AUGUSTA — District Court Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz overcame a courtroom controversy and heavy criticism to receive a unanimous vote of approval Tuesday from Judiciary Committee lawmakers who recommended to the full Senate that he be reappointed for a second term.

Committee members made their decision in a roll call vote without further discussion of Moskowitz’s renomination, a process that had started when they listened to two hours of testimony at a public hearing last Thursday. They then reviewed a stack of submitted letters for and against Moskowitz’s appointment.

Moskowitz appeared tense before the committee’s vote, looking toward the committee room floor as he waited for the members to reconvene for the confirmation hearing after a recess. He declined to comment after the vote.

The full Senate could vote as soon as Thursday on whether to confirm Moskowitz’s appointment, said attorney Joshua Tardy, who is chairman of Gov. Paul LePage’s Judicial Selection Committee.

In an unusual turn in a judicial nomination process, four attorneys who have tried cases before Moskowitz publicly called for his removal from the bench, creating a stir in the legal community.

Portland attorney Matthew Nichols acted first, submitting written testimony to the committee last week calling Moskowitz “not a good judge.” Three other attorneys said in interviews this week with the Portland Press Herald that they agree with Nichols’ assessment.

Moskowitz’s nomination and the nomination of Judge Patricia Worth in March received more opposition that any other judicial nominations in recent years, said Tardy, who has held his post for five years.

“I just want to thank the members of the committee for their thoughtful and careful consideration,” Tardy said outside the hearing room, before leaving the State House with Moskowitz.

Moskowitz’s nomination received extra scrutiny, in part, because of an unlawful order he issued in the Cumberland County Courthouse in January to ban the media from reporting testimony in a domestic violence case in which a prominent criminal defense attorney was the defendant. The judge rescinded his gag order and apologized two days later after the Press Herald defied his ruling and published the alleged victim’s testimony.

Nichols and the other three lawyers who opposed Moskowitz’s nomination – Darrick Banda, Seth Berner and William Bly – all said other members of the criminal defense bar also think that Moskowitz is unfit to be a judge but wouldn’t speak publicly for fear of repercussions because Moskowitz hears cases against their clients.

On the other side, more than a dozen lawyers testified in support of Moskowitz, saying it would be a great loss to the judiciary if he weren’t renominated.

In addition to the lawyers who testified, about a half-dozen people who are not attorneys appeared in person last week to speak against his nomination, and more than two dozen others wrote letters opposing his reappointment.

The committee voted 13-0 in favor of Moskowitz, with only Rep. Wayne Mitchell absent.

Moskowitz’s nomination for reappointment, like Worth’s, became a lightning rod for opposition, especially by those who have appeared before the judges in divorce cases in family court. As a comparison, the committee took only 15 minutes last week to listen to testimony for the renomination of Superior Court Justice William Anderson before voting to recommend him unanimously.

Tardy said the hearings for Moskowitz and Worth are the only ones he has seen in which the committee took more than one day to decide.

The committee has not opposed the nomination of a judge at any time in recent history. In 1990, then-Gov. John McKernan withdrew his nomination for Judge John Benoit after two grueling days of hearings in which Benoit was criticized for judicial breaches.


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