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Chief Justice Leigh Saufley named Dean of UMaine School of Law

Saufley has served as Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court since 2001 and will continue to fill that role through April 14.

PORTLAND, Maine — University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy announced Wednesday that Leigh Ingalls Saufley has been appointed as the next dean of the University of Maine School of Law. 

According to Malloy, Saufley was selected after an extensive national search for the law school’s next leader. She will begin leading Maine’s only law school on April 15.

Saufley has served as Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court since 2001 and will continue to fill that role and meet her obligations to the Maine Judicial Branch through April 14.

“We are eager to celebrate the announcement of our new law school dean but understand that these unprecedented times require accommodations from the norm,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Chief Justice Saufley is nationally renowned for her accomplishments as a jurist and her commitment to public service. Next week we will have much more to say about how these attributes fit into our future plans for legal education and service in Maine.”

A notification of Chief Justice Saufley’s pending resignation from the Maine Supreme Court has been shared with court system colleagues and staff as part of the court’s continuity and leadership transition work. In keeping with judicial canons and the chief justice’s responsibilities to the judiciary, she will not be addressing her new role at the University of Maine School of Law prior to her resignation from the court.

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A virtual introduction event with Maine Law students, faculty, and staff and a formal announcement are being planned for April 15.

On Wednesday, Governor Janet Mills released the following statement in response to the announcement:

“The judiciary is fortunate to have had such a dynamic and thoughtful leader as Chief Justice Saufley. I have appreciated her perspective and our partnership on critical issues such as the opioid crisis, as well as our collaborative work to strengthen the judicial branch and improve the lives of Maine people. I have known Justice Saufley for thirty years and have practiced before her in the District Court, the Supreme Court and the Law Court. At every level she has demonstrated legal acumen and common sense. While she will be missed on our highest court, her leadership and experience will be a significant asset to the University of Maine School of Law and the next generation of legal professionals in Maine. On behalf of the people of Maine, I thank Justice Saufley for her service to our state and offer my sincere congratulations on this well-deserved appointment.”

Dmitry Bam continues to serve as interim dean of the University of Maine School of Law.

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In consultation with the governor’s Judicial Nominations Advisory Committee, Mills' office will begin the process of reviewing candidates to succeed the chief justice. In the meantime, and by law, the senior associate justice, Andrew Mead, will assume the duties of the chief justice. Mills hopes to nominate a successor in the coming months, but given that the appointment will require confirmation by the Maine State Senate, and that the legislature has adjourned as a result of COVID-19, it is not yet clear when a confirmation hearing may be held. The governor has said that she will call back the legislature when it is safe to do so. Several active retired justices of the Maine Supreme Court are available to sit and decide cases by assignment so that there isn't a void.

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