What qualifies you to serve as judge of probate?

I have practiced law for 34 straight years, including appearing in all state and county courts and arguing cases before the Maine Supreme Court. I was appointed Waldo County Judge of Probate by then-Gov. Angus King in 1997 and served in that position for seven years. I am past president of the Maine Probate Judges Assembly and was the state representative to the National College of Probate Judges. I currently serve on the Law Court’s advisory committee on Probate Forms and Rules. I also attended classes at the National Judicial College.

From my private practice, I have learned to listen to people and help them deal with their problems, no matter how challenging. In my experience as judge of probate, I had to make difficult decisions. I did it then and I’ll do it again.

What part of the Probate Court, if any, would you change?

Among the many changes I would make are:

1. Return to using only the state Supreme Court-approved legal forms, like every other probate court in Maine. Our court shouldn’t have different forms than every other court. That is a big mistake.

2. Make certain that everyone who comes before the court and is entitled to an attorney under the United States Constitution, is appointed one before any legal proceedings take place. This is non-negotiable.

3. Return to the previous practice of recording all court proceedings.

4. Be available for contested hearings more than just one day a month.

What is your philosophy when approaching a difficult decision?

In making any legal decision, I listen to the admissible evidence presented, apply the law (as it is, not as I would like it to be) and make the decision in accordance with the evidence and the law. Any other way is fundamentally flawed and only hurts people in the long run.

How will you prioritize your duties as judge of probate with other professional commitments?

It is important for a probate judge (even more so for a less-experienced judge) to continue practicing in our courts and learning. Not doing so doesn’t help anyone. But I know how to balance my commitments, as when I was the judge before I would set aside every Wednesday for contested hearings. I would also be available any other day for signing documents, answering questions from the staff, or to respond to any emergency matters (I’ve held court on Saturdays before). If there is a conflict with a court date in my private practice, my law partner would handle it.

What characteristics are most important in a judge of probate?

The judge of probate needs to be deliberate, knowledgeable in probate law, experienced in the rules of court that must be followed for a fair trial, and to be able to make the difficult decisions.

Why are you seeking to be elected judge of probate?

I did the job before and did it very well. I am disappointed and concerned with the way the job is currently being done. After eight years, it is time for a change.

Should the judge of probate position be elected or appointed? Why?

While I respect the voice of the people, I think the judge of probate should be appointed just like all other judges in the state. Politics can go back and forth and be influenced too much by things that have absolutely nothing to do with choosing the most qualified person to be a judge. It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat or if you've held elected office before. A good judge can be defeated by a good politician, who may not be qualified for the position.

What would you do to make the probate court run more efficiently?

I would be available more than one day a week, which should move cases along faster. I would also work more closely with the court staff, as I did in the past.

What would you do to better educate the public about what the role of the probate court is in the county?

I wouldn’t wait until election time to do this. As I have done for 15 years, both as judge of probate and since, I make frequent appearances before groups to explain the role of the Probate Court. I would also continue to teach courses at Senior College on probate issues and to go into local schools to speak to civics and government classes and career days.

What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being judge of probate?

Staying current on the law and trial rules to ensure everyone has a fair chance to present and defend their case. You also have to be willing to make the “stay awake at night” decisions.