PORTLAND, Maine — The Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability has recommended former York County Probate Judge Robert M.A. Nadeau pay a $10,000 fine and be barred from sitting on the bench again.
The sanction, if imposed, would be the harshest the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, charged with disciplining judges, has handed down short of disbarment.
“Enough already,” Nadeau, 62, said in a brief filed in Portland. The Biddeford lawyer is representing himself before the justices at a hearing that was scheduled for Thursday morning at the Cumberland County Courthouse. The courthouse is closed Thursday because of inclement weather, according to information posted on the court system’s website. A new date has not been set.
Nadeau, who has been sanctioned twice previously for violating the code of conduct for judges, lost his bid for re-election in a three-way race last year, according to results posted online by the Maine secretary of state’s office. Nadeau, an independent, garnered 37,539 votes, to the 42,388 votes that winner Bryan M. Chabot, a Democrat from Wells, received. Bernard J. Broder III, an independent from Old Orchard Beach, came in third with 26,085 votes.
Nadeau first was elected probate judge in York County in 1996. He was re-elected in 2000 and 2004 but defeated in 2008 in the Democratic primary. He was elected again in 2012 as an independent.
He first was suspended from the bench in 2007 for a week without pay for lying about his opponent in his 2004 re-election bid. He was suspended for 30 days without pay last year for statements he made in a 2013 letter to the attorney representing his former girlfriend in a protection from harassment matter.
The most recently proposed sanction stems from actions Nadeau took in November 2012, when he directed probate court staff not to appoint certain attorneys to litigants who qualified for indigent legal service, and in April 2015, when he changed the probate court schedule without consulting staff after the commissioners turned down his request for more court days and a raise.
In a brief filed with the state supreme court in late November, Nadeau urged the justices “to avoid piling it on.”
“Five counts of allegations of judicial misconduct, particularly on the heels of a recent law court finding of misconduct resulting in a now completed, highly publicized 30-day suspension related to a private, non-judicial matter, would and did certainly look awful, particularly to those not trained in law,” he wrote. “The suspension, exacerbated by [retired Justice Robert Clifford’s] findings (regardless of what this court may ultimately do regarding them), were highly publicized in the recent election, costing Judge Nadeau, an independent at almost 62 years of age, to narrowly lose a personally very expensive re-election effort in a three-way race pitting himself against a Democrat and a second independent candidate, and to further punitively suffer the loss of a significant future income and benefits. Enough already?”
Cabanne Howard, executive secretary and counsel to the committee that investigates and recommends sanctions for Maine judges, said in his brief that Nadeau “continues to fail to take any responsibility for his actions.”
“This pattern was evident the first time the Court disciplined him for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, when it noted that while he ‘acknowledges disappointment and embarrassment’ for his violation, and apologizes to the public and the court, the closest he comes to admitting that he acted wrongfully is to acknowledge that he ‘exercised poor judgment.’”
To assure Nadeau does not serve as a probate judge again, the committee has recommended his license to practice law be suspended indefinitely but that the suspension be suspended. The suspension would go into effect only when and if Nadeau sought election to the Probate Court again.
All judges except those who serve in the Probate Courts are appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the state Senate. It is highly unlikely a lawyer who had been sanctioned more than once for violating the Judicial Code of Conduct would be nominated for a judgeship let alone be confirmed.