AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci’s chief legal counsel said Wednesday the nomination of veteran Assistant Attorney General Susan Sparaco for a District Court judgeship had “absolutely nothing” to do with her close personal relationship with Baldacci’s chief of staff.

Michael Mahoney, the governor’s lawyer, said Baldacci had taken “extra care” with the selection, given that his top aide, Jane Lincoln, and Sparaco, are domestic partners.

“It certainly did not work in her favor … It’s on the merits, there’s no doubt about that,” Mahoney said.

Sparaco’s selection, along with eight other judicial nominations, was announced late Tuesday in an administration news release that made no mention of the family status of Baldacci’s choices.

On Wednesday, Lincoln referred questions to Mahoney, who said Lincoln had avoided involvement in Sparaco’s review.

Mahoney said talks about the nomination had involved himself and the chairman of the governor’s screening committee, Portland lawyer John Hobson.

“Was Jane? Never,” Mahoney said. “At no time did Jane and I ever have a substantive discussion about this appointment.”

Mahoney said he believed Sparaco, a lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office for more than 19 years, first applied for a judgeship in August 2006 and was subsequently grouped with perhaps 20 others for interviews. She is currently assigned to her office’s litigation and consumer protection divisions.

Sparaco, a graduate of the University of Maine who received her law degree from the University of Maine School of Law, received a favorable review and, “From that point on,” Mahoney said, “she’s really been sort of under consideration.”

Describing the relationship of Lincoln and Sparaco, Mahoney said, “They are partners. They’ve had a committed relationship for some time now.”

Judicial nominations are subject to review by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and Senate confirmation.

In responding to a legislative staff questionnaire for gubernatorial nominees on why she sought a judicial appointment, Sparaco wrote, “for the opportunity and privilege of addressing the legal needs of my fellow citizens on issues central to their lives.”

Regarding experience, Sparaco wrote, “I bring 20 years experience in the public sector handling a wide mix of cases in a variety of forums including District Court,” with “extensive experience dealing with pro se litigants and lay people.”

The nine nominations announced Tuesday included the proposed promotion of District Court Judge William Anderson of Morrill to the Superior Court. Others put forth included District Court nominees Jeffrey Moskowitz of Saco and Sparaco, who lives in Farmingdale.

The governor proposed for reappointment Justices Roland Cole of Wells and Robert Crowley of Kennebunk to the Superior Court and nominated Justice Donald Marden of Oakland, a 13-year veteran of the trial court, for active retired status.

Judges Paul Cote Jr. of Auburn and Andre Janelle of Saco were renominated to the District Court and Jane Bradley of Freeport, a member of the court for nearly 22 years, was proposed for active retired appointment.

“All the reappointments and the new appointments are fine lawyers and received high ratings by the selection committee,” said Democratic Sen. Barry Hobbins of Saco, a co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Lincoln, who had been the state’s acting transportation commissioner, was named to serve as chief of staff by Gov.-elect Baldacci in December 2002 as he prepared to take over as the state’s chief executive.

She had been deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation for 14 years.

AP-ES-01-23-08 1455EST

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