The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, which oversees the legal defense of low-income Mainers, has announced its new executive director, Jim Billings.

Billings, currently chief counsel for the Maine Department of Transportation, will start work at the commission on May 22 and brings more than 20 years of criminal and civil legal experience in Maine.

Jim Billings, the new executive director of Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.  Courtesy Jim Billings

Commission leaders announced his hiring Monday, along with the commission’s new lead public defender, Toby Jandreau.

Justin Andrus, the current director, told commissioners that his last day will be May 19 but he will stay on to help the new leaders in their transition.

Andrus announced in February that he was planning to resign this summer.

MCILS is led by a nine-member commission and works mostly with private attorneys who are appointed to cases by the courts and later reimbursed by the state. The commission also oversees five public defenders, who began accepting cases late last year.


Billings did not answer questions from the Press Herald Monday afternoon about his hopes for the new role, but he shared a summary of his legal career in Maine.

He has been with the Maine Department of Transportation since 2016, after spending most of his legal career in litigation. He was president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 2015, served on the Maine Board of Bar Examiners and taught criminal law at the University of Maine in Augusta.

He handled criminal and civil cases at firms in Portland and Augusta after graduating from the University of Maine School of Law in 2002. He was a partner at McKee Billings with Walter McKee before he took a job with the state.

“Jim is a fantastic, smart attorney with a great depth of experience. He will be an excellent Executive Director,” McKee said in an emailed statement Monday.  “Jim knows the criminal justice process well from his years doing the very work that the Commission is involved in. You really could not find a better person for this job.”

Jandreau, an attorney in Fort Kent, will take over as public defender on June 1. He grew up in Aroostook County and moved back home in 2010 after graduating from the University of Maine School of Law, “to help those in the community that raised him,” according to his law firm’s website.

Jandreau did not respond to a message left with his office Monday afternoon.


Andrus has been filling in as the temporary head of the new rural defender’s unit, which employs the state’s first five public defense attorneys, since January. The commission allowed Andrus to take the helm after the unit’s first district defender, Seth Levy, resigned in late December.

Levy told the Press Herald at the time the job was not the position he thought it was, and that it required more reporting to the executive director and fewer discussions on policy reform.

Lawmakers created the public defender’s office during the last legislative session. And Gov. Janet Mills has recommended funding 10 additional public defenders in the next two fiscal years.

A majority of indigent defendants in Maine – including juveniles, parents in child protective cases, and people facing involuntary psychiatric commitment – still obtain representation from private defense attorneys who are reimbursed by the state.

Lawmakers agreed in February to raise the reimbursement rate for attorneys from $80 an hour to $150 an hour for the rest of the fiscal year, which the commission has been requesting since last fall when its attorney roster reached new lows.

The commission reported that on April 20, there were 216 rostered attorneys for the commission, up slightly from 197 on Jan. 12.

Commissioners are hoping to make the new $150 rate permanent.

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