Maine’s Part-Time Court

  • June 5, 2023

Top: Judge David Paris runs the Sagadahoc County Probate Court without a permanent courtroom. Paris wasn’t even provided a robe, his wife ordered him a set online. He holds hearings in the county commissioners’ room, grand jury room or even the lunchroom. Still, he says, he runs his court like any other judge and as professionally as he can. (Photo by Fred J. Field)

Maine’s probate courts stand alone. Their judges are part-time and elected, and they operate independently from each other and the state supreme court. Probate courts are responsible for adult guardianships, which restrict an adult’s right to make choices and instead delegate those decisions to another person. In reporting this ongoing investigation, The Maine Monitor sent a survey to the 16 county probate courts and received responses from 10 that revealed some probate courts do little to assess the fitness of a guardian before or after they are appointed.

This project is part of a collaboration between Investigative Editing Corps and Report for America.

“Editors from Investigative Editing Corps provided crucial support for The Maine Monitor’s probate court series. We couldn’t have done the project without the sharp-eyed editing and steady guidance of Alan Miller and Michael Wagner.”

 -David Dahl,
Editor of The Maine Monitor 

Editor: Alan Miller

Alan Miller teaches journalism at Denison University, where he has taught for 23 years. Miller served as executive editor of The Columbus Dispatch and regional editor for USA Today Network Ohio’s 21 newsrooms across the state from 2015-2022.  He started at The Dispatch as a reporter in 1984 and has covered regional news, urban affairs, Columbus City Hall, and higher education. He was an assistant city editor, state editor and
assistant managing editor before becoming managing editor in 2004 and editor in 2015. He is a past president of both the national Associated Press Media Editors association and its foundation, and a member of the professional advisory board for the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He previously worked at The Repository in Canton, Ohio, and The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Ohio University. He’s on Twitter and Instagram @amiller78.

Editor: Mike Wagner

Mike Wagner is currently an investigative projects reporter at The Columbus Dispatch and has been a journalist for 33 years since graduating from Ohio State University. His work has helped free 7 innocent men from prison, enact state laws to protect children and society’s most vulnerable and earned him dozens of national and state awards including being named a Pulitzer finalist as reporter for the Dayton Daily News.