The Maine Courts
Courthouse Locations by County
Courts are institutions designed to resolve civil and criminal complaints and disputes. They also provide official approval of certain matters, such as the distribution of property after death, adoptions, and name changes, that are not in dispute.
Maine's state courts play an important role in your life. For example, they are available and may be used to protect your rights and to enforce your responsibilities:
- if you are being threatened by someone,
- if you buy or sell property,
- if you get divorced,
- if you have problems at work,
- if you have a dispute with someone who provides you with a service, or
- if you are involved in an automobile accident or a fistfight.
The courts are even used after your death to determine what happens to your assets and debts. If you sue or are sued, if you are accused of committing a crime, if you are a witness to an event, if you are a victim of a crime, or if you are called to jury duty, you may be required to appear in a Maine court.
When your dispute is with a resident of another state or is governed by federal law, you may find yourself in a federal court located in Portland or Bangor. Some of the laws we live under are passed by the Maine State Legislature and others are passed by the United States Congress so disputes may be resolved by either the Maine state courts or the federal courts, depending on the law involved or the residence of the parties. This Guide describes the procedure and organization of the Maine state courts, although many of the basic ideas discussed apply to the federal courts as well.
Maine's state principal courts are the District Court, where lesser criminal offenses, civil actions, and family law matters may be tried; the Superior Court, where almost all civil and criminal matters may be tried; and the Supreme Judicial Court, which hears appeals from all trial courts. Maine also has Probate Courts for questions involving estates and similar matters.