AUGUSTA — Maine Chief Justice Leigh Saufley used her traditional State of the Judiciary address to call for more pay for the state’s trial clerks and marshals, whom she called the “unsung heroes” of the courts.
The state struggles to fill existing marshal positions, and Saufley told lawmakers during her annual address Thursday that the courts quickly lose newly trained workers to better-paying jobs in the public and private sector.
Maine also struggles to fill existing marshal positions, Saufley said. “We need to act quickly,” she said.
The chief justice said the state courts are modernizing by improving and replacing aging courthouses, preparing to switch to an electronic records system and reducing criminal case backlogs.
But too often, litigants can’t afford lawyers to help with legal problems, and the system relies on Maine lawyers giving time and money.
Saufley said to make sure impoverished Mainers aren’t placed in difficult situations, the courts are clarifying Maine fine collection procedures to make sure everyone ordered to pay a fine understands what is happening.
And another option, she said, could be a public service program to replace mandatory fines.
One-half of Maine’s 258 homicide victims during the last decades were victims of domestic violence, and Saufley said judges, attorneys and advocates don’t always have the criminal record checks and risk assessment information they need.
“We must stop assuming that the victim will always ask for help,” she said, noting that about 60 percent of victims didn’t have any meaningful contact with Maine courts.
She said the answers to the addiction crisis will be expensive, but vital, programs addressing re-entry, diversion and housing. That, on top of working to stop drugs from coming into Maine, prevention programs and “real and meaningful treatment” that is “quickly available.”
“None of this is cheap, but nothing is more expensive than allowing our state to sink further into the horror and sadness of an addiction crisis,” she said.