AUGUSTA — Mayor William Stokes has been nominated to become a Superior Court justice by Gov. Paul LePage.
Stokes is deputy attorney general and chief of the criminal division of the Maine Office of the Attorney General.
He began working in the state attorney general’s office in 1977 and has served under nine attorneys general.
“I’m very honored. I do get emotional when I talk about it,” Stokes said Wednesday, clearly choking back emotion. “Frankly, it’s the culmination of the wonderful experience I’ve had in Maine. Since I set foot in the state, good things happened for me.”
Stokes cited meeting his wife; being hired by the attorney general’s office; and being elected to the school board, City Council and mayor’s post as among the other good things that have happened to him since coming to Maine.
He said he would be blessed and honored to serve as a justice.
As chief of the criminal division of the AG’s office, Stokes is responsible for the homicide unit, welfare fraud, financial crimes and victims’ advocates. He also oversees drug prosecutors and appellate and corrections attorneys.
He said if he becomes a judge, he would not preside over homicide cases that his current office handled while he was still chief of the criminal division.
Stokes, 63, is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Suffolk University Law School in Boston.
He was first elected mayor of Augusta in 2012, to finish off the term of Sen. Roger Katz, who stepped down as mayor after he was elected to the state Senate. Stokes was elected to his second mayoral term last year.
“I think this appointment is a wonderful capstone for a very impressive legal career,” City Manager William Bridgeo said of Stokes. “It is easy to imagine, based on his impressive performance as mayor, he’ll immediately be a respected jurist. I think the community owes him a great deal of gratitude for all he’s done in and for Augusta, whether on the school board, council, or as mayor.”
LePage on Wednesday announced the nomination of Stokes to Superior Court, and current Knox County Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, of Camden, to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
“As governor, I have the utmost respect for and have been impressed with the high quality of work on the judicial branch,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “In selecting judges, my focus is on the qualifications, demeanor and integrity of the candidates — not politics. Justice Hjelm and Deputy Attorney General Stokes reflect those priorities. I am confident they will both live up to the high standards we expect from Maine judges.”
Stokes is registered as a Democrat.
“I had a wonderful experience throughout the process and an enjoyable interview with the governor,” Stokes said. “I don’t think party affiliation has anything to do with his nominations.”
Judicial nominees must be reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary and are subject to confirmation by the full state Senate.
Bridgeo said he was told the review of Stokes’ nomination probably will take place in August.
If his nomination is successful, Stokes would have to resign as mayor, as judges can’t hold elected office.
Bridgeo and City Clerk Barbara Wardwell, citing the city charter, said councilors, upon Stokes’ resignation if he becomes a justice, would name a councilor as an interim mayor.
Bridgeo said there probably would be an election for mayor in November, to serve the remaining portion of Stokes term, about 14 months.