The Maine Conservation Voters (MCV) delivered over 2500 signatures, representing every Maine House and Senate district across the state, to legislative leadership calling for an investigation into the possible unethical behavior at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection,(DEP).
MCV’s creation of this petition came in response to Colin Woodard’s series, “The Lobbyist in the Henhouse” published in the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel. The series exposes the fact that Governor Paul LePage hired a former lobbyist who, after she became the DEP commissioner, continued to have ties with her special interests that she represented. This scandal rocked the LePage administration and led the governor to cut off all communication with these newspapers. The investigative report led to national coverage on cable news networks of the incident.
The petition reads, “It is unacceptable for vital environmental and public health protections to be subverted in the service of corporate interests. We ask the leaders of the Maine legislature to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation of the DEP to detail what unethical behavior has been committed, what laws, if any, have been broken, and what new regulations are needed to prevent this kind of improper influence in the future.”
Tags: Environment·Government transparency·Law·Maine's quality of life
Access to legal council is a fundamental right of all citizens but too many citizens do not understand the basics of the complex legal world. It can, after all, be intimidating. Many people automatically think they cannot afford legal council.
Research shows that the first place people go when they have a legal problem is to their local library.
This Wednesday, May 1st more than 60 lawyers will be in 43 libraries around the state, to provide resources and assistance to people seeking help on legal issues. The Lawyers in Libraries program will be held on Law Day from noon to 2 p.m. statewide. Lawyers will give presentations about free resources, and low-cost legal assistance. Some libraries will have private rooms set aside for participants to meet with the attorneys on private issues. Depending upon these discussions, in some instances, the lawyers might give out legal referrals.
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Federal officials have been asked to investigate allegations that Gov. Paul LePage intimidated and pressured appeals hearing officers to favor employers over workers in Department of Labor (DoL) cases.
A hearing officer is legally responsible to remain neutral when judging a case. A neutral decision-maker must base his/her decision on the evidence entered in the case according to the law and not on any external factor. LePage and members of his administration tried to influence DoL workers to break that rule. The story came to the attention of officials with an investigative report in the Sun Journal that described how many of the Department of Labor employees said that they felt harassed, abused and bullied by LePage after their mandatory March 21 luncheon. At the meeting the governor scolded his guests for finding too many unemployment-benefit appeals cases in favor of workers.
“Part of the right to due process is the right to a neutral decision-maker,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “We’re going to monitor the situation to make sure that everyone’s constitutional rights are upheld.”
The Maine Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the allegations. Democrats and labor unions condemned LePage’s actions.
On April 15, 2013 David Webbert, the president of The Maine Employment Lawyers Association wrote to Gay Gilbert, administrator at the Office of Unemployment Insurance Employment and Training Administration and Daniel Petrole, deputy inspector general at the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor, about the violations that allegedly occurred.
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Tags: Government transparency·Law
“As an industry leader Google has recognized that collecting personal and private data from an unsuspecting wifi network user is unacceptable. At the same time, this case is a reminder that people should take steps to protect themselves from unwarranted intrusions of their personal and financial matters. Password protecting your home or business wifi networks is a simple first step,” stated Attorney General Mills.
AG Mills joined 38 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement on Tuesday with Internet giant Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks around the nation while taking photographs for its Street View mapping service between 2008 and March 2010.
The agreement bans unauthorized data collection, requires training of Google employees on privacy and includes a nationwide campaign to education consumers on protecting their private information.
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Tags: Law·Maine's quality of life
“We are asking the FDA to require generic producers to take the same steps that producers of brand-name opioid pain killers have taken to make it harder to use their products illegally,” said Attorney General Mills. “Misuse and abuse of pain pills is a terrible problem in Maine. It is the number-one cause of crimes. We need to take comprehensive action to stem the tide of prescription drug abuse, and this action by the FDA would be an important step in that direction.”
Generic versions of popular pain relievers must be made harder to abuse, Attorney General Janet T. Mills and 47 other state and territorial attorneys general told federal officials in a letter sent today by the National Association of Attorneys General.
The letter encourages the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt standards requiring manufacturers and marketers of generic prescription painkillers to develop tamper- and abuse-resistant versions of their products.
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In his briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney talked about Caitlin Halligan, who was nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ms. Halligan, who has bipartisan support from lawyers and law enforcement, was put forward for this position in 2011.
Mr. Carney said there will be a cloture vote on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan tomorrow, 726 days after her nomination, and strongly urged the Senate to support an up-or-down vote for this well-qualified nominee. “When Republicans filibustered her nomination in 2011, several of them hung their objections – not on her qualifications or her judicial philosophy – but on the DC Circuit workload. In essence, they didn’t object to her as a judge, just that the seat did not need to be filled. But since then, there has been an additional vacancy, leaving the court with four vacancies (36 percent vacant) – in fact, the court has never been this understaffed in history, with 188 cases pending.”
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Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills has signed on to two separate friend-of-the-court briefs that urge the U.S. Supreme Court strike down laws that discriminate against same-sex couples. Maine joined an amicus brief, filed today, asking the Court to declare California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional and Maine has signed on to a second amicus brief that will be filed tomorrow, urging the Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Equal protection under the law is the bedrock on which America’s legal foundation is built,” said Attorney General Mills. “I am troubled by the notion that a state might declare that one group of Americans can be accorded the benefits of civil marriage, but another group of Americans is not. I was proud that Maine voters were the first to approve marriage equality at the ballot box last November and I am proud to join this effort to ensure that more people in America can have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. I hope the Supreme Court will grant all married couples the benefits of federal tax retirement, social security and other benefits.”
The DOMA is considered to be outdated and denies equal protection under the law.
“DOMA is an unwarranted intrusion into states’ rights and denies equal protection under the law,” said Mills. “The State of Maine has declared that same sex couples have a right to civil marriage under the law and the federal government should not subject these people to discriminatory treatment.”
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Maine’s Chief Leigh Justice called for creation of an e-filing system, continued commitment to courthouse safety measures, attention to mental health issues, and taking care of Maine’s youth during the annual State of the Judiciary to a Joint Session of the Maine Legislature.
The Chief Justice asked the Legislature to make Maine’s Judiciary “robust” in order to enforce the laws passed by the Legislature. Maine’s courts are among the slowest in the nation.
“In a world where records and communications are now routinely in digital format, our paper-based records are frankly out of step, and this affects public safety, public access, the costs of litigation, and the availability of important data,” said Saufley. “In short, this challenge affects every aspect of justice,” She asked the Legislature to allocate new funds to implement an electronic filing, or e-filing, system.
“Today, the Chief Justice outlined our need to advance Maine’s courts by bringing our courts in to the digital age,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond who also works as a lawyer. “Doing this will make our courts stronger and more responsive and efficient–and, will save money for those who are involved with Maine’s courts as well as taxpayers in the long-term.”
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Tags: Government transparency·Law
“Federal law protects low-income people and people with disabilities from losing their health insurance coverage through Medicaid,” said Jack Comart, litigation director for MEJP. “By granting Maine permission to reduce eligibility, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has violated the law by cutting health care benefits for people with disabilities and for low-income seniors. Those actions are unacceptable.”
Maine Equal Justice Partners,(MEJP), in cooperation with the National Health Law Program and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of Maine residents whose health care coverage through Medicaid will be terminated. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the cuts from taking place as scheduled on March 1 and also asks the court to qualify the lawsuit as a class action.
Gov. Paul LePage pushed the Medicaid cuts through the Legislature last year with the hope of receiving federal approval that would allow them to take place. In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rejected significant parts of LePage’s plan, but did grant permission to cut Medicaid for about 6,000 residents who qualify for Medicare and rely on Medicaid support as well.
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Tags: Health and Human Services·Law
Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced today that her office has filed suit against Standard & Poor’s (S&P) alleging that the company engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices in the rating of certain complex finance securities that were at the heart of the nation’s financial crisis.
“The mutual funds and pension funds of Maine residents, retirees and workers were adversely impacted by S&P’s misconduct,” said Mills. “The company promised independence, competence and objectivity, but what it provided were inflated ratings engineered to drive S&P’s profits at the expense of investors.”
The complaint, filed today in Kennebec County Superior Court, alleges that S&P operated with an inherent conflict of interest, prioritizing profits over objective ratings. It alleges that the company knew its analytical models could not adequately assess these complex securities but that it continued to rate the products anyway, often awarding them the highest and safest rating of AAA. The suit that alleges S&P’s misconduct began as early as 2001, becoming particularly acute between 2004 and 2007, and continuing into 2011.
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