Maine Court of Limited Jurisdiction
Business court was developed to handle civil cases between businesses or a business and a consumer. Trial court judges appointed by the Supreme Court administer the proceedings. Jury trials may take place here.
Drug treatment court is an attempt to aid drug-dependent residents while diverting cases from the general docket of local courts. These courts help people get specialized services while monitoring their legal status and any children who may be involved.
Maine's 16 probate courts are administered by counties, not the state judicial system, and are responsible for wills and trusts as well as adoptions, name changes and guardianships. Judges, who win their seats on the court through partisan elections, serve four-year terms. If a mid-term vacancy occurs on the probate court, a temporary replacement may be appointed by the governor. However, the nominee must be a member of the same political party as the judge who previously served on the court. At the next general election, a replacement is selected.
Maine District Courts
The Maine District Courts were created by the legislature in 1961. The court has 36 judges who sit in 13 districts at 31 locations in the state. Judges are chosen by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. District judges may be reappointed to multiple terms.
District court hears juvenile, traffic, small claims, mental health, and civil cases as well as preliminary hearings on felony charges – but no jury trials take place here. There is a family law division of district court that is administered by eight magistrates. In fiscal year 2015 the family division saw 2,100 juvenile cases and over 5,000 divorces.
District courts saw almost 21,000 criminal cases and 25,000 civil cases in fiscal year 2015. There were also over 97,000 traffic violation cases.
Maine Superior Court
There are 16 superior courts, each with general jurisdiction. Superior court is the only court that holds jury trials. Its jurisdiction includes requests for injunctive relief, appeals from state agencies, criminal cases, and civil lawsuits. The court saw over 3,200 civil cases and almost 7,500 criminal cases in fiscal year 2015.
There is one superior court in each county, except for Aroostook County, which has two superior courts, for a total of 17 in the state.
Maine Supreme Judicial Court/Law Court
Seven justices sit on Maine's Supreme Judicial Court, also known as the Law Court. It is the highest court in Maine. The court has appellate jurisdiction of all cases and may submit advisory opinions are issued at the request of either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch.
In fiscal year 2014 the court saw just over 600 cases filed, a decrease from previous years when the average number hovered closer to 700 per year.
Justices are appointed by the governor and confirmed by legislators. Seven justices serve on the court, and each serves a seven-year term, with renewals possible until retirement.
Maine Notable Court Cases
In 2013 a case appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court involved neighbors who invited a boy to stay overnight at their house, then were sued by the boy's mother when he left the house and was hit by a car. The mother claimed that the couple was responsible for her son's injuries because they had been supervising him overnight and he hadn't gotten enough sleep to make a good decision or exercise ample caution about staying away from traffic the next morning. The court decided that adults can't be held responsible for the amount of sleep a child gets at a "'sleepover" at someone else's house, but did rebuke the neighbors for their actions leading up to the event, which included lying to the mother about whose house her son was sleeping at.
A Maine man convicted of armed robbery is appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court because, he says, he was forced to represent himself in his trial. He claims that representing himself was a violation of his Constitutional rights. His case was rescheduled several times as attorneys appointed to represent him withdrew again and again after he allegedly threatened them. He was convicted in May 2014 while accompanied by "'standby counsel." His current attorney argues that one's right to counsel and representation must be clearly waived and cannot be withheld due to a defendant's bad behavior.