Friday, December 13, 2013
By Ann S. Kim email@example.com
AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has nominated Daniel Billings, his chief legal counsel, to become a District Court judge.
Billings, 44, has served in the high-profile post since January 2011, when LePage became governor. He worked previously on LePage's transition team, as legal counsel to the Maine Republican Party and as a legislative aide.
Before working in the LePage administration, Billings worked for eight years for the Waterville law firm Marden, Dubord, Bernier and Stevens, where his practice focused on insurance, general civil litigation and criminal defense.
Josh Tardy, chairman of the governor's Judicial Selection Committee, praised Billings' temperament, intellect and integrity. Billings won unanimous approval from the seven-member panel.
Billings entered the University of Maine School of Law 10 years after he graduated from the University of Southern Maine. Before going to law school, he worked as executive director of the Maine Campground Owners Association.
Also Monday, the governor announced the nomination of John Lucy of Orono to the District Court. Lucy, 47, is in private practice with Richardson, Whitman, Large and Badger in Bangor.
"I am confident that my two new nominees will live up to the high standards we expect from Maine judges," LePage said in a prepared statement.
Billings' nomination even won praise from Democrats who have been on opposite sides of issues from him.
"I think Dan Billings is a strong choice for the bench," said House Minority Leader Emily Cain. "Dan and I have been on the polar opposites of political battles for years. He is a person who acted with credibility, consistency and honesty when it comes to the law."
Cain said she worked with Billings on legislation related to domestic violence, including a measure to overhaul the bail code. He was a valuable resource for her and the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, she said, and showed extraordinary empathy to domestic-violence victims and their families.
Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins acknowledged that Billings' nomination is a political one -- and one that the governor has a right to make.
"(Billings) will have to basically retire his partisanship. That's what judges do -- most of them very successfully -- when they get appointed judges. They have to essentially decommission themselves from the political piece," Hobbins said.
It's not unusual for a governor to nominate his chief legal counsel to the bench.
Gov. John Baldacci nominated Patrick Ende, his chief legal counsel, to the District Court in 2010. Gov. Angus King nominated Wayne Douglas, his legal counsel, to the District Court in 2002.
The nominations will be reviewed by the Legislature's Judiciary Committee and face confirmation by the full Senate. The committee is expected to hold hearings Sept. 4 and 5, and the Senate is to take up nominations on Sept. 6.
The vacancies on the bench are due to the retirements of District Court Judges Jessie Gunther and Ralph Tucker. Gunther's retirement created a vacancy in Ellsworth, and Tucker serves in Wiscasset.
Rep. Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, the Judiciary Committee's ranking minority member, said Billings has been a steadying force for LePage before the committee.
"We're going to miss him. I hope that whoever is going to take his place is equally even-tempered," Priest said.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: