Scott Dolan, a student attorney in Maine Law’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, argued his first appeal in front of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on October 23, 2018. The case, Edward Arbour v. Department of Corrections, concerned Mr. Arbour’s challenge of an administrative disciplinary punishment that he received while he was a prisoner at the Maine State Prison. Scott argued the case in front of about 100 Westbrook High School students as part of the Court’s annual educational training sessions.
Scott, a third year student, began working on this case as a student attorney in the Clinic over the summer when he was assigned to write a supplemental brief for Mr. Arbour.
Briefly put, the facts of the case are as follows:
Mr. Arbour was asleep in bed at 10:30 pm on December 16, 2016. He was in his bunk locked in his cell that he shared with another prisoner, who was also asleep. A guard making a late-night mail delivery, knocked on the window of his cell to wake Mr. Arbour. After being startled awake, Mr. Arbour said twenty-six words, including five cuss words, essentially saying that delivering mail at 10:30 at night was nonsense. For that, the guard, who was outside the locked cell, charged Mr. Arbour with harassment. A disciplinary hearing officer at the prison later found Mr. Arbour in violation of the harassment regulation. Mr. Arbour first appealed to the warden of the prison, who denied his appeal. He next wrote a hand-written appeal to the Superior Court, where his appeal was denied again. He then filed a typed appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Court assigned the case to the Clinic for supplemental briefing and oral argument.
Scott worked primarily with Clinical Professor Jim Burke on the appeal.
“In light of Scott’s background as a reporter, his strong interest in issues of free speech and due process, and the fact that he was one of our summer clinic students, it made a lot of sense to give him the job of writing the appeal and then doing the oral argument,” said Professor Jim Burke. “He already knew that writing well was hard work, and he rose to the occasion, producing a strong brief on behalf of his client. The Court did not cut him any slack, or treat him as if he were just a student. They treated him as they would any experienced lawyer. And he did a wonderful job.”
After arguing his case, Scott and the opposing counsel, Assistant Attorney General James Fortin, answered questions from the Westbrook High School students. According to Scott, the Q & A session with students was “the best part of the whole argument experience.”
Scott is currently waiting on a decision from the Court on this case.