Gov. Janet Mills has nominated a 71-year-old superior court justice from Old Orchard Beach for a seat on the state’s top court.

Justice Wayne Douglas

Mills tapped Justice Wayne R. Douglas to become an associate justice on the seven-member Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Douglas, who has been a judge for two decades, faces a confirmation hearing and vote in the Legislature.

If confirmed, Douglas would replace Justice Thomas Humphrey, who retired last spring, and would serve a seven-year term. He would be Mills’ fifth appointment to the state’s top court.

“Justice Douglas’ sharp legal mind, measured temperament, and dedication to the fair and impartial administration of the law position him well to serve the people of Maine on the Supreme Judicial Court,” Mills said in a written statement. “I believe that the Court and all Maine people will benefit from Justice Douglas’ decades of public service, and I am pleased to nominate him for this appointment.”

Douglas would join a court that recently overturned a murder conviction in a case he presided over.

Limington resident Bruce Akers, who was charged with killing his neighbor with a machete, was convicted in the 2019 trial.


Akers confessed to the killing but later sought to suppress that confession because it was made before officers had secured a search warrant. Douglas denied the motion and allowed the confession to be used by prosecutors, saying it was reasonable for officers to search for what was then a missing person and to speak with Akers. Akers was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 38 years in prison.

But the Maine Supreme Judicial Court later ruled that Douglas erred in allowing the confession to be used as evidence and overturned the conviction. The attorney general ultimately dropped the charges.

It was only the second time in 17 years that the state’s highest court has vacated a murder conviction.

Douglas also issued a high-profile ruling in 2018 in a long-running dispute over coastal access. He ruled that the public has the right to use Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. That ruling also was appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which upheld Douglas’ decision.

Douglas was first appointed to the bench in 2002 by former Gov. Angus King, after serving as the independent governor’s chief legal counsel and as an associate commissioner of the former Maine Department of Mental Health.

Douglas was appointed a superior court justice by former Gov. Paul LePage in 2015. He presided over the York County Treatment and Recovery Court, which provides judicially monitored supervision and treatment to individuals with criminal charges who are committed to addressing their substance use disorder and mental health issues.


He also initiated a Mental Health Docket in York County to expedite cases involving people experiencing mental health issues, the Mills administration said.

Douglas holds an undergraduate degree from Bates College and is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. Prior to public service, he worked for more than a decade as a lawyer for the Portland law firm Pierce Atwood.

“I am deeply humbled by Gov. Mills’ nomination to serve on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court,” Douglas said in a written statement. “If fortunate to be confirmed by the Legislature, I will give careful consideration to each case that comes before the Court, treat all with courtesy and respect, and administer justice in a fair and impartial manner.”

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is comprised of seven justices. The court hears appeals from superior, district and probate courts; oversees the Judicial Branch of government, setting policy and procedural rules for all state courts; and issues advisory opinions to the governor or Legislature when requested on “solemn occasions.”

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