AUBURN — A local judge presided Monday over the disciplinary hearing of York County Judge of Probate Robert M. A. Nadeau, who is accused of violating the code of judicial conduct by blurring the lines among his roles as a Maine judge, private attorney and citizen.

Among charges by the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability is that Nadeau linked his private law practice to a judicial website and that he created a Facebook page that he characterized as the “official” page of the York County probate judge.

In its report, the committee brought five counts, including the claim that Nadeau had threatened attorney Tyler Smith in a letter and made use of an electronic message he obtained in his official capacity as a judge and that he used for his private interests. The committee also found that Nadeau made assertions of categorical bias by referring to the Maine District Court judge who handled his lawsuit against Smith’s client as “very female-biased and unknowing.”

Nadeau is no stranger to the committee.

In 2007, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the committee that Nadeau had knowingly misrepresented facts about two of his campaign opponents in the 2004 Democratic primary. He was censured by the court for the violation and was suspended from his duties as judge for one month.

Nadeau also has run afoul of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar.

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As a practicing Maine attorney, Nadeau was disciplined by a single justice of the high court with a public reprimand for having had a sexual relationship with a divorce client in 2003, for being discourteous to a Maine Superior Court judge and for having contacted the client of an opposing attorney.

According to the committee’s latest report, Nadeau had made statements in a letter to Smith, a lawyer representing Lynann Frydrych, against whom Nadeau had filed a complaint for protection from harassment in York District Court.

Included in Nadeau’s March 22, 2014, letter was the statement: “I respectfully submit that this is going to become very bad for your client, for you and for your law firm.”

Cabanne Howard, who serves as counsel for the committee, appeared Monday in the Androscoggin County Superior Court Law Library to represent the committee in its five-count report before Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford, who was acting as a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Clifford said he was acting in his capacity as a fact-finder for the full court, but wouldn’t be making a recommendation or reaching any conclusions other than on points of law.

Stephen Wade, an attorney with the local firm Skelton, Tainter & Abbott, represented Nadeau at the three-hour hearing.

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Howard called Nadeau as a witness; Wade called as a witness Al Sicard, president of Rocky Coast Marketing of Saco, which created the website and Facebook page for Nadeau.

Howard said the judicial website that contained a link to Nadeau’s private law practice was a violation of the canon of the judicial code that says: “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge …”

Similarly, Howard said Nadeau’s Facebook page that said it was the “Official Page of York County Probate Judge Robert Nadeau” and displayed on the page a picture of the York County Courthouse and a picture of Nadeau in his judicial robes was a violation of the canon that reads, a judge … shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Questioned about the intent of his Web presence, Nadeau denied he intended to profit in his private law practice from his link to the judicial Web page. He maintained it was “definitely not my intention” to convey to the public that his Facebook page was the place where York County Probate Court business was conducted.

Nadeau said he instructed Sicard to remove the Facebook page and website link as soon as he learned of the committee’s concerns, he said. He apologized on the witness stand to Howard, saying he respected his opinion and the opinion of the committee.

Howard asked Nadeau why his statement in a letter to Smith shouldn’t be interpreted as a threat. The committee suggested Nadeau had violated the judicial code by attempting to bring to a private matter the prestige of his role as judge and cast doubt on his ability to act impartially as a judge.

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Nadeau said he understood how it could construed as a threat. “I deeply apologize,” he said. “It was not my intent to threaten anybody. As a matter of fact, that never even occurred to me.”

Nadeau said he was cautioning Smith that the legal matter could end up being costly for him in time and money. If Smith had responded by confronting Nadeau about the statement and whether that might affect his ability to get a fair hearing in probate court, Nadeau would have assured him that he would have been treated impartially and he wouldn’t preside over any matter involving Smith and his co-counsel, he said in response to a question posed by Wade.

Nadeau said he has always consulted the judicial canons if he ever had a question about the ethics involved in a judicial matter.

Nadeau was elected for two four-year terms as probate judge from 2002-08. He was elected again in 2012.

The only judge in Maine who are elected are probate judges, who work part time, so they can also practice law.

Howard said he would need a transcript of the hearing before drafting a post-hearing memorandum to which Wade would respond. The matter isn’t expected to go to the high court for at least six weeks.

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