ALFRED — The judge may be suspended, but the York County Registry of Probate and the probate court itself is open for business.

York County Manager Greg Zinser on Friday said the county has hired the services of probate judges from two other counties to fill in during the 30-day bench suspension of York County Judge of Probate Robert M.A. Nadeau.

The suspension without pay began today. It was ordered by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which gave Nadeau a formal censure and reprimand.

Zinser said the probate registry will be processing cases, and that two interchange judges – Knox County Probate Judge Carol Emery and Androscoggin Probate Judge Michael Dubois – will hear cases in York County during Nadeau’s suspension.

The decision by Maine’s highest court is the result of a 2014 complaint filed by the Maine Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability. The committee alleged that Nadeau breached judicial canons in a letter he wrote to an attorney concerning a protection from harassment case he initiated against his former fiancée, and in his handling of social media.

The court found Nadeau guilty of violating two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct following hearings by Active Retired Justice Robert Clifford and oral arguments heard by the high court in November.

“He exploited his judicial office for personal gain because he gratuitously invoked his position of judicial and public prominence to advance his personal objective of settling the protection case on his terms,” the seven justices wrote in their 27-page decision.

In Maine, probate judges are elected to part-time positions; judges, who serve four-year terms, may maintain private law practices. Nadeau was first elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2002 and 2004; he lost the 2008 election but was returned to the bench in 2012.

He is seeking re-election in November as an unenrolled candidate, and is being challenged by Democrat Bryan Chabot and Bernard Broder, who is also unenrolled.

In their ruling, the justices noted their decision was not their first dealing with Nadeau.

“This is now the third time that Judge Nadeau has been found to have violated professional ethical standards” – two in his capacity as a judge, and one in his capacity as an attorney, the justices wrote. “As we found in a prior case involving this same judge, his refusal to acknowledge that he acted wrongfully and violated the code adds to the seriousness of the transgression.”

For his part, Nadeau said the court’s decision “must be and is accepted and respected.”

“All of the members of Maine’s judiciary take their judicial standards of service and ethics very seriously, and I always will,” Nadeau said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 282- 1535, ext. 327.


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