Justia Maine Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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After this case was returned from the federal courts to a Florida superior court’s jurisdiction, only Plaintiff’s claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy remained. Plaintiff, a town official for the Town of Raymond, filed suit against a town selectman, alleging Defendant had made various false statements to the sheriff’s office about Plaintiff’s alcohol for the purpose of humiliating and harassing Plaintiff. The superior court granted Defendant’s special motion to dismiss both remaining causes of action on anti-SLAPP grounds. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed, as a matter of law, to meet his prima facie burden on opposing Defendant’s special motion to dismiss, and therefore, the superior court correctly dismissed the remaining claims. View "Desjardins v. Reynolds" on Justia Law
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Appellant appealed from the superior court’s post-judgment order awarding her attorney fees in the amount of $8,000 after a jury found Appellee liable for illegal eviction and wrongful use of civil proceedings. Appellant had requested nearly $60,000 in attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not apply an improper standard in evaluating Appellant’s request for attorney fees and that the court’s ultimate fee award was not an abuse of discretion. The court reviewed the award of attorney fees pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6014(2)(B) for an abuse of discretion and according the trial court substantial deference. View "Sands v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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At issue here was the application of Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4036(1-A) to preexisting parental rights orders. Section 4036(1-A) authorizes a court that has made a finding of jeopardy in a title 22 child protection proceeding to enter an order awarding parental rights and responsibilities if the court determines the order will protect the child from jeopardy and is in the child’s best interest. In this case, the trial court did not direct the opening of a family matters case as directed by section 4036(1-A)(A) but instead amended the parental rights and responsibilities order that had been issued in the parties’ previous divorce judgment that was in effect at the time of the jeopardy hearing. The trial dismissed the child protection action and awarded sole parental rights over the child to Mother by amending the preexisting parental rights and responsibilities order. The court further made a specific finding that Father created circumstances of jeopardy for his child. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the jeopardy order and the amended parental rights and responsibilities order, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in reaching its ultimate conclusion. View "In re Paige L." on Justia Law
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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the termination of father’s parental rights, 22 M.R.S. 4055(1)(B)(2) as in the best interests of the children. The lower court found by clear and convincing evidence that Father was unable to protect the children from jeopardy or to take responsibility for them within a time reasonably calculated to meet their needs. The court noted that: the children had been neglected in the care of their mother; Father’s partner has “a serious child protection history; at the time of their October 2014 removal from mother's custody, Father had not seen the children since January 2014; the children had been in foster care for two years since removal from their mother and have done well in foster care; Father did not understand the medical needs of the children: and Father did not make progress on a reunification plan or get mental health treatment required by the plan for his depression, PTSD, and ADHD issues. The guardian ad litem had recommended termination, noting that the children have a high-level of needs and need permanency. View "In re Kayleigh P." on Justia Law
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The superior court determined that Appellants were liable for certain charges beyond undisputed amounts of principal and interest owed pursuant to a promissory note owned by Appellee. The note had been secured by a mortgage but an assignment failed to convey to Appellee all of the rights created by the mortgage. “[T]o avoid unjust enrichment,” the judgment allowed Appellee to retain the entire disputed amount. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in part because the trial court did not sufficiently distinguish which charges were obligations pursuant to the note and which charges were obligations only pursuant to the invalid mortgage. The court remanded the case for a determination of what amount, if any, Appellee may retain pursuant to the note. View "Knope v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Donald Williams appealed a divorce judgment dissolving his marriage to Linda Williams. During the pendency of the appeal, Linda withdrew $8,100 in interim spousal support payments from the escrow account, which had been set aside to Linda in the divorce judgment. The parties later voluntarily dismissed the appeal. Linda filed a motion for post-judgment relief seeking the recovery of the money she had withdrawn from the escrow account during the appeal. The court granted Linda’s request and awarded her $8,100. The court then granted her $6,000 in attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) a general release signed by Linda in anticipation of the dismissal of the appeal relieved Donald of any obligation to compensate Linda for the interim spousal support payments because they were directly associated with the appeal; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees to Linda. View "Williams v. Williams" on Justia Law
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Mother appealed from a judgment of the district court terminating her parental rights to her child. Mother’s parental rights were terminated largely due to her chronic substance abuse and mental health issues. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the district court’s findings indicating that Mother was unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and take responsibility for the child in a time reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs were supported by clear and convincing evidence. Further, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that it was in the child’s best interest to terminate Mother’s parental rights. View "In re Mya E." on Justia Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for one count of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder following a jury trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and error in admitting evidence of prior bad acts. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the prosecutor’s remarks during opening statements did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial; and (2) the trial court did not clearly err or abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of Defendant’s prior assault of the victim. View "State v. Pillsbury" on Justia Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (1)(B)(2). Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court’s findings were supported by competent evidence in the record; (2) the district court adequately explained how Mother abandoned the child and how she failed to alleviate jeopardy, to engage in reunification services, and to protect the child in a time reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs; and (3) the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that termination of Mother’s parental rights and adoption were in the child’s best interest. View "In re Tacoma M." on Justia Law
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In this appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court clarified the process for the handling of special motions to dismiss on anti-SLAPP grounds to require fact-finding by an evidentiary hearing. At the hearing it is the plaintiff’s burden to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, each of the elements for opposing the dismissal for which the plaintiff successfully made out a prima facie case that the defendant’s petitioning activity was devoid of reasonable factual support or arguable basis in law and that the defendant’s petitioning activity caused actual injury to the plaintiff. In the instant case, the trial court denied Defendant’s special motion to dismiss on anti-SLAPP grounds after a nontestimonial hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the matter to the superior court for it to reconsider Plaintiff’s opposition to the motion to dismiss according to the procedure and standards set forth herein. View "Gaudette v. Davis" on Justia Law