct an investigation?
16.   Please describe what was/ is the relationship you had/ have with your Mother?
17.   Please describe what was/ is the relationship you had/ have with your Father?
18.   Are there any ongoing issues with either?
19.   Did you grow up in a divorced home?
20.   Do you have siblings?
21.   Do you have Grandparents?
22.   As a child did you have contact with your extended family?
23.   Do you come from a religious home?
       a.       YES – What is your religion currently?
24.   Did/ do you come from a particular ethnic background?
25.   We grow up with a belief system. It is a part of what defines us as a person.
       a.       Has your belief system ever interfered with an investigation?
       b.      Did/ will your belief system interfere with this case?
       c.       NO – How do we know?
26.   Do you apply your own values in making recommendations to the court?
       a.       YES – Can you describe what some of your personal values (political, social as example).
              i.   If my values are different than yours how will that affect your perception of me as a             parent?
       b.      YES – As a neutral observer – why are your values better than either parent?
       c.       NO – How can we be sure?
       d.      NO – As a neutral observer – are you saying that your investigation is neutral with regards to the values you have?
              i.   If so then what test do you use to verify this?
              ii.  How can we be sure your values will not influence how you view this divorce/ custody?
27.   In making your recommendations to this court please explain how you arrived at the following:
       a.       The visitation schedule?
       b.      Custody?
28.   Have you ever been married?
       a.       YES – How many times?
       b.      NO – How are you able to understand the dynamics of married life?
29.   Have you ever been divorced?
       a.       YES – How many times?
       b.      YES – Did you ever go through litigation?
              i.   YES – Did you have issues with child support?
              ii.  YES – Did you have issues with the custody agreement(s)?
       c.       NO – What experience do you draw upon in order to understand what a divorcing family goes through?
30.   Do you ever refer cases you are involved in to Child Protective services?
       a.       YES – What are your criteria for such a referral?
       b.      YES – Is the claim of child abuse always a criminal claim?
       c.       YES – Should criminal allegations be removed from Family Court to an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office?
31.   Which Judges do you frequently work with?
32.   Which lawyers do you work with on cases?
33.   How many of your cases have been appealed to a higher court?
34.   Have you ever been sanctioned:
       a.       By a Judge?
       b.      By a Higher Court?
       c.       The result of a complaint?
35.   How many cases have you been involved with as a Guardian ad litem?
36.  How do your clients respond to the work you do as a Guardian ad litem?

While these questions should be asked before the Guardian ad litem has been assigned by the judge - quite often it will not be until after you recognize there is a problem with the way this person operates. It is never to late to start asking. Make the questions and answers for the record. If you have any questions which you think may be appropriate we ask that you follow this [LINK] to submit. We will maintain a running list of questions.

MeGAL is working for reform in our Family Court system. This includes the role of Guardian ad litem, Parent Coordinator, Special Master and court evaluators. If you have issues we ask that you contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Am I the only one who sees this GAL is wrong?

The stages of realizing there is a problem with the Family Court System is universal for families, relatives and friends who have experienced the system first hand. In our frustration with the courts we spend different lengths of time working through a series of 5 steps that are similar to the 5 stages of Loss and Grief as first proposed by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” No one person will go through this list in the order we have them and many will only experience a few.

Like the Five Stages our model is based on how we try to rationalize a process which cannot be rationalized. We may go through each stage in order or out of order. We may associate with each step or only a few. The Stages of Family Court Dysfunction (FCD) are:

1. Belief - As consumers of judicial services we enter the court system with the idea that this country has the best judicial system in the world. That the professionals who operate within this system do so with neutrality and fairness.

2. Self Doubt and Puzzlement - As the divorce/ custody process gains momentum and hints of flaws with the process start to show we think these issues are the result of things we are doing. "It must be me" that this is happening. We become puzzled by the direction of the divorce/ custody. We realize that things are not going in a direction which makes sense. There is often a flip flop of common sense and values. Black becomes White and White becomes Black.

3. Reason and Disillusionment - We begin to try reasoning with the players. The Guardian ad litem, lawyers and court. Presenting evidence and facts because if they only just read or viewed they would understand what is going on. Disillusionment creeps in when we realize that no matter how much evidence and facts presented - the system is unwilling to listen and understand what your concerns are.

4. Anger - As the reality of the situation starts to settle in we become upset that 'justice' does not exist. That those whom we have invested with our trust are untrustworthy. A system which is supposed to protect our children is more concerned with our behavior and whether or not a Guardian ad litem, Special Master or Parent Coordinator will get paid. Our anger can be aimed at anything - our ex, the children, the family pet even the court system.

5. Settlement - Sadly we may never find settlement as the process can continue far into the future. There are parents who settle and do so for far less than what they should and are grateful for what they have. Then there are others who carry on the fight long after their divorce/ custody is over to that future divorcing families will not have to go through what they have experienced.

The process one goes through is one of personal attitude change with exposure to more and more data. This data can come from many sources - from talking and sharing with others, the internet and those who have taken the issue publicly as well as personal experience. Some will try to fix this system with the hopes of repairing their own case; others do so as public spirited citizens, who hope to help others who are going through what they themselves have experienced. How one publicly markets both the human experience in need of fixing and the fixing itself is critical. It will require educating the public and politicians on what the issues are not only for your case but those of others. It took some time for you to understand that your case had problems. Imagine how others who have no experience with family court will respond? They will have a hard time understanding - some will get it. Many will not.

It is important to note that you are not alone and that others have experienced what you have gone through. There are many grassroots organizations that one can find offering support and help on a national as well as local level. It should be noted that out of 50 states there are very few instances of court officers who have been disciplined for malpractice.

If you have had issues with a court officer - Guardian ad litem, Special Master, Parental Coordinator or some other flavor of court appointed officer. We urge you to contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Friday, July 10, 2015

To Recuse Or Not To Recuse That is The Question

Judicial Disqualification or recusal has been an issue in Maine courts for years. This is especially so in our Family Court system where often a litigant will be seen by a judge who maybe a neighbor, a friend or even colleague. Recently Maine Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Ellen Gorman was quoted as saying that Maine's new Code of Judicial Conduct will deal with recusal as well as other issues.

Back in 2011 the Brennan Center for Justice sent a letter to Maine's Supreme Court regarding the issue of recusal. The letter is very polite, easy to understand but powerful critique of Maine's standards for judges. The letter has enormous relevance for those Maine litigants who have tried, unsuccessfully, to get a judge to recuse themselves. The Brennan letter would be a very valuable reference were a litigant to appeal a judges decision NOT to recuse him/herself. The current judicial recusal practices in Maine allow judges to ignore transparency and "arms length" principles for recusal as enunciated by the Brennan Center. Current practices allow our judges to refuse recusal with the more primitive and child like standard:

"Because I say so!"

We wish Maine could do better. Please find following the letter (with links to the original):

Letter to Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Proposed Amendments to Code of Conduct May 12, 2011

The Brennan Center for Justice and the Justice at Stake Campaign sent the following letter to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court commenting on proposed amendments to the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct.

Matthew E. Pollack
Executive Clerk
Maine Supreme Judicial Court
205 Newbury Street, Room 139
Portland, Maine 04101-4125

Re:      Maine Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability Proposed New Maine Code of Judicial Conduct

Dear Mr. Pollack,

We write on behalf of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law[1] and the Justice at Stake Campaign[2] to comment on the new Maine Code of Judicial Conduct proposed by the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability on March 14, 2011. We commend the Committee for its rigorous and meticulous study of the 2007 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, and we believe the proposed new Maine Code of Judicial Conduct provides a strong foundation for the Supreme Judicial Court as it considers changes to the existing Code to reflect the 2007 ABA Model Code.

First, we would like to praise the Committee for emphasizing in Canon 2(A) the “appearance of impropriety” standard from Rule 1.2 of the 2007 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The standard is used in almost every state, and it has been an applicable standard for almost a century. The “appearance of impropriety” standard is critical in promoting public confidence in the judiciary, and it fortifies the public’s perception of the judiciary as impartial. By including this language in Canon 2(A), Maine can underline the important role that rigorous conduct rules play in safeguarding public perceptions of the judiciary.

Second, we would urge that, in conjunction with considering the Committee’s suggested changes to disqualification under Canon 3(E), the Court adopt a rule providing for review of disqualification motions by neutral judges, so that a challenged judge does not have the last and only word on whether to recuse. There are real tensions with notions of disinterested, impartial decision-making when a judge alleged to be biased is the only one who decides whether he or she can impartially hear a case.  Accordingly, to ensure wholly impartial consideration of disqualification requests, we would urge the Court to adopt a rule providing for prompt de novo review if a challenged judge denies a disqualification request.  Such a procedure governs disqualification practice in the trial courts of numerous states, and is followed by the supreme courts of at least nine states. [3]

To facilitate this meaningful review of disqualification decisions, we endorse a rule requiring transparent, reasoned decision-making on recusal requests. Accordingly, we would urge the court to adopt a requirement that recusal decisions be rendered in writing or on the record (with an exception for frivolous, untimely, or facially or procedurally insufficient disqualification requests).  The Michigan Supreme Court’s procedures for recusal motions supply a useful model: in that court, if a justice’s participation in a case is challenged, the justice must “publish his or her reasons about whether to participate;” if he or she denies the request, the remaining justices of the court can review the denial de novo.[4]

A rule requiring written disqualification decisions and providing prompt review of these decisions would enhance the effectiveness of Maine’s disqualification rules. Without a record as to why a disqualification decision is made, an effective review of the decision is not possible. The record of disqualification decisions and review of those decisions would set disqualification precedents that would provide substantive guidance for future questions. Finally, published decisions will provide the public with insight into the way Maine judges approach issues of impartiality.  In conjunction with the adoption of such procedures, the proposed Maine Code of Judicial Conduct will be effective in protecting the impartiality, integrity, and independence of the Maine judiciary and in promoting the public confidence and respect necessary for the judiciary to carry out its constitutionally vital role.

We commend the Committee for the significant accomplishment represented by the Report, and we thank the Court for the opportunity to submit this comment. We firmly believe that the proposed Maine Code of Judicial Conduct, if adopted, will make important advancements that help ensure the perception and reality of impartial justice in the state of Maine, and we believe that adoption of the further disqualification procedures described above will further ensure that Maine courts can carry out their constitutional role while enhancing the public confidence in the judiciary and protecting the public trust.

Respectfully submitted,

J. Adam Skaggs                                          Bert Brandenburg
Senior Counsel                                           Executive Director
Brennan Center for Justice                      Justice at Stake Campaign
161 Avenue of the Americas                   717 D St. NW, Ste. 203
New York, NY 10013                                 Washington, DC 20004

(646) 292–8331                                         (202) 588–9700

[1] The Brennan Center is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. The Brennan Center’s Fair Courts Project works to preserve fair and impartial courts and their role as the ultimate guarantor of equal justice in the country’s constitutional democracy.

[2] Justice at Stake is a nationwide, nonpartisan partnership of more than 50 judicial, legal, and citizen organizations. Its mission is to educate the public and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom – so judges can do their job protecting the Constitution, individual rights, and the rule of law. The arguments expressed in this letter do not necessarily represent the opinion of every Justice at Stake partner or board member.

[3] See Adam Skaggs & Andrew Silver, Brennan Center for Justice, Promoting Fair and Impartial Courts through Recusal Reform 4-5 (2011) (citing high court procedures in Georgia, Mississippi, Michigan, Vermont, Texas, Alaska, Louisiana, Nevada, and Oregon in which a challenged justice’s initial decision on disqualification is subject to review by other members of the court), available at

[4] See Amendment of Rule 2.003 of the Michigan Court Rules, ADM File No. 2009-04 (Mich. S. Ct. 2009).

MeGAL is a group of people who advocate for Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform and educating the public on the issues in this system. We would encourage you to contact us at or find us on Facebook.

To view the original document from the Brennan Center for Justice:

2011-05-12 Maine Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability Proposed New Maine Code of Judicial Conduct [pdf]

Other resources on judicial disqualification or recusal:

28 U.S. Code § 455 - Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge

Judicial Disqualification: An Analysis of Federal Law [pdf]

Deciding Recusal Motions: Who Judges the Judges? [pdf]

Report of the Judicial Disqualification Project [pdf]

Making Judicial Recusal More Rigorous [pdf]

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Public Lockout: From Deliberations by the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature

All legislative committees are mandated by Maine law to conduct hearings, deliberations, and work sessions in public.

But in a May 19 speech on the Senate floor, state Sen. David Dutremble (D-Biddeford) reported that the Judiciary Committee conducted such business in private over the weekend that started May 8. Its deliberations concerned the reappointment of controversial Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz – the judge who issued an illegal gag order in January – and whose reappointment was opposed by many members of the public.

Maine citizens deserve to know what transpired that weekend with their Judiciary Committee. Did the members, in fact, meet behind closed doors and/or have private conversations in violation of state mandates? A legislative inquiry into the actions of the committee is warranted to protect the interests of the public.

Here’s what is clear: Without a single comment or question, the Judiciary Committee on May 12 unanimously recommended that Moskowitz be reappointed. One by one, each committee member simply voted yes. Those of us who witnessed this were dumbfounded. It left us with the uncomfortable feeling that something was amiss. How was their unified position reached outside of public view?

This spring was the first time in 20 years that judicial reappointments were challenged. And many citizens vehemently and passionately expressed their opposition to Judge Moskowitz, as well as to Judge Patricia Worth before him. In both cases, the Judiciary Committee nevertheless unanimously recommended approval. And at least in the case of Moskowitz, committee members allegedly deliberated outside of the public’s view and earshot.

This is extremely concerning. State mandates requiring the utmost transparency are meant to protect us all.

Input from those who are consumers of the court system – not just lawyers who earn their livings in front of judges – must be heard. People also deserve to know that the systems set up to protect them are working as they’re supposed to. When systems become about protecting themselves instead of the citizens they were designed to protect, the delicate fabric and balance of our constitutional rights is put in jeopardy. Legislative maneuvers that eliminate transparency and thereby remove public oversight are the antithesis of a democratic society.

We urge the Maine Legislature to take action and give the public answers. When asked to explain how his committee could unanimously approve a judge with no public discussion whatsoever, the chair of Judiciary Committee, Sen. David Burns (R-Washington), responded that, “it is unfortunate that some individuals and legislators have tried to impugn the integrity of the committee members.”

Hey, I’m just asking a question! There’s nothing impugning in that. These aren’t lofty, academic issues – of concern to just a fragment of society. They’re the very foundation of public trust. Transparency is the key to a free and just society.

With what’s been publicly asserted, there is a clear need for a formal inquiry into this committee’s "13 yeses" that led to approval of a judge whose illegal order brought disgrace to our state around the globe. Members of the public should be included in this inquiry.

Those who may dismiss this call for investigation, attributing it to “sour grapes” or “angry litigants,” demonstrate a lack of respect for the most essential principles that define our nation. Private meetings and/or private discussions that result in appointing a judge who attempted to abrogate the First Amendment – one of our dearest rights – should be a concern to all of us, not just those who may face this particular judge in court. It is of little comfort that the order was retracted only after the Portland Press Herald defied it.

To date, the president of the Maine Senate, Michael Thibodeau, has failed to respond to requests for a public inquiry about the actions of the Judiciary Committee.

This raises additional concerns. Without a legislative inquiry and report, Maine citizens will be left to wonder if their legislative and judiciary truly are the separate branches of government that are fundamental to freedom and liberty. We need to know what our legislators are doing – and why they’re doing it.

If you agree with me on this, We urge readers to contact their legislator and request an investigation. Let’s just find out what happened.

MeGAL is working to bring about Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform so that those in the future do not have to experience what you experienced in this dysfunctional system. As part of this reform we encourage you to contact your representative to let him/ her know the issues you experienced with Family Court. Please contact us at or find us on Facebook for more information.

Other related posts:
2015-06-03 Public Access: Is the Judiciary Committee Leveling With You?

2015-05-25 Sen David Burns Replies to our Open Letter

2015-05-23 An Open Letter to Judiciary Committee on Confirmation of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz

2015-05-19 Senate Confirmation of the Hon. Jeffrey Moskowitz