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Supreme court justices to hear cases in Bangor on Tuesday

Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices gather in the jury room for a final discussion before entering the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor in Nov. 2010. From left are Justice Donald G. Alexander, Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley, Justice Warren M. Silver, Justice Joseph M. Jabnar, Justice Andrew M. Mead, Justice Ellen A. Gorman and Justice Jon D. Levy.
Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices gather in the jury room for a final discussion before entering the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor in Nov. 2010. From left are Justice Donald G. Alexander, Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley, Justice Warren M. Silver, Justice Joseph M. Jabnar, Justice Andrew M. Mead, Justice Ellen A. Gorman and Justice Jon D. Levy.
Posted April 11, 2011, at 7:07 p.m.
Last modified April 11, 2011, at 7:25 p.m.
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in five cases Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Justices convened in November for two days in the Queen City and are scheduled to be in Bangor again for three days in June.

“There is only one Law Court in Maine,” Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley said Monday about why the court convenes at least twice a year in Bangor. “We try to get out on the road so that lawyers have the opportunity to argue in their own communities and to reduce the travel costs for clients whose cases we hear. We also hope that more people will watch oral arguments to learn more about the judicial process and that more lawyers will become involved in appellate work when they attend oral arguments.”

The cases scheduled for Tuesday include legal questions about land use, drunken driving, collateral for a bank loan and whether an insurance company can be ordered to pay damages to a victim of sexual abuse under the perpetrator’s homeowner’s policy.

Attorneys in the insurance case have asked the court to decide if MMG Insurance Co. of Presque Isle is obligated to provide damages arising out of a sexual molestation committed by the son of someone it insured.

The civil case out of Hancock County arose out of the sexual assault of the 7-year-old daughter of Jennifer Jacobi from September to November 2006 by Sean Bennett, according to briefs filed in the case. Then a juvenile, Bennett was the son of Barbara Bennett, from whom Jacobi was renting a house in Blue Hill. When Jacobi told Bennett that her son had molested Jacobi’s daughter, the landlord tried to evict Jacobi and the girl, according to the briefs.

Sean Bennett, who lived in a mother-in-law apartment attached to the house Jacobi rented, was convicted of sex charges in Hancock County Superior Court on Feb. 1, 2008, according to the briefs. Information about his sentence was not available late Monday afternoon.

Jacobi filed a civil suit against Barbara Bennett and her insurance company in April 2008. MMG did not respond to the complaint and the judge, who is not identified in the briefs, entered a default judgment for Jacobi. She and her daughter were awarded damages of $135,000 for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Lance Walker, the insurance company’s Portland attorney, argued in his brief that state law and previous rulings by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court exclude MMG from providing coverage for damages. Jacobi’s attorney, Mark Randall of Portland, argued in his brief that the judge awarded damages over the emotional distress inflicted by the threat of an eviction proceeding, not the sexual abuse.

Justices will head to Portland on Wednesday and Thursday to hear more oral arguments at the Cumberland County Courthouse. The most well-known case being appealed is a Skowhegan man’s conviction last year for manslaughter.

Malcolm Bruce Lavallee-Davidson, 52, who is serving a 10-year sentence, was found guilty by a jury of fatally shooting Fred Wilson, 50, of South Portland during a drug-fueled party in a “sex dungeon” in Wilson’s home.

Lavallee-Davidson’s attorney, Verne E. Paradie Jr. of Auburn, is expected to argue that Superior Court Justice Robert Crowley erred in his instructions to the jury and that the evidence was insufficient for the state to prove the defendant caused Wilson’s death.

Assistant Attorneys General Donald Macomber and Lisa Marchese are expected to argue for the state that the judge’s jury instructions were correct and the evidence was sufficient for the conviction.

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