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In Complete Reversal, LePage Rescinds Letters Withdrawing Judges' Nominations

Maine Public/file
Gov. Paul LePage at a news event at the State House in April.

After rescinding the nominations of five judges over the weekend, the governor reversed himself after a private, face-to-face meeting with Chief Justice Leigh Saufley.

In letters dated Oct. 20, Gov. Paul LePage wrote to the speaker of the Maine House and to the Senate president to say that he was withdrawing the nominations of Justices Robert Murray of Bangor, MaryGay Kennedy of Brunswick and Ann Murray of Bangor to the Maine Superior Court, and Judges Bruce Jordan of Veazie and Susan Oram of Auburn to the Maine District Court.

The appointments had all been approved by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, with participation from members of the LePage administration.

Over the weekend, Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon released a written statement calling the governor’s actions “deeply troubling” and warning that this type of delay could affect access to the court system.

“An independent judiciary is fundamental for the rule of law and the integrity of our system,” Gideon said. “It is our duty to ensure there is a swift resolution to this matter.”

The governor did not give a reason for the rescinding order, or why he changed his mind on Monday. But last week, LePage was dealt a setback by a Superior Court judge when his lawsuit against Maine’s attorney general was dismissed.

The judge ruled that she could not compel the attorney general to pay for the governor’s legal costs to support President Donald Trump’s immigration order.

The governor’s office has declined to comment, and a spokesperson for the chief justice said she was not aware of the details of the meeting between her boss and the governor Monday morning.

Hours after the meeting, the governor informed legislative leaders that he had reconsidered his actions. The five judges were then confirmed by the Senate.