New DA faces challenges

Matthew Foster

Matthew Foster

ELLSWORTH — Newly elected District Attorney Matt Foster has his work cut out for him when he takes over the reins of Prosecutorial District 7 on Jan. 1.

Foster defeated Assistant District Attorney Bill Entwisle in the Nov. 11 elections. Prosecutorial District 7 handles criminal cases filed in Hancock and Washington counties.

The first issue facing Foster is the hiring of prosecutors. As district attorney, he can replace the entire staff of attorneys, which includes three prosecutors in Hancock County and three in Washington County – two in Machias and one in the Calais office.

Foster said this week that he has approached several attorneys now in private practice about joining him in the office. The problem, he said, is that he has been unable to confirm with the Maine attorney general’s office about what he can offer for salaries. Due to a tight state budget, recent history has any new hires starting at an entry level salary.

“The people I have in mind are experienced and can’t afford to take the job if that’s the case,” Foster said.

Foster already knows two attorneys in the office – Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett and First Assistant district Attorney Paul Cavanaugh – have decided to leave. Whether he can immediately replace these people or will have to wait is another question he has for the attorney general’s office. As with salaries, recent history has shown that there is often a lengthy delay in hiring replacements. Again, that is due to the budget.

Foster, who has been in private practice, began limiting his caseload earlier this year in anticipation of being elected district attorney. However, jumping into the middle of cases pending in the office is another matter.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of hours, catching up,” he said. “I’m definitely an outsider coming into an established system.”

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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