Dubois and Epstein running for Androscoggin County judge of probate

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Name: Michael L. Dubois

Age: 58

Political Affiliation: Republican

Address: 588 Main St., Lewiston

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Phone Number: (207) 784-9329

Why do you want to be the judge of probate?

As the current Androscoggin County Judge of Probate, I would like to continue with this service to provide the citizens with the necessary professionalism, courtesy and sensitivity required to be the judge. As a former law enforcement officer and as a practicing attorney concentrating in family law matters, I have been exposed to the many problems that surface with families and want to utilize my expertise in assisting these residents in solving the delicate problems. I want to apply my firsthand, relevant experience along with my problem-solving skills to the probate process and continue providing these skills to benefit our friends, family members and neighbors.

What skills do you bring to the role of judge of probate?

I was unanimously voted president of the Maine Probate Judges Assembly by all sixteen sitting probate judges and continue to serve in this capacity. I have over twenty-five years of experience in assisting friends and families in tackling sensitive personal matters. In this capacity, I have perfected the needed skills to listen, relate, explain and guide these folks to satisfactory resolution of their problems. People need and deserve to be heard, at whatever level they are at, and as the judge of probate, I give them that.

As the current judge, I have demonstrated a judicial temperament portraying compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, sensitivity, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice. The most important skill for an effective probate judge is not to be a legal genius or scholar, but rather, it’s the ability to relate to the individuals who come before the court and to assist them in solving problems. I have mastered that skill.

This job is one that the public often knows very little about, encompassing issues as varied as wills, estates, guardianships, adoption and custody. How do you explain the job and its role?

First off, I love helping people, and I am proud to help guide families, often in very difficult times, maneuver their way through what can be a painful and confusing process as painlessly and efficiently as possible.

The probate judge does not set policy but applies the laws established by the policymakers to the specific circumstances brought before the court. Generally, probate consists of two processes; one is informal and the other is formal. An example of an informal probate process would be the filing of a will of a decedent seeking appointment of the designated individual as personal representative for purposes of administering the estate. This matter is typically handled by the register for probate and the qualified court staff, and does not come before the judge.

An example of a formal process is when the decedent does not have a will, and the parties cannot come to an agreement on their own. A personal representative needs to be appointed to administer the estate. This would be handled by the probate judge in a formal proceeding.

There are other areas of formal probate dealing with name changes, adoptions, guardianship/conservatorships of minors and incapacitated adults. Guardianships deal with a person’s ability to make decisions for themselves and conservatorships deal with the money.

The majority of what a probate judge does is directed toward handling these formal proceedings. These matters are very important since court orders stemming from guardianships affect our citizen’s rights as individuals. Any court order issued should be the least restrictive to the individual. It is important that everyone be provided with the opportunity to be heard so as to assure that our citizens retain their rights as individuals.

Probate Court is truly the people’s court. Approximately seventy percent of individuals appearing in Probate Court are not represented by attorneys. My job is to assist these individuals in explaining the law, why we have to follow it and what needs to be done to resolve the problem that led to the court process.

The attributes that I have developed from my specific experience are the attributes needed to effectively and efficiently administer the matters of probate.

Name: Elliott L. Epstein

Age: 67

Political affiliation: Democrat

Address: 8 Cushman Place, Auburn

Phone number: (207) 783-9462

Why do you want to be the judge of probate?

The office of probate judge for Androscoggin County is a position of great public importance which serves a lot of people. As far as I am concerned, it’s a twofer if I can do something that I love that also benefits the community.

I have had the good fortune of spending most of my working life as an attorney in private practice. This gave me the opportunity to help people overcome serious personal, family, business and financial difficulties and solve complex problems.

While I mainly represented individuals and small businesses in courts and before administrative boards, I also began acting as an arbitrator and mediator about 15 years ago. The role of arbitrator, essentially that of a private judge, is one which I have found immensely satisfying and which I look forward to performing in the public sector as judge of probate.

What skills do you bring to the role of judge of probate?

Although the office of judge of probate is an elective one, there’s neither a Democratic nor Republican way to run the Probate Court. There’s only one way — the legal way. A probate judge doesn’t make rules or policies. Those come from the legislature and the Supreme Judicial Court. What really matters is the competence, diligence and fairness of the judge in understanding and applying those rules and policies.

I’m entering my 36th year of practice as a trial and appellate attorney. I’ve tried many cases covering a broad spectrum of legal issues, including probate matters, handled numerous appeals to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and briefed one case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer-review rating awarded by that national organization for skill and ethical integrity. I’ve been an arbitrator for FINRA, a nationwide dispute resolution service for the securities industry, and a certified neutral for the Maine Superior Court system.

I was formerly a member of the Civil Rules Advisory Committee for the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and of the editorial committee of the Maine Bar Journal, a professional publication of the Maine State Bar Association, to which I’ve contributed a number of articles. I have also been a presenter on a variety of topics at continuing legal education seminars.

In addition to my activities within the legal profession, I have been very active in local civic, cultural and educational organizations. I founded Museum L-A and have served on its board for nearly two decades.

For the past eight years, I have written a Sunday Sun Journal column, titled “Rearview Mirror,” which has received three Maine Press Association awards, including a first-place award in 2014. I am the author of “Lucifer’s Child,” a book published in 2010 about a horrific local child murder, a crime which called national attention to the impact of domestic violence on children.

I served on the Auburn School Committee and the Auburn Planning Board. I am a former member of the Auburn Rotary Club, perform regularly in both the Auburn Community Concert Band, and have taught history as an adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College.

The job is one that the public often knows very little about, encompassing issues as varied as wills, estates, guardianship, adoption and custody. How do you explain the job and its role? 

The Probate Court’s core role involves establishing the validity of wills and overseeing personal representatives in the administration of decedents’ property and debts. Much of this work is uncontested and involves the processing of routine paperwork by the probate register and clerks. The judge becomes involved only if in there are disputes between interested parties.

The court’s other major functions involve the appointment and supervision of guardians and conservators for children and disabled adults, and the approval of adoptions. Guardianship proceedings are similar to the custody proceedings that occur in District Court in divorce, family matters and protective custody cases.

However, guardianship cases are especially sensitive, since they entail the protection of the person and property of vulnerable people, such as adults with severe physical or mental impairments or children whose parents are temporarily unable, unwilling or unfit to care for them.

The probate judge provides the final safeguard in the adoption process, approving adoptions which have been investigated and cleared by DHHS or other licensed agencies.

The Probate Court is unique in that it is often utilized by people who are not represented by attorneys. For that reason, it is sometimes referred to as “The People’s Court.” This places extra responsibility on the shoulders of the judge to educate participants and maintain courtroom decorum in cases which may involve family fights that are charged with emotion.

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