Michele Lumbert, left, the chief clerk at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, and Valerie Stanfill, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, swap stories last Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center at 1 Court St. Lumbert, 62, of Pittston has retired after working for 40 years in the state’s judicial system. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — As the longtime friends chatted recently, Valerie Stanfill, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, expressed admiration for the work of Michele Lumbert, head court clerk at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

Lumbert retired last week after 40 years in the judicial system.

“She’s held us together here for a lot of years, and I think she’s a little bit irreplaceable,” Stanfill said of Lumbert.

Court clerks “are the backbone of what we do in the justice system in this state,” Stanfill said. “I don’t know if people really appreciate what all our clerks, and somebody like Michele, what they oversee. It’s making sure people’s liberty is protected, on a daily basis.

“It’s exacting and stressful work, dealing with the public, making sure everything happens the way it is supposed to happen. It’s really extraordinary what you all do on a daily basis, and don’t think it goes unnoticed by those of us who get to wear the black robes.”

Stanfill and Lumbert began working at about the same time decades ago at the courts in Augusta — Lumbert as a clerk, Stanfill as a lawyer trying cases.


Lumbert, 62, of Pittston went to school to study to be a dental assistant, but on the recommendation of a friend, became a court clerk in Key West, Florida. She later moved to Maine, and went to work in 1983 as a court clerk in Hancock County. In 1985, Lumbert became a court clerk in Augusta. She moved up to head clerk of the courts in Augusta in 2007, with oversight of the Superior and District courts at the Capital Judicial Center.

Lumbert said a big and rewarding part of being head clerk of the courts is being able to help people who come in scared and confused about the court system.

“Helping people that are afraid to be here, and guiding them through the process,” she said of the role’s most-rewarding responsibilities. “Most people don’t want to be here.”

Michele Lumbert, who has retired as chief clerk at the Capital Judicial Center at 1 Court St. in Augusta, sits last Tuesday at her office. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Lumbert said she loved her job, although it did have its difficult moments, including dealing with people who were angry about an outcome in court or the stress of dealing with those in court who were at a low point in their lives — whether the victim of a crime or a defendant facing serious consequences.

“It’s not a job for everybody. I’ve had staff who start (a job), but do not last,” she said. “And I do think it takes a special person to work within the judicial branch, because you are dealing with so many different issues.

“On any given day, you can have 100 things go wrong — doing dockets, people screaming at you in the lobby. … The hardest part is turning off the switches when you leave. You’re always worrying about the next day, what may happen.”


Lumbert said trials are significant challenges, including summoning enough potential jurors — many might not want to serve — to ensure a full jury, and dealing with the schedules of all of those involved in a trial, from judges to victims to lawyers and others.

“Trials have a lot of moving parts,” Lumbert said. “We’re coordinating all of that.”

Getting enough jurors has been a challenge since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Lumbert said many people have been wary of being close to many strangers in a courtroom. She said for a recent murder trial, 450 jurors were summoned to get 12 jurors and two alternates needed for trial.

Before COVID-19, Lumbert said, the courts would summon 200 to 225 potential jurors to get a full jury for a murder trial.

The pandemic also decimated the ranks of court clerks, with some leaving the job because, unlike many other workplaces, the courts do not have an option for many employees to work from home. Lumbert said enough people have been brought in so the courts in Augusta are at full staffing, with 19 clerks.

Sidney Bartunek, an assistant clerk, said Lumbert has been like her second mother.


“For everything she’s endured over the past several years, she’s by far one of the strongest and most kindhearted people that I’ve ever met,” Bartunek said.

Lumbert said her approach to dealing with job-related stress included gardening — she has a home greenhouse — and baking, often bringing treats to the office to share with colleagues.

In her retirement, Lumbert said, she and her husband, Greg, who works in law enforcement, plan to vacation in her native Hawaii.

Lumbert said she has loved working with the tight-knit crew of clerks she oversaw, and hopes she has left the staff in good hands. She said officials are now conducting interviews in the search for her successor.

Mindy Stanchfield, an assistant clerk, said Lumbert “has been my boss and confidant the entire 10 years she’s worked for the judicial branch, and has never ceased to show everyone in this office kindness and respect.”

“She is a woman with dignity and takes pride in what she has done for the judicial branch in her many years here with us,” Stanchfield said. “She will be greatly missed by all.”

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