AUGUSTA (AP) – The state Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nomination of Charles A. Dow as a state District Court judge despite opposition from Republicans, who said Dow lacks courtroom experience.

A Fort Kent native, Dow is to serve on the bench in Aroostook County after he is sworn in Monday.

In a vote that followed party lines, 17 senators voted to oppose the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that Dow win confirmation, but that number fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a committee’s recommendation. Eighteen senators voted for Dow’s appointment.

Dow, a 33-year-old attorney who now lives in Winthrop, has worked since 2001 in the attorney general’s office. His duties have included dealing with legislative issues, representing that office before the public and occasionally handling administrative hearings on child abuse and neglect issues.

Previously, Dow served as legal counsel to former Democratic legislative leaders and 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 Hastings III of Fryeburg said Dow’s ample experience in public policy does not translate into legal experience needed to be a judge.

Also winning unanimous confirmation votes for District Court judgeships were MaryGay Kennedy of Brunswick; John H. O’Neil of Kennebunk, and Valerie Stanfill of Turner. District Judge Andrew Horton of Falmouth was elevated to the Superior Court bench.

The District Court judicial appointments 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.

Hastings, one of the three Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who opposed Dow, said several other candidates for judgeships who were reviewed at the same time as Dow had far more experience as practicing attorneys dealing with clients and with the nuances of rules of evidence and court procedure.

Describing Dow as “a man of intelligence, a man (with) sincere desire to serve the state of Maine, a man of compassion,” Hastings said he took no joy in opposing the nomination. But he said Gov. John Baldacci could have found a more qualified candidate to nominate for the northern Maine judgeship.

from the Aroostook County bar.

Democratic Sen. Barry Hobbins, a Saco Democrat who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said Dow received high praise from Attorney General Steven Rowe and others during his committee review.

Hobbins 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. Hobbins also noted Dow graduated cum laude from the University of Maine at Fort Kent with a double major, and received his law degree from the UMaine School of Law in 1997.

With rare exceptions, Maine judicial candidates breeze through the confirmation process and receive overwhelming if not unanimous votes of support in committee and in the Senate.

That was the case Tuesday with several other judicial candidates, notably current Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara as district judge. Cantara, of Biddeford, previously served as York County district attorney.

The current chief judge of the District Court, Vendean Vafiades, was confirmed for the three-seat Public Utilities Commission.

AP-ES-01-23-07 1500EST