AUGUSTA — William Stokes was confirmed by the state Senate Thursday to the position of Superior Court justice.

Stokes, a deputy attorney general and chief of the criminal division of the Maine Office of the Attorney General, has also been Augusta’s mayor for the last three years.

Stokes resigned from the mayor’s post Thursday, effective as soon as he was confirmed as a judge, because Maine’s code of judicial conduct prohibits judges from holding political office.

The City Council is expected to meet next week to appoint an interim mayor. The remaining year of Stokes’ term as mayor could be placed on the city’s November election ballot.

Stokes, 63, said he is overwhelmed and honored to be nominated and confirmed as a Superior Court justice.

Last week, the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Stokes’ nomination to the position by Gov. Paul LePage.

Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, Senate chairwoman of the committee, said testimony regarding Stokes’ nomination at the committee hearing was so positive it was “pretty much a love fest.”

Thursday the love fest continued as the full Senate confirmed the nomination, also unanimously, after senators praised Stokes as fair-minded, dedicated, and respectful.

“Bill Stokes is human, he must have his faults,” said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, who preceded Stokes as the city’s mayor until he resigned when he was elected to the Senate. “I’ve just never seen what they might be. There could not have been a better choice.”

Attorney General Janet Mills said Stokes, whom she has worked with for 38 years, is a good all-around lawyer, not just a criminal prosecutor. She said he spent some 10 years doing civil litigation, had done detailed contract work, litigated free speech issues, wrote opinions on municipal law, and helped review and reform the state’s bail code.

Mills said she intends to have Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese take over Stokes’ position as chief of the criminal division of the AG’s office.

Stokes resignation from the AG’s office will be effective Friday, exactly 37 years, to the day after his first day working in the office in 1977.

Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, a retired Maine State Police investigator who worked with both Stokes and Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, of Camden, whose nomination to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was also unanimously confirmed Thursday, said both men “embody all that is good in our justice system. These gentleman are, to me, the best of the best.”

Burns said Stokes is considered to be among the best prosecutors in the country, adding, “We’re in line to get a real treasure in the court system.”

In his mayoral resignation letter submitted to City Clerk Barbara Wardwell, Stokes said it has been an honor and privilege to serve the residents as mayor for the last three years, and praised city staff and city councilors.

“I will always treasure the time I have spent in municipal government and will now watch from the sidelines as the City of Augusta continues to thrive and prosper,” Stokes wrote in his resignation letter.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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