20 years ago this month, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court disbarred a former judge who had been found liable for fraud while a judge. In re Cox, 658 A.2d 1056 (Maine 1995). The judge had obtained easements from a neighboring land owner by representing that the easements were for his personal use for utility lines and then sold the easements to a developer. The investigation of the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability had commenced while he was still an active judge, but he applied for disability retirement after the Committee had asked him to respond to the charges, and his application was approved.
The Court rejected the former judge’s argument that the proceeding was moot because he was no longer a judge. Stating it designed sanctions to restore public confidence in the administration of justice and to announce publicly its condemnation of judicial misconduct, the Court held its authority to discipline the former judge was acquired when he qualified for his judicial position and continued after his retirement for any conduct that occurred while he was a judge. The Court also concluded that, in light of the former’s judge’s avaricious and dishonest conduct, a mere fine or public condemnation could not adequately express its grave disapproval and would do little to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary.