Washington County judge sanctioned for not dealing with cases quickly enough

Posted Dec. 01, 2011, at 4:05 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 01, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The probate judge in Washington County was sanctioned Thursday by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for failing to dispose promptly of cases.

Judge Lyman L. Holmes, 63, of Machias was ordered by justices to provide, every other month through Aug. 12, 2012, a list of cases taken under advisement for more than 30 days to the executive director of the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability.

Efforts to reach Lyman’s attorney, James M. Bowie of Portland, were unsuccessful Thursday.

Probate judges are the only judges elected in Maine. The probate courts handle adoptions, wills, guardianships, estates and name changes. Judges are paid by the counties but must abide by the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

Holmes, who has been the probate judge in Washington County for 22 years, has not been sanctioned before.

The job is part time. Holmes’ annual starting salary in 1989 was $18,000. It is $23,826 this year, according to the court’s order.

The probate judge conceded a “pattern of unacceptable delays in managing and resolving at least five cases entrusted to him,” according to the order. “The most egregious of those violations involved a delay of nearly five years in the resolution of a matter involving family contact with a child. In several cases, parties waited over 14 and 16 months for judicial decisions in matters that could and should have been resolved much more expeditiously.”

The court conceded that Holmes’ problems in managing his caseload were aggravated by a “substantial growth” in the number of cases with no corresponding increase in the administrative resources available to assist him. Holmes relied too much on his memory in keeping track of cases, the court said in its ruling.

Justices four years ago sanctioned a southern Maine judge.

In March 2007, the court publicly censured York County Probate Judge Robert Nadeau over a political advertisement. Justices concluded that he had knowingly misrepresented the professional conduct of one of his primary opponents.

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