A legal battle that consumed the town for more than three years and drove one family to leave appears to be over.

Waldo County Superior Court Justice Robert Murray on June 21 ruled that a claim by Adam, Debra and George Paul that the town should maintain a section of Bolin Hill Road is moot because it no longer affects the plaintiffs, who no longer live there.

The Pauls filed the lawsuit in 2015 after the town denied Debra Paul's request to post the road and put down gravel, according to court documents. Bolin Hill Road is a 1.5-mile residential dead-end way that intersects Route 3 near Lake St. George.

The town maintains the lower portion, but town officials claimed, after an investigation into the status of the road, that the upper section had been abandoned since the early 1970s.

As recently as 2017, the Pauls owned several properties on Bolin Hill Road, but it was a 33-acre parcel on the upper, contested portion of the road that prompted the lawsuit.

At the town's annual meeting in 2015, residents budgeted $40,000 for legal expenses related to the contested road. Selectman Steve Chapin estimated at the time that it would cost $800,000 to $950,000 for the town to accept and repair the road to required standards.

The lawsuit ultimately cost the town $26,811 in legal fees, along with one selectman, Pamela Chase, who resigned after being targeted for recall by voters who believed her friendship with the Pauls compromised the town's position.

The Pauls were forced to move to another town to escape harassment related to the lawsuit, according to Debra Paul.

The case had been dismissed once previously by Justice Murray, on Sept. 28, 2015. But the Pauls successfully appealed to Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and the case was ordered back to Superior Court, and Murray, for a second review.

Bill Kelly, attorney for the town of Liberty, said the Law Court made a different interpretation of a state statute. While both he and Murray felt the case warranted a review of governmental action — the record left by town officials when they abandoned the road — the Law Court ruled that there could be a declaratory judgment for a new trial, which would have opened to the door to other evidence.

The case could have ended differently.

In early 2017, the Pauls met with town representatives and reached a mediated agreement, in which the town would pay the Pauls $6,000 to drop their complaint.

The amount would have covered part of the $10,000 required to bring the road to a standard that would allow the Pauls to sell their property, according to court documents. Additionally, the status of the road as abandoned would have been confirmed by the court.

Kelly, at a special town meeting July 17, 2017, touted the agreement to residents as a way for Liberty to put the case to rest and ward off future challenges. But voters rejected it on grounds that it would invite lawsuits from property owners in other parts of town.

Three months after the special town meeting, the Pauls split the 33-acre parcel on the contested stretch of road and sold it to a Massachusetts couple and a woman from China, Maine. In an email to The Republican Journal, Debra Paul said she and her husband George have now sold all of their property and moved to a town that she asked not be disclosed.

"We have endured abuse, vandalism and threats while we were in Liberty as a result of this lawsuit and do not need this to continue as we now live in a town which is welcoming to 'outsiders,' something that Liberty never was," she said.

Paul said her son Adam, whose last name is now Raven, also no longer lives in Liberty.

The legal case continued after the Pauls moved, but the town saw an opportunity to end it.

In a motion filed at Waldo County Superior Court last December, Kelly argued that the Pauls' sale of their property was grounds for dismissal of the lawsuit.

Murray disagreed on the exact reasons, but he came to the same conclusion — that the lawsuit was moot. In a 19-page decision that delved deeply into case law, the judge said property ownership is not a prerequisite in a lawsuit over road ownership. But he wrote that the case is moot because it has lost its "controversial vitality."

The Pauls are no longer "affected" by the road ownership question, Murray wrote, and the court "could not provide (them) with any real or effective relief due to the fact that they no longer live on the road at issue."