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Dem Govs Get It Done: Nominated by Gov. Janet Mills, First Black Justice Confirmed to Maine Supreme Court

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Gov. Janet Mills’ nomination of Judge Rick Lawrence to serve on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was unanimously approved by the state Senate this week — making Judge Lawrence the first Black justice confirmed to the court.

The historic confirmation is a “milestone in the fight for racial justice,” wrote the Portland Press Herald editorial board. “The appointment of Lawrence will open the horizons for young people, expanding their notions of what is possible in their lives.”

In another Portland Press Herald opinion article last month, journalist Abdi Nor Iftin contrasted Gov. Mills’ support of Black Mainers against hateful comments by Paul LePage, who once said people of color were enemies of the state and suggested they be shot.

Iftin wrote: “This news could not have come at a better time as Maine heads into a gubernatorial election year, when we will have to choose between a former governor, who called Black people rapists who bring drugs into the state, and the current governor, who has nominated the first Black man to the state’s highest court.”

Read key excerpts from the editorial below.

Portland Press Herald: Our View: Maine hits historic milestone with first Black justice

Congratulations to District Court Judge Rick Lawrence, whose nomination by Gov. Mills to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court received unanimous approval in the state Senate on Tuesday.

And congratulations to the state of Maine for finally reaching an important and long-overdue milestone in the fight for racial justice.

Lawrence will not only come to the court with an impressive resumé that includes 22 years on the bench. He will also be the first African American to serve on Maine’s highest court, adding a perspective on cases and an example for young people that has been missing until now.


The elevation of a Black man to such a prominent post could have an immediate impact, said Thomas Douglas, a civil litigator who co-chairs the recently created BIPOC lawyers’ section of the Maine State Bar Association, by making it easier to recruit other Black lawyers to come to Maine, statistically the whitest state in the union despite recent diversity gains.

And Lawrence’s confirmation could have a long-term impact as well. Just like the lifetime appointment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will become the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the appointment of Lawrence will open the horizons for young people, expanding their notions of what is possible in their lives.

We look forward to the day when an appointee’s race is not considered an important fact about them, but we aren’t there yet.

Lawrence’s confirmation is a big step in the right direction. We expect that there will be other African American judges in Maine’s courts, but none of them will have to be the first.