Hats off to Jerome Collins’ Dec. 31 op-ed column: “Maine’s entire court system, not just probate, needs an impartial review.” Collins has served on two state task forces regarding changes to Maine’s guardian ad litem system. Thank him.

Collins’ column features two pitfalls worthy of review, impartial or not.

First, Collins correctly claims “judicial candidates are presented as thoroughly ‘prevetted’ by the bar. … Involvement by the public is nil.”

Case in point is my 1992 Judiciary Committee hearing for a third-term reappointment, at which a busload of Rangeley residents was prevented from supporting me because the committee ruled the hearing “was not a popularity contest.” Yet, the hearing revealed some lawyers addressed popularity.

As judge, I never considered I was working for lawyers; rather I was working for the people. Proof the public held the same belief is their electing me to the Maine Senate for three terms, two of which I served on the Judiciary Committee that previously denied my reappointment.

Collins’ article also asserts the current process for selecting judges “operates largely below the public’s radar: Behind closed doors.”

In my situation, the last day of hearing, spent behind closed doors, concerned when I sent a juvenile to the youth center for a weekend without first conducting an arraignment with counsel.

The juvenile allegedly stole a vehicle and various pieces of property, including a firearm and ammo. Available court time only allowed choosing whether to return him home or to the center, for the public’s protection and his. Committee deletion of the juvenile’s name during my hearing would have kept the doors open.

Collins notes Maine courts get consistently low judicial accountability grades in national reviews. The Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 rankings gave Maine an “F.”

Respectfully, Jerome Collins gets an “A.”

John Benoit

Manchester


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