Maine

When in Doubt, Cross-Appeal!

The Law Court recently addressed an issue of great importance to appellate practitioners: does a party need to cross-appeal a favorable judgment in order to preserve an argument providing alternate grounds for affirmance, when the lower court rejected that argument? The answer, per the Law Court’s decision, is “yes.” As the Law Court’s decision makes clear, and as my predecessor on this blog has noted, a cross-appeal is the only way to ensure that you will be able to raise the argument on appeal.

The decision, Reed v. Secretary of State, which is also very interesting substantively, involved a challenge to the Secretary of State’s determination that proponents of a citizen initiative had gathered enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. The petitioner’s challenge required the Superior Court to interpret statutes, 21-A M.R.S. § 903-E and 4 M.R.S. § 954-A, regulating the activities of notaries. Intervenors in the action argued in the Superior Court that

Challenging Interlocutory Decisions on Appeal – What Not to Do

The Law Court recently issued a short decision, Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB v. Abildgaard, which provides a reminder of the importance of taking the appropriate steps at trial to ensure that interlocutory orders can be challenged on appeal.

On its facts, Abildgaard is fairly straightforward. Wilmington Savings Fund sought to foreclose on Abildgaard’s mortgage. To prevail, Wilmington was required to prove (among other things) that it had sent a proper notice of default and right to cure. The notice, however, was excluded at trial on the basis that it did not comply with statutory requirements. At that point, Wilmington rested its case without presenting evidence regarding a number of other elements of its foreclosure claim. In Wilmington’s view, it was unnecessary to proffer any other evidence because, without a notice, Wilmington could not prevail. After the Superior Court entered judgment against Wilmington, Wilmington appealed and challenged the exclusion of the notice.

It was the wrong path

COVID-19 and Appellate Practice: A Maine Update

I recently wrote about the orders affecting appellate practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the importance of staying up to date with current developments.  While those developments continue at a relentless pace, there was one I thought it particularly helpful to highlight here.  The Maine Supreme Court recently issued a consolidated Pandemic Management Order.  That order addresses the 49-day extension to appellate deadlines, and makes it clear that the deadline for filing notices of appeal are no longer extended.  It also specifically addresses the deadlines applicable to appeals that ripened between March 17 (the date of the Court’s prior order) and March 30 (the date of the consolidated Pandemic Management Order). For appeals that ripened during that timeframe, the appeal period began to run as of the date of the consolidated Pandemic Management order.   This is an important clarification for appellate practitioners.

 

COVID-19 and Appellate Practice

Holed up here in my home office like many of you, I thought it would be a helpful time to take stock of the current state of affairs in the courts of appeal during this pandemic. As with most of life, COVID-19 has disrupted normal operations, leaving all of us in a state of uncertainty. But here is where things currently stand:

In the Supreme Court, the March oral argument session has been cancelled – a highly unusual step, but one that happened previously with the Spanish flu in 1918. The Supreme Court has also issued a standing order extending some deadlines, including the deadline for filing a petition for cert.

The First Circuit, meanwhile, has posted a notice stating that the April 6-9 sitting has been cancelled. No blanket order has yet issued extending deadlines, however. That may change. [UPDATE: The First Circuit has extended deadlines for many filings due

The Maine Constitution Turns 200! Does It Still Matter?

On March 15, 2020, Maine turns 200 years old. For any Mainer, especially history buffs, the bicentennial is an occasion worth celebrating. For any legal beagle, the bicentennial is worth celebrating for an additional reason: Maine’s Constitution is also celebrating its 200th birthday.

The Maine Constitution was adopted at convention on October 29, 1819, approved by the people on December 6, 1819, and became effective on the same date Maine became a state. The Maine Constitution has proven to be one of the nation’s most durable state charters. By my research, only three operative state constitutions are older: those of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. But does the Maine Constitution still matter?

A recent Law Court decision highlights this question. In State of Maine v. Weddle, the Law Court was presented with an interesting search-and-seizure question relating to a Maine statute authorizing law enforcement officers to test the blood of all drivers involved in a fatal, or likely fatal,

E-Filing is Coming, E-Filing is Coming!

Spreading the news that e-filing is coming might not have quite the same importance as the message delivered by Paul Revere and his fellow riders in 1775 – but e-filing is still worth noting. I attended the Maine State Bar Association winter meeting in January, which gave Maine practitioners a sneak preview of the state courts’ new e-filing system, File & Serve. It was an interesting and informative session.

The tentative plan, as attendees were informed, is to begin the process of rolling out e-filing at the end of this year. As many already know, e-filing is likely to be introduced first for Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties. But, of importance for appellate practitioners, it sounds like the court is also considering including not only the Business Court but also the Law Court in the initial implementation.

We are still waiting to see all of the rules surrounding e-filing, but the system that was previewed at the winter meeting appears to be user-friendly and promises