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Chief Justice Of Maine Supreme Judicial Court To Serve As Dean Of State's Only Law School

Robert F. Bukaty
AP File
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley delivers her annual state of the judiciary address to a joint convention of the Legislature, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at the State House in Augusta, Maine

Maine Chief Justice Leigh Saufley will step down from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and take over as dean of the University of Maine School of Law School later this month. The appointment is drawing praise from members of Maine's legal community.

Saufley's appointment to the state's only law school caps off an extensive national search. The Chief Judge has served in her current role for nearly 20 years. Gov. Janet Mills praised Saufley as a "dynamic and thoughtful leader" who worked to strengthen the Judicial Branch and address the opioid crisis. University of Maine system Chancellor Dannel Malloy said she is nationally renowned as a jurist and for her commitment to public service.

Jim Burke is a retired professor of the law school who welcomes the announcement.

“This is the best possible result that I could have hoped for, because what is needed is somebody who knows how the state works.”

The appointment was also praised by the Maine Bar Association and the Maine Trial Lawyers Association.

“She is a strong leader and she will be a great addition to the law school when the law school really needs it right now,” says Thaddeus Day, president of the Maine Bar Association. “I think she will help the law school get through these tough times.”

Christian Lewis, the president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association says that “the law school will be facing challenges throughout the coming year. I think law schools throughout the country are facing declining enrollments. I do think having a strong leader like Justice Saufley will be very beneficial to the program.”

Saufley declined a request for an interview.

In a written statement, Chancellor Malloy said there will be more to say next week about how Saufley will guide the future of legal education in Maine. Saufley's departure from the law court leaves a vacancy on the bench. Senior Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mead will assume her role until a new chief justice is selected by the governor.

Updated 5:08 p.m. April 8, 2020