Legislature; Office of Policy and Legal Analysis

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This study originated around the issues raised during the First Regular Session of the 14th Legislature in the Judiciary Committee' s discussion of LD 232, AN ACT to Grant the Power of Equitable Jurisdiction to the Maine District Court. The bill was enacted, as amended, to extend, to a limited degree, the District Court's equitable jurisdiction. In addition, the Committee sought and received approval from the Legislative Council for a subcommittee to conduct a comprehensive review of the interrelationship of the jurisdiction of the courts in Maine. The purpose of the study was to ensure that the courts truly serve the people of the State of Maine to the fullest extent possible. As the study progressed, it became apparent that a much broader scope of review was needed to address the current status of the court system's ability to meet the judicial needs of the state.

The study addresses some immediate needs of the court system to better the administration of justice in the state and recommends a more detailed analysis to address the issues facing the court system in the 21st century. This analysis would be performed by a multidisciplinary Commission to Study the Future of Maine's Courts. The charge of the commission will be to study the future of the court system in Maine and make recommendations as to what is necessary to ensure that the judicial needs of Maine citizens will be met in the 21st century. The Commission will examine, but not limit its examination to, a unified trial court system in Maine, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, parity among judicial salaries, evolution of the Probate Court system, an expansion of mediation services, and the pilot project, recommended in this report, establishing the Family and Administrative Law Division of the District Court in the Ninth District.

In addition, this study proposes some immediate changes to affect communication between the Judicial Department and the Legislature, automation of the courts, the increasing caseload in the courts, the lack of social service resources and information for the courts, and the courts of limited jurisdiction



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