Portland adds a new attorney to its busy legal team

Christopher O’Neil, the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce’s government liaison consultant, has on a couple occasions joked that the city of Portland’s legal team is the busiest law firm in the state.

Christopher O'Neil (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Christopher O’Neil (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

In terms of high-profile cases, anyway, he’s probably right. Since the city successfully fought in the court system for its right to evict the famed OccupyMaine encampment from the publicly owned Lincoln Park back in late 2011/early 2012, Portland has found itself deploying attorneys to battle a series of follow-up first amendment lawsuits, among other kerfuffles.

Last fall, a trio of residents successfully sued to challenge a recently passed ordinance preventing panhandlers, protesters or anyone else from standing in city median strips.

Then earlier this year, a group of anti-abortion demonstrators took to court to challenge another ordinance establishing a 39-foot no-protest zone around Portland’s only abortion clinic.

City attorney Jennifer Thompson discusses a case in Cumberland County Superior Court with Portland Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta in this October 2013 file photo. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

City attorney Jennifer Thompson discusses a case in Cumberland County Superior Court with Portland Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta in this October 2013 file photo. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

City lawyers also devoted time over the last nine months to fighting a citizens’ petition aiming to put an overhaul of the land bank commission ordinance on the June ballot and, by extension, ice the controversial sale of most of Congress Square to private hotel developers.

(If you’re scoring at home, the city essentially won in its case against OccupyMaine and lost — for all intents and purposes, anyway – the other cases listed above.)

A little more recently, the city announced it would be joining a Maine Municipal Association lawsuit challenging Gov. Paul LePage’s new hardline stance against distributing general assistance aid to undocumented immigrants.

So Michael Goldman likely knows there will be plenty of work to do as the newest addition to the Portland legal team.

The Portland City Council approved the hiring of Goldman during its Monday night meeting. Goldman will replace Larry Waldren, who is leaving his city attorney post at the end of this month, and will be paid an annual salary of $80,800.

Goldman, a former Maine Supreme Judicial Court law clerk, comes to the city by way of the law firm of Lambert Coffin, where he spent the last nine years working cases centered around real estate, commercial transactions and employer/employee relations. He concurrently worked as an attorney for the Maine Public Employees Retirement System since 2011.

In 2012 and 2011, respectively, the city of Portland said goodbye to its longtime Nos. 1 and 2 attorneys, Gary Wood and Mary Costigan. Danielle West-Chuhta was officially elevated from associate corporation counsel into the top legal job, corporation counsel, in early 2013.

Other attorneys currently on the city’s legal team include associate corporation counsel Jennifer Thompson and neighborhood prosecutor Trish McAllister.

Portland city attorney Trish McAllister talks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Portland last month after oral arguments in a case about the city's 39-foot no-protest zone around the local Planned Parenthood clinic. (BDN photo by Seth Koenig)

Portland city attorney Trish McAllister talks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Portland last month after oral arguments in a case about the city’s 39-foot no-protest zone around the local Planned Parenthood clinic. (BDN photo by Seth Koenig)

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.