An investigation by The Maine Monitor and ProPublica found that more than a quarter of Maine attorneys disciplined in the past decade for serious professional misconduct were hired as lawyers for the poor. Defendants often paid the price.
The state’s defense agency for the poor lacks the oversight structures and staffing to provide high-quality representation, a report found. The governor says more money won’t fix accountability problems.
Amid mounting criticism of his management of attorneys, finances and the quality of legal services for Maine’s poor, John Pelletier stepped down as executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services. His last day will be Dec. 11.
Lawyers proposed opening Maine’s first two public defender offices and a substantial pay raise for court-appointed counsel in a $35.4 million budget approved by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.
Gov. Janet Mills publicly called for a bipartisan effort to reform Maine’s defense system for poor people accused of crimes in response to an investigation by The Maine Monitor and ProPublica.
Leah Kerwin started receiving daily texts and videos explicitly requesting oral sex or intercourse. They came from her court-appointed attorney, who had already been suspended for other misconduct.
Maine is the only state in the country with no public defender system. Instead, legal services for the poor are left to private attorneys, who face disproportionately high amounts of discipline, and an office that doesn’t supervise them.