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Courts and Crime

Maine High Court Sets New Standard for Whistleblower Cases

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine's highest court has set a new legal standard that some observers believe will make it easier for whistleblower cases in Maine to be heard by a jury.

The opinion was issued last week in a case involving a Cumberland County Sheriff's Department detective who claimed that he was retaliated against for complaining about an assault on a jail inmate.

Portland attorney Jonathan Goodman, who represented the detective, argued that the long-standing legal test used by a lower court to dismiss the complaint should not be applied in whistleblower cases.

"Our gripe was is that the test is too cumbersome and clunky, and that judges are then forced to get bogged down in these 'burden-shifting' questions, where the real question should be, as it is in most cases, 'Could a reasonable juror find in favor of the plaintiff?' And if 'yes,' then the case moves on to a jury trial."

Goodman says the justices have now instructed Maine's courts to use the "reasonable juror" test in whistleblower cases, which he believes will allow more cases to go before a jury.

Attorney Peter Marchesi, who represented the county, could not be reached for comment.