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Supreme Judicial Court Justice should have recused herself from foreclosure cases, complaint alleges

A formal complaint alleges that Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Catherine Connors should have recused herself from two recent appeals before the court.

Thomas A. Cox, a foreclosure attorney, filed the complaint, asserting that Connors violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to recuse if their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

"My intent in filing the complaint is to put those exact issues out in the open, so that there can be a public discussion of them and a resolution of whether what happened here was appropriate or not," Cox said.

In her work as a lawyer, Connors was involved in two key foreclosure appeals in 2017. The case law from the decisions in those appeals was overturned by the court last month, and Cox says Connors should not have helped decide them.

"In my view, any reasonable observer would have reason to doubt the impartiality of the justice, with her background," he said.

The complaint will now go before the judicial conduct committee. If the committee find that Connors violated the code of conduct, the matter will go to the full court to make a final determination on misconduct and disciplinary action.

In the two 2017 cases that involved Connors, the SJC at the time ruled unanimously that when a lender makes a mistake in a notice of default while foreclosing, the mortgage becomes unenforceable- meaning lender can't file foreclosure on the property again and the homeowner basically gets a free house.

At the time, Connors represented filed the brief in one case, and filed an amicus brief in the other.

The January decision in Finch versus U.S. Bank, essentially overturned that, stating that the lender can still enforce the mortgage.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.