Grantee shares story behind year-long investigation of Maine’s probate court system

Following a year-long investigation by the Maine Monitor about problems in the state’s guardianship program for people unable to care for themselves, reporter Samantha Hogan has taken readers behind the scenes to share her reporting methods. Maine’s 16 independent, county-run probate courts are not a part of the state judicial branch but are run by part-time, elected judges responsible for monitoring the well-being and financial futures of adults and children under guardianship. Hogan found that Maine voters passed a constitutional amendment 56 years ago that would make probate judges full time, but the legislature has not implemented the will of the voters. Calls to overhaul the system have been largely unheeded, leaving vulnerable people at risk. Hogan’s reporting, supported by the Fund, began with a survey to each probate court that revealed that many probate courts do not know how many adults are under guardianship, or if those people are alive or dead. Other reporting included observing proceedings in probate courts and interviews with 60 people.