Senate OKs Dow as Judge: Fort Kent Native Faced GOP Foes

Wednesday Jan 24, 2007

By Judy Harrison
Source:  Bangor Daily News
Wednesday,January 24, 2007
Edition: all, Section: b, Page 1
AUGUSTA - In a party-line vote, the state Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nomination of a Fort Kent native to be a District Court judge.

Senate Republicans opposed the nomination of Charles A. Dow, 33, of Winthrop, arguing that he was too young and inexperienced to be on the bench.

He is scheduled to be sworn in Monday afternoon in the governor's office.

Dow will be a traveling judge, presiding in courts around the state, for the next few years.

It is widely expected that he will be assigned permanently to his native Aroostook County when there is an opening on the District Court there.

"I'm looking forward to the work," Dow, who has worked in the state Attorney General's Office since 2001, said after the vote. "I'm looking forward to dealing with regular people every day in the people's court."

Dow's recent duties have included dealing with legislative issues, representing Attorney General Steven Rowe and the Attorney General's Office before the public and occasionally handling administrative hearings on child abuse and neglect issues.

He has served as counsel to Democratic legislative leaders, including Rowe when he was speaker of the House. Dow had a stint in private practice in 1997, according to a questionnaire he completed in seeking the court post.

During a brief debate Tuesday, Sen. David Hasting III, R-Fryeburg, said Dow's ample experience in public policy does not translate into the legal experience needed to be a judge.

Hastings said that other candidates reviewed and questioned had far more experience as practicing attorneys dealing with clients and with the nuances of the rules of evidence and court procedure.

Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said Dow had demonstrated "superior legal, analytical and communicative skills" during his time in the Attorney General's Office, attributes that qualify him well for the bench.

Last week, the Legislature's Judiciary Committee on a vote of 9-3, with one Republican member absent, voted to recommend Dow be confirmed by the Senate. Rep. Robert A. Berube, R-Lisbon, who supported Dow's nomination at the committee hearing, switched his vote on the Senate floor.

The vote Tuesday was on a motion to reject the recommendation of the Judiciary Committee with 18 Democrats voting against it and 17 Republicans voting in favor of it. There are 18 Democrats and 17 Republicans in the Senate. It would have taken a two-thirds majority to override the committee's recommendations.

The Senate on Tuesday also unanimously confirmed Public Safety Commissioner Michael P. Cantara and attorneys MaryGay Kennedy of Brunswick, John O'Neil of Kennebunk and Valerie Stanfill of Turner. District Court Judge Andre Horton of Falmouth was elevated to the Superior Court bench.

District Court Judge Vendean Vafiades, who regularly presides in Augusta and is the daughter of the late Bangor lawyer Lew Vafiades, was confirmed for the three-seat Public Utilities Commission.

Three of the District Court judicial appointments and the Superior Court appointee are the result of a law enacted last session that creates a state Business Court. The new judges will fill positions of current members of the judiciary who will become business court judges.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Correction: A story published on Page B1 on Wednesday concerning the Maine Senate's confirmation vote on judicial nominees requires a correction. Rep. Robert A. Berube, R-Lisbon, was the only Republican member of the Judiciary Committee who voted to recommend that Charles A. Dow, 33, of Winthrop be confirmed. Berube did not change his vote or vote in the Senate on Tuesday.