2014 Access to Justice Symposium

On January 30 – 31, the Justice Action Group – together with the University of Maine School of Law, the Maine State Bar Association, and the Maine Bar Foundation – hosted the 2014 Access to Justice Symposium.

Attorneys and other professionals working with Maine families need to understand the impact of increasing cultural and religious diversity, marriage equality, and the various forms of legal proceedings on such families and particularly on children. This Symposium explored ways to meet these challenges now and to develop more efficient, fair, and affordable systems to meet the needs of all Maine families into the future.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Interdisciplinary Panel Discussion – Relations & Rights: Emerging Issues for Maine Families

Join national and local experts for an exploration of recent developments in marriage equality, cross-cultural and legal issues in delivering justice to immigrant families, and the interaction of probate court and family court jurisdiction.

  • Justice Ellen Gorman, (moderator), Associate Justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
  • Barbara A. Babb, Director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts.
    Presentation Materials
  • Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
    Presentation Materials
  • Aisha Rahman, Executive Director of KARAMAH, a global network of advocates for the rights of Muslim women, and also serves as the head of the organization’s Family Law Division.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Plenary Session: Family Justice System Reform

The call for family justice system reform remains critical in the face of the growing complexity of burgeoning family law cases nationwide. Many states have restructured their court systems using the unified family court model, resolving legal, personal, emotional, and social disputes with the aim of improving the well-being of families and children. Professor Babb plans to present a blueprint to create a unified family court, as well as information about trends in family law adjudication and how states are handling family law matters.

Panel 1:  Marriage Equality: Tax and Estate Issues

Join local experts in an exploration of Estate and Tax planning, Elder law (including long term care planning), and real estate issues in the wake of Windsor.

  • Victoria Powers (moderator), Shareholder in the firm of Toole and Powers, PA in Portland
  • Jeffrey A. Maine, Professor at the University of Maine School of Law who specializes in tax law.
  • Matthew R. Dubois, Esq., Partner at the law firm of Vogel & Dubois in Portland where he focuses his practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning, planning for aging and retirement, planning for LGBT persons and their families, and probate.
  • Brenda M. Buchanan, Partner in the Portland firm Warren, Currier & Buchanan, LLC. Brenda has helped hundreds of same-sex couples protect and honor their familial relationships.

Panel 2: Navigating Cultural and International Issues for Immigrant/Refugee Families

National and local experts share information and “tips” for negotiating cultural differences and logistical hurdles when working with Maine’s refugee/immigrant populations including problems arising from cultural norms, “missing” documentation of family events (births, marriages), and application of international law.  

  • Aisha Rahman, Executive Director of KARAMAH and serves as head of the organization’s Family Law Division.
  • Rachelle Parise, Attorney with Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
  • Fatuma Hussein, Advocate for the rights of women and children. She founded United Somali Women of Maine for which she serves as Executive Director.
  • M. Calien Lewis (moderator), Served as Executive Director of the Maine Bar Foundation, Maine Pretrial Services and the Family Crisis Shelter.

Panel 3:  Marriage Equality: Adoption, Parental Rights, and Divorce and the Impact on Children

This panel will focus on changes for families with children in Maine now that we have marriage equality. Discussion will include intra state issues, DOMA, assisted reproduction, and de facto parenting.  The panel will also respond to more expansive questions such as:

  1. Is there a tension between protecting the rights of parents within a marriage and having a more expansive view of parenting?
  2. What makes a parent? Intention? Behavior over time? Genetics?
  3. How should Maine be responding to the changing family?
  • Juliet Holmes-Smith, Esq. (moderator), Director Volunteer Lawyers Project
  • Abigail King Diggins, Partner with the Portland law firm of LeBlanc & Young. She is a member of the Trusts and Estates, Elder Law, and Women’s Law Sections of the Maine State Bar Association.
  • Jennifer L. Levi, Director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and a nationally recognized expert on transgender legal issues.
  • The Honorable Mary Kelly, Maine District Court Judge

Panel 4: Parental Rights Disputes in Probate Court:  Questions, Conflicts, and Strategies

This panel will consider the current role of Maine’s probate courts in parental rights disputes, particularly in the guardianship and adoption context.  The panel will explain the current state of probate court jurisdiction and potential intersections with state court jurisdiction, discuss best practices for judges and practitioners where there are related state court proceedings, and consider how the dual court jurisdiction may be adjusted to better serve Maine families.
Presentation Materials, Custody Chart

  • The Honorable Wayne R. Douglas, Maine District Court judge and serves as chair of the Family Law Advisory Commission.
  • Janet K. Kantz, Partner in the Portland law firm of Vincent, Kantz, Pittman & Thompson, LLC. She specializes in the areas of Divorce and Family Law including Parental Rights, Child Custody and Support, Guardian Ad Litem, Emancipation and Juvenile Defense.
  • The Honorable Joseph Mazziotti, Appointed Judge of Probate for Cumberland County 2004, 2006, and re-elected in 2010.
  • Barbara Raimondi, Partner in the Auburn law firm of Trafton and Matzen, LLP. Barbara’s practice has been in general civil litigation with a focus on family law.
  • Deirdre Smith (moderator), Professor of Law and Director of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Maine School of Law.

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