Superior Justice Wayne Douglas, York County Superior Court in Alfred, in January 2020. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Lawmakers agreed Wednesday to advance a York County judge’s nomination to the state’s highest court.

Gov. Janet Mills nominated Superior Justice Wayne Douglas, 71, to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Feb. 1. The Judiciary Committee voted 10-2 to recommend him to the state Senate. Reps. John Andrews, R-Paris, and Rachel Henderson, R-Rumford, were opposed.

A full legislative vote on the nomination has not yet been scheduled. If confirmed, Douglas would replace retired Justice Thomas Humphrey and would serve a seven-year term. He would be Mills’ fifth appointment to the state’s top court, following the confirmation of Rick Lawrence last May.

Douglas has been a judge since 2002, serving in district court for 13 years before his appointment to the superior court. Jerry Reid, general counsel for the governor’s office, told the committee Wednesday that Douglas has demonstrated a “long-standing interest in mental health treatment,” having overseen York County’s treatment and recovery court since 2016 and by initiating a mental health docket that expedites the evaluation of defendants with mental health needs.

In his application, Douglas said the treatment court has provided him with an “in-depth exposure to the impacts of mental illness, substance use disorders and the opioid crisis in Maine.” He said he has noticed where the courts can make an effective difference in someone’s life.

“At the same time,” Douglas wrote, “I also have come to recognize the limitations and challenges of our system as a whole – judicial, correctional and treatment – inherent in addressing people with these afflictions.”


Before joining the bench, Douglas was associate commissioner for Maine’s Department of Mental Health in the 1990s. He also served as chief legal counsel to Angus King when he was governor in the early 2000s – he listed King as a reference in his application.

Douglas told lawmakers he grew up in Manchester, Connecticut, a town “known for its silk mills and tobacco farms.” His parents were loving but hard-working, expecting the same of Douglas and his younger sister. He spent his teenage years delivering papers, stocking shelves and working in the fields.

Douglas said Maine has been his home since enrolling at Bates College in the 1970s – as the first person in his extended family to attend college – and later attending the University of Maine School of Law.


Reid told lawmakers that Douglas is “known for his calm and patient disposition,” which he said Douglas displayed during a contentious 11-day bench trial in 2017 over land rights on Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunk. Nearly two dozen property owners sued the town in 2011 to assert their ownership of the 2-mile stretch of oceanfront. Douglas issued a lengthy opinion that was later upheld by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, finding that property owners had authority over one of the 23 parcels, but the rest belonged to the town.

In his application, Douglas also referenced the 2018 criminal trial of Ronald Paquin, a former Catholic priest charged with sexually abusing two minors in the 1980s. Paquin was already incarcerated in Massachusetts after the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse within the church in 2002. Douglas sentenced him to 16 years on 11 counts of gross sexual assault.


Douglas has also overseen several homicide trials, including that of Bruce Akers, who was charged in 2016 with the death of his neighbor, Douglas Flint. A jury found Akers guilty in 2020, but then the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that the jury shouldn’t have been allowed to consider tainted evidence provided by the sheriff’s office after violating Akers’ constitutional rights. A new ruling by Douglas in the summer of 2022, barring the use of that evidence in a new trial, forced the Maine Attorney General’s Office to dismiss the charges in August.

Douglas said roughly 30 of his superior court decisions, including Akers, have been appealed. Those decisions have been affirmed in all but four instances.

Lawmakers heard from several people who have worked with Douglas in the courts over the last several decades. They include several defense attorneys and York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery, who said Douglas’ departure from the local court would be a “great loss to York County.” Members of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association and the Maine Bar Association also testified in Douglas’ favor.

Douglas said Maine courts are facing several challenging circumstances endangering the public’s access to justice – a backlog of criminal and civil cases, a shortage of court-appointed attorneys for those who can’t afford a lawyer, a high number of defendants with mental health and substance abuse issues, difficulties integrating new technology and several openings for clerks and marshals.

“Improving access to justice requires us to continually question, examine and evolve what we do and how we do it,” Douglas said.

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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