Skip to main content

Judicial Department

 Record Group
Identifier: US-MeSA-40

Scope and Contents

The Maine State Archives (MSA) collects and holds the permanent historical records of the Maine State Government. MSA was created in 1965. By 1971, MSA housed the historical records that had been held by the Secretary of State, Legislature, Courts and Executive Departments. This included records from defunct agencies.

With the implementation of a records management system, groups of records were identified as having permanent historical value and were sent to the Archives after a designated period of time. These included Commissioner/Executive correspondence, meeting minutes from Boards and Commissions, as well as department-specific records.


  • 1636 -

Biographical / Historical

Until the signing of the Articles of Agreement for Separation in 1820, Maine was part of Massachusetts and included in the Massachusetts court system. In 1820, Article VI, Section 1, of the new Maine Constitution established the Judicial Branch of government stating: "The judicial power of the State shall be be vested in a Supreme Judicial Court, and such other courts as the Legislature shall from time to time establish". From the start of statehood, the Supreme Judicial Court was both a trial court and an appellate court or "Law Court." The new State of Maine also adopted the same lower court structure as existed in Massachusetts, and the court system remained unchanged until 1852. The Court Reorganization Act of 1852 increased the jurisdiction of the Supreme Judicial Court to encompass virtually every type of case, increased the number of justices and authorized the justices to travel in circuits. The Probate Courts were created in 1820 as county-based courts and have remained so.

The next major change in the system came in 1929, when the Legislature created the statewide Superior Court as a trial court to relieve the overburdened Supreme Judicial Court. Meanwhile, the lower courts continued to operate much as they always had until 1961 when the municipal courts and the trial justices system was abolished and the new District Court created. The Administrative Court, which was created in 1978, was abolished on March 15, 2001.

The administrative structure of the Maine Judicial Branch is similar to a corporation. The Supreme Judicial Court serves as the Branch "board of directors" and by statute has general administrative and supervisory authority over the Branch. This authority is exercised by promulgating rules, issuing administrative orders, establishing policies and procedures, and generally advising the chief justice. The Chief Justice is designated as head of the Judicial Branch and is assisted by the state court administrator. Each of the two trial courts has a Chief Justice of Judge, appointed by and responsible to the Chief Justice, who also heads the Law Court. The Administrative Office of the Courts under the direction of the state court administrator, assists in meeting the operational need of the courts.


14414.0 Linear Feet (22371 containers)

Language of Materials


Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Maine State Archives Repository

84 State House Station
Augusta Maine 04333