Maine State Court System
- District Court:The district court handles civil matters, including civil suits claiming monetary damages, such as personal injury claims. The district court sits without a jury.
- Superior Court: The Superior Court is a court of general jurisdiction. It has jurisdiction over civil cases, such as personal injury lawsuits, and cases seeking equitable relief.
- Supreme Judicial Court: The Supreme Court is Maine’s court of last resort and has discretionary appellate jurisdiction over Superior Court and District Court cases.
*Some courts have jurisdiction over certain other proceedings which are not covered here.
In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 20 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.
After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:
- Written Discovery: is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:
- Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
- Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
- Depositions: In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
The law in Maine requires that all parties involved in a Superior Court civil action, with expected damages exceeding $30,000, to undergo mandatory alternative dispute resolution. If the parties cannot agree as to the method of alternative dispute resolution to be used (mediation, neutral evaluation, or nonbinding arbitration), the procedure will default to mediation.
Mediation is a flexible, informal process in which parties agree to work together with the assistance of a trained neutral third party, the mediator, to explore their interests and generate options for resolving their dispute. The mediator helps both sides to communicate with each other and assists the parties in clarifying and expressing their views. The mediator has no power to decide the case or impose a resolution. In mediation, any settlement is voluntary. The parties control the outcome.
Neutral Evaluation is an informal process in which parties present the disputed facts and legal issues to an experienced neutral evaluator. The evaluator may advise the parties on the strengths and weaknesses of their positions, predict a likely outcome if the case were to go to trial, or estimate the value of the case. The evaluator’s opinions are advisory only.
Non-binding Arbitration is a form of private hearing in which the parties submit their dispute to an impartial decision-maker, an arbitrator, or sometimes a panel of multiple arbitrators. The hearing is generally less formal and more private than a hearing in court. The arbitrator considers the evidence presented by the parties and then issues a decision about the dispute. The form of arbitration offered through the Maine courts is non-binding arbitration.
If the case goes to arbitration for reasons outlined above, the Court will select an arbitrator from a list of attorneys to hear the case. Each side, the plaintiff or defendant, may strike the assigned arbitrator if they choose to do so. If stricken, a new arbitrator will be selected. The arbitration hearing can last between 60 and 120 days. If a party is not satisfied with the arbitrators ruling, a Notice of Appeal may be filed within 20 days of the Arbitration award.
If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.
Motions and Appeals
After the jury returns their verdict, the parties may file post trial motions and/or appeal the verdict to the appropriate appellate court in Maine.
A judgment rendered in Maine is valid for 20 years.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Maine. Should you have a question/concern specific to Maine law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Maine.