On the afternoon of Aug. 20, three offenders who owe victims restitution came before District Court Judge Gregory Campbell in his Bangor courtroom. Their cases illustrate common issues the courts have in enforcing restitution agreements. One had been successfully paying back restitution — little by little — on a payment plan; another had failed to stick to a payment plan; and the third left promising to return with money, and never returned.
A Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting investigation has found that the state system for compensating victims of non-violent crimes is overburdened, uncoordinated and promises what it can’t deliver.
“The system is imperfect and we know it,” said Judge Charles LaVerdiere, chief judge of the Maine District Court.
He said that as a judge in Maine, he’s found that the “vast majority” of people who come to court and agree to restitution payments find out later that they don’t have the ability to pay as promised.
A conflict over ethics between Gov. Paul LePage and a member of the state’s Public Utilities Commission has been settled in the short term, but threatens to produce more controversy over the long term.
Today, we introduce our readers to “Political Party Time” — or, as our colleague Kathy Kiely from the Sunlight Foundation calls it, political “money porn.” It’s a window into how politics really work in Maine, where readers can get the inside view of the soliciting that goes on behind the virtuous image promoted by many Maine politicians. Continue Reading →
It’s election season, and the hyperbole machine is redlining. Endorsements, especially, are the time to lay it on thick and attempt to counter the candidate’s greatest weakness. Read John Christie's "Who Ya Kidding?" column to find the latest examples of "pure wind" in Maine politics. Continue Reading →
District attorneys from across the state are as frustrated as crime victims with the fundamental reality of the restitution system in Maine: it's broken. Maine crime victims are waiting for millions of dollars – perhaps as much as $12 million – in payments ordered by the courts from the people who stole their money, broke into their car or burglarized their home. Continue Reading →
In 1977, the Maine legislature amended the state criminal code to require courts to consider ordering restitution because it can “reinforce the offender's sense of responsibility,” let him pay back his debt to society and the victim, and “ease the burden of the victim.” But 37 years later, this has long been easier said than done, with those assigned the task of collecting restitution pointing to the futility of trying to get money from poor offenders. They cite a variant of the cliché: “It’s like trying to get blood from a turnip.” Continue Reading →
Just as World War II ended, the writer George Orwell was working on a novel that was to become so well-read and so prescient that its title and key phrases are still powerful expressions of the dangers of government control. Continue Reading →
Gov. Paul LePage has rejected Public Utilities Commissioner David Littell's decision to recuse himself from voting on a case involving bottled water giant Nestle Waters and the Fryeberg Water Co. Littell claims he has a conflict of interest because he previously worked at a Portland law firm that represented Nestle and the water company. Lepage says that isn't enough to disqualify him for voting on the case. Continue Reading →
If a railroad spilled thousands of gallons of oil in Maine, no one in the state – or in Washington – knows what the railroads would do or if they’re prepared for such a disaster. Members of Maine's congressional delegation say that’s the reason they are pushing federal regulators to strengthen planning, response and mitigation requirements for railroads that transport hazardous materials such as highly flammable crude oil. Continue Reading →