History of the Maine Courts
A Salute to Justice Warren Max Silver
On December 31, 2014, after almost a decade on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Warren M. Silver retired from the bench to pursue other professional endeavors in the practice of law.
Justice Silver was appointed to the Court on July 29, 2005, after a long and successful career in private practice. He was appointed by Governor John E. Baldacci to fill the vacancy left by Justice Paul Rudman, who was appointed in 1992 and retired from the Court in July 2005. Like Justice Rudman, Justice Silver came to the bench directly from private practice, bringing with him with a wealth of experience working with litigants and the public in private practice. That experience helped keep the Court connected to the realities, demands, and fiscal challenges facing lawyers and litigants today.
Justice Silver's decade on the Maine bench was not a quiet one.
Immediately after he began his transition from private practice to the bench, Chief Justice Saufley invited him to take on the project of overseeing the design and building of the new Penobscot Judicial Center. Every aspect of that project presented challenges that the Judicial Branch had not faced in recent times. Justice Silver struggled with design professionals whose vision for a center for justice sometimes differed from the Court's; a budget that could not be expanded regardless of the challenges; courtroom design and safety challenges; the integration of new technologies into traditional courtroom layouts; and, predictably in Maine, weather that did not cooperate.
Through it all, Justice Silver maintained the positive, creative attitude that he has come to be known for within the Judicial Branch. The Penobscot Judicial Center was built on time and under budget. It is a beautiful, well-functioning building that will serve the public safely and efficiently for centuries. The building has seven courtrooms; multiple conference rooms; a multipurpose room that can accommodate more than 100 people for conferences, legal education, and law-related programs; and large, light-filled public spaces.
Simultaneously, Justice Silver tackled his role as an appellate jurist with great enthusiasm. His style of opinion drafting helped assure that causes of action were clearly and concisely outlined and that motion practice did not become a substitute for trials when fact disputes existed. While on the Court, he authored 153 opinions, 22 dissents, 13 concurrences, and 7 opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Given his background as a long-time litigator, it is not surprising that Justice Silver was willing to take on the arduous task of leading the Court through a complete overhaul of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct and to assist the Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure in its efforts to update civil process. He also volunteered to sit in the trial courts when he was needed, and he gained a reputation as an excellent mediator in civil cases.
Above all, Justice Silver had a close connection with the Bar. As a Maine Supreme Court Justice, he supported the development of an energetic and robust Inn of Court in Bangor, open to all lawyers. He brought lawyers and judges together on a regular basis, and he supported the judges and the staff in their transition (with a little help from the Clerk of Courts, Penny Reckards) to the new, consolidated Penobscot Judicial Center.
In his last two years with the Court, Justice Silver took on the enormous responsibility of addressing the public's concerns with Maine's outmoded complaint process for guardians ad litem. He led a hard working group of stakeholders through a review of the current process and an overview of other states' approaches. The group ultimately proposed a completely revamped approach to GAL oversight, which is now under review by the Court.
The Judicial Branch wishes Justice Silver all the best as he returns to private practice and next adventures. He has promised to remain connected to Maine and its legal community. For that, we are all very grateful.