In Maine, as in most other states, a person convicted of a criminal offense is entitled to state post-conviction review upon proper filing of a petition. The Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure establish deadlines for such a filing and for the responsive answer by the State. Application for an enlargement of time in which to respond requires the State to show cause. If, however, the State makes this application after the initial period for response, the Rules impose a much stricter standard—a showing of “excusable neglect.” In Wellman v. State the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, dodged an opportunity to determine how the “excusable neglect” standard should be applied in a post-conviction proceeding. The decision in Wellman raises disturbing questions concerning Maine's excusable neglect standard—questions reaching beyond the confines of post-conviction proceedings and into Maine criminal and civil law generally.

First Page