The Maine Supreme Judicial Court found Wayne Douglas made errors in presiding over the trial of Bruce Akers.
Superior Court Justice Wayne R. Douglas, 71, of Old Orchard Beach was nominated Tuesday by Gov. Janet Mills to serve on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Credit: Courtesy of Wayne R. Douglas

Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday nominated Superior Court Justice Wayne R. Douglas to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Douglas, 71, of Old Orchard Beach has served on the Maine Superior Court and Maine District Court for more than two decades.

In his most recent high-profile case, the state had to dismiss a murder charge against Bruce Akers, 64, of Limington after Douglas threw out the evidence used to convict Akers on instructions from the state’s high court. The court he is seeking to join found Douglas made errors in presiding over the trial.

Once Douglas is confirmed by the Maine Senate, Mills will have appointed a majority of the justices on the state’s high court — Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill and Associate Justices Catherine Connors, Andrew Horton and Rick E. Lawrence, the first Black justice on the court.

“Justice Douglas’ sharp legal mind, measured temperament and dedication to the fair and impartial administration of the law position him well to serve the people of Maine on the Supreme Judicial Court,” Mills said. “I believe that the Court and all Maine people will benefit from Justice Douglas’ decades of public service, and I am pleased to nominate him for this appointment.”

Douglas replaced Justice Thomas Humphrey, who retired in early 2022.

Akers was arrested in June 2016 for allegedly killing his neighbor, Douglas Flint. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison after being found guilty of murder in January 2020 by a York County jury.

The Maine supreme court in September 2021 found that Douglas should not have allowed jurors to hear statements Akers made to police before he was read his Miranda rights. The justices ordered that Akers be retried.

Last August, in preparation for the second trial, Douglas ruled that evidence of Akers’ property found after a search warrant was obtained using those statements could not be admitted. The Maine attorney general’s office, tasked with prosecuting homicides, decided not to retry Akers and he was released.

Douglas was first appointed to the Maine District Court by former Gov. Angus King in 2002 and reappointed by former Gov. John Baldacci in 2010. In 2015, former Gov. Paul LePage appointed Douglas to the Maine Superior Court.

Douglas said Tuesday that he was “deeply humbled” to be nominated.

“If fortunate to be confirmed by the Legislature, I will give careful consideration to each case that comes before the court, treat all with courtesy and respect, and administer justice in a fair and impartial manner,” he said.

During his time on the Superior Court, Douglas has presided over the York County Treatment and Recovery Court, which provides judicially monitored supervision and treatment to people with criminal charges who are committed to addressing their substance use disorder and mental health issues.

He also initiated a Mental Health Docket in York County to expedite consideration of cases involving people experiencing mental health issues.

Prior to his first appointment to the bench, Douglas served as chief legal counsel to King and as an associate commissioner of the former Maine Department of Mental Health. Prior to that, Douglas spent more than a decade in private practice at a Portland law firm.

Douglas graduated from Bates College in Lewiston and the University of Maine School of Law.

A hearing on his nomination before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee is expected to be scheduled late this month or early in March.