February 23, 2018
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Maine high court again sanctions former probate judge

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

A former York County probate judge who has already had his law license suspended for two years was chastised again Thursday when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court formally reprimanded him.

Former Judge Robert Nadeau has been punished for ethical violations multiple times, including at least three incidents after becoming a judge. In September 2017, a Supreme Court decision in his appeal of prior actions against him said he had displayed “intemperate and vindictive” behavior from the bench.

[Former probate judge fined, suspended for 2 years for ethics violations]

On Thursday, the court ruled on another matter involving a 2015 decision he made in a child custody case. According to the document, a woman to whom Nadeau previously denied custody of a child made critical social media posts about Nadeau, to which Nadeau’s wife — or someone posting under her name — responded online.

The woman appeared before Nadeau in 2016 for a hearing involving the amount of child support payments. The woman, through her attorney, asked Nadeau to recuse himself from the case based on his wife’s social media post but Nadeau declined on the grounds that setting child support payments relied on mathematical calculations and was not evidentiary in nature.

“If I am charged with having to do a hearing as opposed to just having agreed upon numbers, then I have to assess credibilities,” Nadeau said from the bench during a July 2016 hearing. “And, at this point, because I do have problems with [the defendant’s] credibility, I would then have to grant the motion to recuse.”

Nadeau ordered the woman to pay $23 a week in child support based on her reported income of $240 a week.

The woman filed a complaint against Nadeau nine days later with the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability,” claiming he retaliated because of her posts about his candidacy in an upcoming election.

“We conclude that although a sanction resulting from this violation is warranted in order to deter others from similar misconduct, in Judge Nadeau’s case that need is tempered by the reality that he is no longer a judicial officer and is currently serving a lengthy suspension from the practice of law,” wrote the justices. “Accordingly, we accept the committee’s recommendation and hereby order that Robert M.A. Nadeau be publicly reprimanded.”

Nadeau was first elected York County judge of probate in 1996 and was re-elected in 2002 and 2004. He lost the 2008 election but returned to the bench in 2012. Nadeau lost in a three-way race to Sanford attorney Bryan Chabot in November 2016.

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