Members of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court indicated Friday that they have reservations about former York County Probate Judge Robert M. A. Nadeau’s temperament, even while suggesting that some of his alleged violations of the judicial code of conduct may not have been technically wrong.

An active retired judge who refereed a hearing on Nadeau late last year recommended that he be fined $10,000 and steps be taken to make sure he doesn’t become a judge again because of actions he took in 2012 after York County commissioners turned down his request to be able to hold more court days, which would have resulted in a pay raise.

Among other things, Nadeau is accused of retaliating against former law partners by ordering that their names, and some lawyers associated with them, be stricken from a list of attorneys available to represent indigent parties and that he scrambled the probate court schedule after the attempt to get a pay raise was rejected.

Nadeau was elected to four-year terms as probate judge in York County three times from 1996 to 2004 and then again in 2012, before losing his most recent bid for re-election in 2016. He has also been disciplined twice for violating the code of conduct for judges.

After the most recent proposed discipline, Nadeau appealed to the state’s highest court, which has final say on disciplining judges and lawyers.

Cabanne Howard, the executive secretary on the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability, told the justices that Nadeau continually refuses to take responsibility for his actions and used his control of the probate court to retaliate against those he thought have wronged him.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, however, said Nadeau’s shuffling of the schedule after the pay raise was turned down may have actually helped speed up resolution for some of those involved in highly contentious cases, even if it slowed down a day in court for others. And, it’s within a judge’s power to control the court schedule, she said.

But she admitted that it seemed Nadeau was trying to retaliate after the commissioners rejected the additional court days and raise for him, because he acted within hours of the commissioners’ decision.

“That’s the key, the vindictiveness,” she said. “What I see is an intemperate response.”

Saufley also said that Nadeau would be better served by writing a letter or issuing an order after a setback and then setting it aside for a week before sending it or issuing it. That’s particularly true in cases where a judge has been reversed on appeal or a request for additional resources is rejected, she said.

“Every judge knows that’s a dangerous time,” she said. “When you get bad news, you don’t make changes, you don’t make decisions.”

Saufley also noted that appointed judges get training, particularly on ethics, and often are teamed with a more experienced judge as a mentor when they are appointed to the bench. Probate judges, the only elected judges in the state, have no such training, she said, although Howard said there is a probate judge’s association available to offer help and an ethics advisory panel that can also be contacted when questions arise about the proper course.

Nadeau, who represented himself at Friday’s hearing, apologized for his actions at several points, but said that he thought the proposed penalties were harsh. He also denied that his actions were retaliation for the rejection of the pay raise.

Asked after the hearing if he expected to run again for probate judge, Nadeau said he wasn’t sure, but that the voters should judge whether he should return to the bench. To try to keep Nadeau from running for judge again, the proposed penalty includes a suspension of his license to practice law that will be imposed only if he does file for election.

It’s not clear when the court might rule. In a previous action against Nadeau that resulted in him being suspended without pay for four weeks, it took the court nine months to rule. With Nadeau no longer on the bench, there doesn’t appear to be pressure on the justices to rule quickly.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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