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Gov. Janet Mills Praised for Nominating First Black Judge to Supreme Court

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Nomination Contrasted with Paul LePage’s History of Racist Remarks

A new opinion article in the Portland Press Herald praises Gov. Janet Mills for nominating the first Black judge to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“Judge Rick Lawrence’s confirmation would be a giant step for Maine’s minority and Black communities,” wrote journalist Abdi Nor Iftin.

Gov. Mills’ nomination of Judge Lawrence could restore Black communities’ faith in the Maine justice system by addressing incarceration of Black and brown communities and creating programs to inform communities about drugs and other offenses.

Iftin stressed the importance of electing leaders like Gov. Mills who stand by Black Mainers, writing: “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.”

As governor, Paul LePage said people of color were enemies of the state and suggested they be shot. He also said, “Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers.”

Read key excerpts from the opinion article below.

Portland Press Herald: Through My Lens: Justice could be served with Maine Supreme Court appointee

Gov. Janet Mills last week nominated the first Black judge to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Judge Rick Lawrence’s confirmation would be a giant step for Maine’s minority and Black communities.

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.

[…]

Judge Lawrence has a lot of experience in these racial disparities, and he would be the one who can restore the Black communities’ faith in the Maine justice system. He could be the person who understands the psychological challenges incarceration has brought upon Maine’s Black and brown communities. Lawrence would also connect with communities across the state to work on programs to inform communities about drugs and other offenses that result in the tough charges against people in Maine’s criminal justice system.

While Lawrence’s nomination and/or confirmation may not immediately help ease the pain of the justice system, it would be a step towards making Maine more welcoming and making its people feel the “Welcome Home” slogan is theirs. It was only a couple of months ago when New Mainers celebrated the election of the state’s first Somali-American mayor; this made them proud of their new state.

While that representation matters a lot, the most critical representation is the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and Lawrence, if approved, will have to look carefully at wrongful convictions of Black people, teens in adult prisons and excessive punishments that Black people in this state have been facing for years. It is about time someone challenges these issues at the highest level and advocate for systemic reform. We expect Lawrence to reach out to us.

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