December 03, 2019
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Janet Mills promotes judge who handled the case of Dakota the pardoned dog

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Dakota the husky, left, and Valerie Stanfill

Gov. Janet Mills’ first round of new judicial nominees includes the District Court judge who handled the case of Dakota, a husky determined to be a dangerous dog who drew a pardon from then-Gov. Paul LePage.

Valerie Stanfill of Wayne is one of three women whom Mills nominated to the bench Tuesday. Mills also nominated three judges for reappointment to their judicial posts.

The other new appointees are Susan Driscoll of Biddeford and Jennifer Archer of Falmouth. Both were nominated to be District Court judges and would replace Beth Dobson and Michael Cantara if confirmed by the Senate. Dobson and Cantara have retired.

All judicial nominees must appear before the Legislature’s judiciary committee and be confirmed by the state Senate. The annual salary of a judge in Maine is $133,000 a year, the lowest in the nation. Judges serve seven-year terms.

Stanfill has been a District Court judge, presiding primarily in Kennebec County, since 2007. Her most high-profile case involved Dakota, a dog condemned to death in early March 2017 after she attacked two small dogs in Waterville, killing one.

LePage issued a pardon for Dakota on March 30, 2017, turning the case into a national story and triggering questions over whether the Maine Constitution allowed the governor to grant clemency to an animal.

While Stanfill never considered the legality of LePage’s pardon, she granted Dakota a permanent reprieve from her death sentence in July 2017 when she approved a deal that spared her life but banned her permanently from Waterville. The judge also sealed information about who adopted Dakota and where she lives.

If confirmed, Stanfill would take the seat vacated more than a year ago by U.S. District Judge Lance Walker.

Driscoll has been in private practice for more than 30 years as a civil litigator. Archer now works in the Maine attorney general’s office but has clerked for Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander and three Superior Court justices.

Mills also renominated Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren of Brunswick, District Court Judge Kevin Stitham of Dover-Foxcroft and John Lucy of Orono. Warren and Stitham were first appointed in 1998. Lucy joined the bench in 2012.



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