AUGUSTA — The security officers at Kennebec County Superior Court have tabbed District Attorney Maeghan Maloney “Mighty Mouse.”
She’s leading efforts on a number of fronts, including restorative justice, use of electronic monitoring for defendants in domestic violence cases, and implementation of a bad check program that could benefit both the defendants and the businesses receiving those checks.
Maloney, 43, of Augusta, who has been district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties for two years and is about to begin her first full four-year term, is to receive the Young Professional Award later this month from the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“I was surprised,” Maloney said recently in an interview about that award. She brought her idea for handling bad check cases to the chamber members at a meeting.
“I specifically wanted to hear from the chamber before I implemented it,” she said. “The reception was only positive.”
She said her plans include reviewing the case to be sure that it is a criminal matter and using a company to pursue payment. If the person pays, the criminal charge could be dismissed. The program also would require that the defendant complete an online course involving balancing checkbooks.
“It keeps cases out of court and allows the person to make amends and perhaps will make small businesses willing to accept checks again,” she said.
The inspiration for that is two-fold, she said. One was being the recipient of a bad check when she was running a solo law practice; the other was having her hairdresser refuse to take her check.
“It’s no guarantee what happens without this program,” she said.
She said it sometimes takes years for victims to receive restitution from those convicted of a criminal charge.
“This is putting the emphasis on making the victim whole,” she said.
Maloney followed her childhood dream to be a lawyer. “They seemed to have a lot of influence over people’s lives,” she said. “I actually used to want to be a judge, but not now. I like what I’m doing now. I like the interaction with people.”
She said she has no plans to implement more programs at this point although she said it’s hard to restrain the impulse.
“I’m trying to make sure the programs that I started are successful,” she said.
In announcing her candidacy for the most recent election, she said, her efforts are directed toward making the district attorney’s office “Smart on Crime.”
Maloney was a first-term state legislator from Augusta in February 2012 when she won the Democratic nomination for district attorney over a man who had served as deputy district attorney in Kennebec County for more than a decade.
Sarah Fuller, of Fuller Ink, who was Maloney’s communications director on that first campaign and is also a chamber member, said, “Maeghan has made great strides in improving our justice system by identifying issues and working with stakeholders on smart solutions that are cost-effective. Unless one has direct interaction with or follows the local court system, these kinds of improvements can go unnoticed. The chamber’s recognition is well-deserved and I’m sure we’ll continue to see great things from her in years to come.”
Maloney is a strong supporter of the Co-Occurring and Veterans Courts that operate out of Kennebec County Superior Court. In fact, as a legislator she authored a successful bill establishing the veterans court.
“Instead of focusing on the charges, you focus on the person and what led them to commit that crime and how to turn that person’s life around,” Maloney said.
She is on the board of directors of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center, the Alfond Youth Center and Waterville Boys & Girls Club, and involved with a number of other community groups.
Maloney graduated from Leavitt High School, Turner, in 1989; from Swarthmore College in 1993; and from Harvard Law School in 1997.
She said she is looking forward to the Jan. 23 awards banquet where she will be joined by her husband and sons as well as her sister, a nephew and her parents, who live in South Carolina.
Betty Adams — 621-5631