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How Does the Maine District Court Work?

District Courts in Maine are trial courts, which handle civil, criminal, and family matters. These courts always sit without a jury. Examples of civil cases brought before the District Courts are involuntary commitments (where persons are admitted into psychiatric hospitals against their will), and domestic relations cases (divorces, separations, custody, and property disputes). Other civil cases include protection from abuse and civil suits claiming monetary damages. A plaintiff in a civil action who has a right to trial by jury waives such right by bringing the action before a District Court. In contrast, a defendant who has a right to a civil jury may remove the action to a Superior Court for a jury trial.

Maine District Courts also handle cases involving civil violations and class D and E criminal offenses in which the defendant waives the right to a jury trial. Class D and E criminal offenses involve assault, operating under the influence, disorderly conduct, operating under suspension, theft of property, the value of which does not exceed $2,000. Additionally, traffic infraction cases and all juvenile matters are heard in the District Court. Persons charged with the more serious criminal offenses ranging from Class A to C may plead guilty in the District Court; however, trials for such crimes are held in the Superior Court.

District Courts hold a special session called the Small Claims Court in each district on specific days determined by the Chief Judge of the District Court. During these special sessions, court procedure is simplified, hearings are informal and typically held more quickly, and both sides in a case are permitted to appear without attorneys. Small claims sessions are only required when the amount in dispute, not including interest and cost, is not more than $6,000. Either side may file a notice of appeal within 30 days of losing a small claims case. The plaintiff in a small claims case may appeal to the Superior Court on questions of law only. In contrast, the defendant may appeal to the Superior Court on questions of law or fact and request a jury trial. District Courts make mediation available for both parties before the commencement of small claims hearings to try and resolve the dispute. Examples of small claim cases include where:

  • A person loaned a personal property to another person who did not return it, or returned it in a damaged condition;
  • A purchase of unsatisfactory goods from a business or individual where the person will not refund the money, give credit, provide an acceptable exchange, or repair the goods;
  • A former landlord has refused, without justification, to return a security deposit;
  • Collecting a debt for goods or services owned by a business or individual;
  • A former tenant has refused to pay for damage to a rental property for which the tenant is responsible.

To start a case in the small case court, complete a Statement of Claim form from the clerk’s office in any Maine District Court. Consequently, the defendant is served a notice of the case. Afterward, file the Statement of Claim with the clerk’s office within 20 days and pay the appropriate filing fee. Persons who cannot afford the filing fee may ask the court to waive it by completing an Application to Proceed without Payment of Fees. Subsequently, the clerk’s office notifies both parties of a hearing with the date, time, and location, by mail.

Established within the District Court is a Family Division with jurisdiction over family matters filed in the court. The Division provides a responsive system of justice to the needs of families and the support of their children. The practice, procedure, and administration of the Family Division are governed by the administrative orders and court rules adopted by the Maine Supreme Court. The procedures and practices of the Family Division include education for the parties in a case management, mediation and other alternate dispute resolution techniques.

There are eight Family Law Magistrates who serve in the Family Division of the Maine District Court. These Magistrates are employed by the Chief Judge of the District Court. These appointments are subject to the approval of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. Per the Maine Revised Statute §183, Family Law Magistrates are required to be members of the Bar and have experience in the area of family law. Such experience include mediation and other alternate dispute resolution techniques, domestic violence. The candidates should also be interested in child development, family dynamics, and case management.

The District Courts handle eviction hearings, referred to as Forcible Entry and Detainer Actions (FED). Such cases are unique court processes typically initiated by landlords as a legal way to evict a tenant where the tenant does not leave after the expiration of a lease, rent is not paid, or the landlord cancels the lease. Maine District Courts make mediation available through the Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (CADRES) in eviction actions, which may be requested in advance or when parties appear in court on the day of the hearing.

There are 38 judges in Maine District Courts. These judges hold court sessions in eight judicial regions at several locations throughout Maine. District Court judges are appointed to seven-year terms by the Governor with confirmation by the Maine Senate. District Court judges may be reappointed to serve multiple terms. The only requirement by statute to serve on the District Court is to be a member of the state bar.

To obtain a court record from Maine District Courts, complete a Request for Records Search form, and mail in a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Judicial Branch Service Center

PO Box 266

Lewiston, ME 0424

OR

By FedEx or UPS to:

250 Goddard Road

Lewiston, ME 04240

Note that there is a $20 fee attached per name, per box checked in the court location(s) section of the form, as a record search fee. There is also an extra copy fee of $2 for the first page and $1 for each additional page. Attested (with the court seal) copies also cost $5 per document. Payment is acceptable in the form of a check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or Discover). A 2.39% convenience fee is charged on all credit card payments. A $5 postage and handling fee applies where necessary.

Individuals requesting a record search on themselves may query the court(s) where the records are located. Such persons are exempt from the research fee. For more information on obtaining court records from Maine District Courts, call the Judicial Branch Service Center on (207) 753–2901 or send a mail to jbrecordcheck@courts.maine.gov. The locations of Maine District Courts are listed below:

District Court in Androscoggin County

Androscoggin County District Court

71 Lisbon Street

PO Box 1345

Lewiston, ME 04243

Phone: (207) 795–4800

District Courts in Aroostook County

Aroostook County District Court - Caribou

144 Sweden Street

#104, Caribou, ME 04736

Phone: (207) 493–3144

Aroostook County District Court - Fort Kent

139 Market Street

#101, Fort Kent, ME 04743

Phone: (207) 834–5003

Aroostook County District Court - Houlton

26 Court Street

#201, Houlton, ME 04730

Phone: (207) 532–2147

Aroostook County District Court - Madawaska

645 Main Street

Madawaska, ME 04756

Phone: (207) 728–4700

Aroostook County District Court - Presque Isle

27 Riverside Drive

PO Box 794

Presque Isle, ME 04769

Phone: (207) 764–2055

District Courts in Cumberland County

Cumberland County District Court - Bridgton

3 Chase Street

#2, Bridgton, ME 04009

Phone: (207) 647–3535

Cumberland County District Court - Portland

205 Newbury Street

PO Box 412

Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 822–4200

District Court in Franklin County

Franklin County District Court - Farmington

129 Main Street

#1, Farmington, ME 04938

Phone: (207) 778–2119

District Court in Hancock County

Hancock County District Court - Ellsworth

50 State Street

#2, Ellsworth, ME 04605

Phone: (207) 667–7141

District Courts in Kennebec County

Kennebec County District Court - Augusta

1 Court Street

#101, Augusta, ME 04330

Phone: (207) 213–2800

Kennebec County District Court - Waterville

18 Colby Street

Waterville, ME 04901

Phone: (207) 873–2103

District Court in Knox County

Knox County District Court - Rockland

62 Union Street

Rockland, ME 04841

Phone: (207) 596–2240

District Court in Lincoln County

Lincoln County District Court - Wiscasset

32 High Street

PO Box 249

Wiscasset, ME 04578

Phone: (207) 882–6363

District Courts in Oxford County

Oxford County District Court - Rumford

145 Congress Street

Rumford, ME 04276

Phone: (207) 364–7171

Oxford County District Court - South Paris

26 Western Avenue

South Paris, ME 04281

Phone: (207) 743–8942

District Courts in Penobscot County

Penobscot County District Court - Bangor

78 Exchange Street

Bangor, ME 04401

Phone: (207) 561–2300

Penobscot County District Court - Lincoln

52 Main Street

Lincoln, ME 04457

Phone: (207) 794–8512

Penobscot County District Court - Millinocket

207 Penobscot Avenue

Millinocket, ME 04462

Phone: (207) 723–4786

Penobscot County District Court - Newport

12 Water Street

Newport, ME 04953

Phone: (207) 368–5778

District Court in Piscataquis County

Piscataquis County District Court - Dover-Foxcroft

159 E Main Street

#21, Dover-Foxcroft, ME 04426

Phone: (207) 564–2240

District Court in Sagadahoc County

Sagadahoc County District Court - West Bath

101 New Meadows Road

West Bath, ME 04530

Phone: (207) 442–0200

District Court in Somerset County

Somerset County District Court - Skowhegan

47 Court Street

Skowhegan, ME 04976

Phone: (207) 474–9518

District Court in Waldo County

Waldo County District Court - Belfast

103 Church Street

Belfast, ME 04915

Phone: (207) 338–3107

District Courts in Washington County

Washington County District Court - Calais

382 South Street, Suite B

Calais, ME 04619

Phone: (207) 454–2055

Washington County District Court - Machias

85 Court Street

PO Box 526

Machias, ME 04654

Phone: (207) 255–3044

District Courts in York County

York County District Court - Biddeford

25 Adams Street

Biddeford, ME 04005

Phone: (207) 283–1147

York County District Court - Springvale

447 Main Street

Springvale, ME 04083

Phone: (207) 459–1400

York County District Court - York

11 Chases Pond Road

York, ME 03909

Phone: (207) 363–1230

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