Waldo County Probate Judge Susan Longley prevailed over challenger Susan Thiem by a countywide tally of 13,690 to 7,894.

Longley could not immediately be reached for comment Nov. 9.

In a previous interview with The Republican Journal, the three-term judge said she has tried to change things she believes could work better, steering the court away from traditional legal procedures and embracing a hands-on approach that has verged on social work.

She counted among "innovations" running the only probate court mediation program in the state. In nine out of 10 contested cases, she said, the parties agreed to mediation, and the majority of those were resolved without going to litigation.

In an effort to make the legal system easier for regular people to use, she created her own paperwork for filing motions. Critics, including Thiem, believe Longley's "innovations" have done more harm than good.

Speaking on Nov. 9, Thiem said she wasn't surprised to come up short in her first bid for elected office. The Lincolnville attorney said if she were to run again, she would start campaigning earlier.

"I'm still going to try to get some change because there's a lot of problems in the probate court," she said. "Unfortunately, it's a matter of popularity rather than competence."

Probate judges are unique in the judicial system for being elected rather than appointed. Thiem ran against Longley because she felt the longtime probate judge was taking liberties with the law, which resulted in decisions that weren't in the best interests of people using the court.

Probate court judges rule on guardianship of children and disabled people, division of assets from estates and wills, and name changes.

While campaigning, Thiem said she often had to tell voters what the court does before she could pitch herself as the person to preside over it.

In a previous interview with The Republican Journal, Thiem accused Longley of keeping incomplete audio recordings, scheduling hearings on short notice, using her own modified filing forms and pushing for mediation when it clearly put one party at a disadvantage. The challenger said Longley corrected some of the problems in the lead-up to the election.

"My concern is that now that she's won, she'll see that as a mandate to go back to her own forms rather than use the state-mandated forms," Thiem said.

She added, "And I'd love to see some proof that mediation works."

 

 

filed under: