The executive director of Maine’s Indigent legal defense program has announced he is leaving the agency by the end of June.

In Tuesday’s email titled “Changing of the Guard,” Justin W. Andrus tells other lawyers working for the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services that he gave his notice Monday.

Justin Andrus, executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, speaks in front of the Judiciary Committee at the State House on Jan. 17. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“Getting here has not been easy for any of us. I agreed to serve a brief interim while the Commission found an Executive Director, and ended up staying through a whole new chapter. My chapter is at an end, however. Last night I formally advised the Commission that my last day as Executive Director will be no later than June 30, 2023,” Andrus said.

“I look forward to seeing what the next chapter looks like for indigent defense in Maine. Thank you all for being part of it,” Andrus added.

Andrus did not provide a reason for his decision to leave, and did not respond to an email and phone message seeking further comment.

The commission uses assigned private attorneys and contract counsel to provide representation to indigent criminal defendants, juvenile defendants, parents in child protective cases, and people facing involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital. The commission does not provide representation to people in other types of cases, such as divorce, eviction, foreclosure or small claims.


Andrus said the MCILS office has come a long way in the past two years. It started with three staff and has grown into a “legitimate public defense organization,” he said in his email.

“Two years ago, our future was completely opaque. Today, you will be paid fairly and, with your work and the work of the defenders who have joined us internally, we are much closer to ensuring quality counsel for all entitled to it,” Andrus said.

Andrus also mentioned in his email that Gov. Janet Mills’ supplemental budget for the remainder of the fiscal year includes an increase in the hourly rate for assigned counsel to $150 per hour, effective March 1. He expects the commission will approve the rate increase at its Wednesday meeting.

“This increase is the product of hard work by many people, chief among them you. You have continued to step up, day after day, case after case, to serve the people of Maine,” Andrus said.

The MCILS has had its share of staffing problems in recent weeks.

Longtime indigent defense attorney Seth Levy resigned on Jan. 20, less than two months after accepting the job of lead public defender at MCILS’ Maine’s Rural Defender Unit. Levy, who was to be paid $104,000 a year, was to lead the state’s first five public defenders in representing poor residents of rural parts of Maine. Until late last year, Maine was the only state that didn’t employ traditional public defenders.

In an interview with the Press Herald, Levy said he quickly realized that his vision for the job did not line up with that of Andrus. But he said he’s still optimistic the unit will succeed.

In late January, the MCILS called an emergency meeting and voted to have Andrus fill Levy’s job for no more than six months while commission staff sorted through more candidates.

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