Rick Lawrence sworn in as first Black justice for Maine’s highest court

During a ceremony in the governor’s Cabinet Room, Lawrence gushed about being a part of the state's history.

District Court Judge Rick Lawrence made history this week when he became the first Black justice and newest member of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. 

As previously reported by theGrio, the 66-year-old jurist has served on the District Court for nearly 22 years. The Portland resident will immediately replace Associate Justice Ellen Gorman on the state’s high court, according to Spectrum Local News.

District Court Judge Rick E. Lawrence has been nominated to serve as an associate justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court by the state’s governor. (Photo: Screenshot/Maine.gov)

During a ceremony in the governor’s cabinet room on Tuesday, Lawrence gushed about being a part of Maine’s history.

“I want to express my profound respect and my debt of gratitude for the generations of African Americans who preceded me and did the heavy lifting to make this historic day possible,” Lawrence said after taking the oath, Maine Public reported.

In March, Maine’s Democratic Governor Janet Mills nominated Lawrence to serve as an associate justice.  At the time, Judge Lawrence wrote in a statement: “I am deeply honored by Governor Mills’ nomination to serve on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, a nomination that comes with formidable responsibility and unparalleled opportunity to serve the people of our great state. If confirmed by the Legislature, I promise to work tirelessly to serve the people of Maine and to administer justice fairly and impartially to the people of Maine, just as they deserve.”

According to a press statement from Mills’ office, Justice Lawrence once served as the presiding judge for the Foreclosure Diversion Program for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. He is also the former chair of the Judicial Branch Advisory Committee on Children & Families, theGrio reported.

Prior to being sworn in as the state’s first Black high court justice, Lawrence was the deputy chief judge of the district court and presiding judge for Androscoggin County Unified Criminal Docket’s Domestic Violence Judicial Monitoring Program.

Speaking during the swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Mills commented on Lawrence’s unique background, noting that “he’ll be the only member of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court who went through periods in his youth when he and his family were turned away from restaurants, rest stops and motels…only because of the color of their skin,” she said.

Lawrence, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, brings decades of experience to the job, after presiding over numerous family, civil and criminal cases in court.

“Bringing that direct, recent and immediate experience of dealing with the nitty gritty of people’s lives is extraordinarily important for the life of the court, to the discussions that they will have behind closed doors, to the conversations about what is happening in real life,” said Mills.

Lawrence began his new position this week.

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