Ruling in a precedent-setting case involving Ebola on Friday, Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere of the Maine District Court came down hard on fear.

A day after issuing a ruling that temporarily placed restrictions on Fort Kent nurse Kaci Hickox, LaVerdiere eased those restrictions in a second ruling that he closed with “a few critical observations” that spoke to the national ramifications of a case that pits individual rights against public health concerns.

First, the judge said, everyone owes Hickox, and other health care workers like her who travel to Ebola-ravaged countries, “a debt of gratitude.”

But LaVerdiere also acknowledged the broader theme of fear that has dogged Hickox’s return to the United States, from her quarantine in a tent outside a New Jersey hospital to her well-documented homecoming in Aroostook County.

“(Hickox) should understand that the court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola,” the judge wrote. “The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational.

“However, whether that fear is rational or not, it is present and it is real. (Hickox’s) actions at this point, as a health care professional, need to demonstrate her full understanding of human nature and the real fear that exists.

“She should guide herself accordingly.”

David Soley, one of Hickox’s attorneys, called LaVerdiere’s oral decision “very beautiful and moving.”

Gov. Paul LePage, whose administration sought the restrictions, called the ruling “unfortunate,” but said he would honor it.

LaVerdiere, who has an undergraduate degree from the University of Maine and a law degree from the UMaine School of Law, was appointed district court judge in 2003 by former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, and then reappointed in 2010 to a second seven-year term.

Before that, he was a lawyer in Wilton in Franklin County and a three-term Democratic state representative from 1996-2002. He also previously served on the board of trustees of Franklin County Hospital.

Thomas Saviello, a state senator also from Wilton, knows LaVerdiere well, though they haven’t had much contact recently.

“Once he became a judge, he more or less removed himself from the social and business clubs in Franklin County where we would have interacted,” Saviello said Friday.

Saviello, a Republican, said he always respected LaVerdiere a great deal because he was someone who “didn’t care about political parties.”

“There is no question in my mind that he would go through this decision in a thoughtful and careful manner,” Saviello said. “That’s how he approaches everything.”

In 2010, not long after LaVerdiere was reappointed, Maine’s Chief Justice Leigh Saufley appointed him as chief judge of the state’s district court system, replacing Ann Murray, who became a Superior Court justice.

LaVerdiere recently presided over the high-profile case of Kelli Murphy, who was charged in 2012 with manslaughter in the death of a 3-month-old girl. At age 10, Murphy was believed to be one of the state’s youngest ever manslaughter defendants.

In May, LaVerdiere dismissed the manslaughter charge, which led to a plea agreement that included extensive counseling for Murphy.

He presided over another case in 2005 involving a 14-year-old boy who was charged with killing a teenage girl who was his neighbor. LaVerdiere ruled that Patrick Armstrong would be tried as an adult in that case. Armstrong was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 25 years in prison with all but 16 suspended.

LaVerdiere also has had an active role in the state’s guardian ad litem program, which has faced ongoing scrutiny from some who want to see the program reformed. Guardians ad litem, often lawyers or mental health professionals, are appointed by judges to represent children in legal proceedings such as divorce and child protection cases.

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