AUGUSTA, Maine — A veteran Penobscot County prosecutor was unanimously recommended Thursday by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee to be a District Court judge.
Deputy District Attorney Michael P. Roberts, 60, of Bangor was one of four lawyers nominated last month by Gov. Paul LePage to the District Court bench. The Maine Senate is scheduled to vote on judicial nominations on Nov. 19.
Roberts was described during the hour-long hearing by Bangor lawyers who have gone up against him in court as “fair,” “respectful,” “patient” and “willing to listen.”
“Those are all qualities that indicate he will be a good judge,” Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, and a criminal defense lawyer in Bangor, said.
Roberts’ boss of 32 years, District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, told the committee that “it is with mixed feelings that I appear in favor of Mr. Roberts. What the judiciary has to gain is a very, very good lawyer. He will be a very good judge. But to lose this person from our office is going to be very difficult, very difficult.
“He’s a genuine person with great integrity,” Almy said. “He has the temperament to keep things on an even keel in a courtroom and the ability to get to the heart of a matter.”
Roberts told the committee that as a prosecutor he has tried “to win cases” for the victims, the defendants and the state. He said that in some instances, “helping a defendant turn his life around is as important as getting justice for victims.”
Roberts first applied to be a judge about 25 years ago. He has been a prosecutor in Penobscot County for 32 years.
He is following in the footstep of his father, the late David G. Roberts, who served 18 years on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and 13 years as a Superior Court justice. The elder Roberts died in January 1999, just five months after retiring from the state’s high court.
Christopher Largay, a Bangor lawyer, appeared before the committee to endorse Roberts on behalf of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association.
“It’s about time,” he said of Roberts’ nomination.
Largay said that one of the reasons Roberts will be a good judge is his successful ability to balance work and family life.
“It you don’t have that life/work balance, you lose touch with community,” Largay said.
Attending the hearing with Roberts were his wife, Joan, and their daughters, Jaelin, 13, and Ani, 9.
Roberts said after the hearing that if confirmed, he expects to spend six to eight weeks shadowing other District Court judges around the state. While he plans to continue living in Bangor, Roberts said he does not know where he will be permanently assigned, but there is a vacancy on the District Court bench in Ellsworth.
Also endorsed Wednesday by the committee to be District Court judges are: Jed J. French, a managing law partner in a Freeport firm; and Maria A. Woodman and Paul D. Mathews, both magistrate judges, who handle family matters.
French, 50, of Yarmouth has handled cases ranging from unemployment compensation to business dissolution and real estate disputes to criminal cases, as well as personal injury and family matters.
Woodman, 52, of Monmouth has been a magistrate judge since 2012. Before that, she worked in the Division of Child Support and MaineCare Crimes Unit in the Maine attorney general’s office.
Mathews, age unknown, of Newcastle has been a magistrate judge since 1998. Before becoming a judge, he worked as a prosecutor in Kennebec and Sagadahoc counties.
The committee approved allowing Superior Court Justice Paul A. Fritzsche to move to active retired status. Fritzsche, 65, of Kennebunk has served on the bench for 29 years.
The vacancies on the District Court bench were created after Wayne R. Douglas, Bruce C. Mallonee and Lance E. Walker were elevated to the Superior Court bench.
There still are three vacancies on the District Court bench, including two new positions created by the Legislature. Fritzsche’s move to active retired status creates a vacancy on the Superior Court bench.