Professional Background


  • Principal, Maine Dispute Resolution, April 2004-present (Mediation, arbitration and reference of all civil disputes under Maine state law).
  • Judge, Maine District Court, 1987-April, 2002 (General jurisdiction, non-jury court: family law, small claims; misdemeanors, juveniles, and traffic court).
  • Partner, Morton, Sheldon & Underkuffler, Farmington, Maine, 1982-1987 (General, small-town practice, with emphasis on real estate (especially boundary dispute and timber trespass litigation), family law, commercial litigation and criminal defense).
  • Assistant District Attorney for Franklin and Oxford Counties, Maine, 1978-1982 (Prosecution of all criminal offenses, usually before juries; representing Franklin County Commissioners on civil matters).
  • Associate, Dalton & Jebo, Radford, Virginia, 1976-1977 (insurance defense (principally Allstate, State Farm, and Hartford).
  • Clerk, Hon. Ted Dalton, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, 1975
  • U.S. Army, Canal Zone, 1970-1972 (Specialist 5th Class, Airborne qualified; medic, clerk, museum curator; honorable discharge, 1972).


  • Visiting Scholar, Harvard Law School, 2000, 2002-2003 (I was accepted into the L.L.M. program for the school year 1998-9 but couldn't afford it, so I chose to attend later as a Visiting Scholar (no degree: much cheaper). As a VS, I studied (among other things) American constitutional law and family law, German civil procedure, Chinese law and Islamic law, and I wrote the articles listed below about rules-based law, rules of evidentiary admissibility, surrogate motherhood and the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002).
  • J.D., cum laude, Washington & Lee School of Law, 1975 (managing editor, Washington & Lee Law Review).
  • B.A., cum laude, Harvard University, 1968

Publications & Articles:

  • The False Idolatry of Rules-Based Law, 56 MAINE LAW REVIEW 300 (2004) (A discussion of how lawyers' worship of rules disadvantages justice systems.)
  • Some Good News, and Some Bad News, about the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002, 18 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 94 (2003) (Analyzing the provisions of the new UPA, and criticizing it for not covering children of same-sex couples.)
  • Rethinking the Rules of Evidentiary Admissibility in Non-Jury Trials (with Peter L. Murray), 8 Zeitschrift Für Zivilprozets International 567 (2003) (reissue of 2002 Maine Bar Journal article on the same subject in Germany.
  • Rethinking Rules of Evidentiary Admissibility in Probate Cases (with Peter L. Murray), 2 NCPJ LIFE & TIMES 6 (2003) (National reissue of the 2002 Maine Bar Journal article on the same subject, revised for probate law.)
  • Rethinking the Rules of Evidentiary Admissibility in Non-Jury Trials (with Peter L. Murray), 86 JUDICATURE 227 (2002-3) (National reissue of the 2002 Maine Bar Journal article on the same subject.)
  • Surrogate Mothers, Gestational Carriers, and a Pragmatic Adaptation of the Uniform Parentage Act of 2000, 53 MAINE LAW REVIEW 523 (2002). (Proposing a statute to identify the parents of children conceived without intercourse.)
  • Should the Rules of Evidence Be Modified for Civil Non-jury Trials? (with Peter L. Murray), 17 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 30 (2002). (Proposing abridgment of rules of admissibility in non-jury civil trials to accommodate the era of pro-se litigation.)
  • Anticipating the American Law Institute's Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution, 14 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 18 (1999). (Comparing the A.L.I. proposals for family law with Maine's caselaw.)
  • Shylock, Cordelia and the Maine District Court, 51 MAINE LAW REVIEW 10 (1999). (A description of the judicial experience of the Peoples' Court.)
  • The Sleepwalker's Tour of Divorce Law, 48 MAINE LAW REVIEW 8 (1996). (An protest against Maine's entrenched family law.)
  • In Search of a Theory of Alimony (with Hon. Nancy D. Mills), 45 MAINE LAW REVIEW 283 (1993). (Proposing a policy for awarding alimony.)
  • Toward a Coherent Interpretation of Maine's Marital Property Act, 43 MAINE LAW REVIEW 13 (1991). (Proposing a policy for dividing marital property.)
  • The Obsolescence of Voluntary Confessions in Maine, 35 MAINE LAW REVIEW 243 (1983). (Criticizing Maine's caselaw on the admissibility of the confessions of criminal defendants.
  • Presumptions against Criminal Defendants, Affirmative Defenses, and a Substantive Due Process Interpretation of County Court of Ulster v. Allen, 34 MAINE LAW REVIEW 277 (1982). (An effort to explain the use of presumptions against criminal defendants.)

Practice Guides:

  • Vehicle Stops and the Maine Constitution, 3 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 182 (1998). (Comparing Maine and federal caselaw on the authority of police to stop vehicles for suspected traffic violations.)
  • How to Try a Divorce, 12 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 10 (1997). (Advice to practitioners about a judge's view of divorce law.)
  • Sobriety Checkpoints, the Rational-Basis Test, and the Law Court, 8 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 80 (1993). (Advice to the criminal defense bar about the law on sobriety checkpoints.)
  • Utilizing the District Court's Expanded Equity Jurisdiction in Divorce Cases, 5 MAINE BAR JOURNAL 156 (1990). (Illustrating how a statute expanding the District Court's equity jurisdiction cured problems arising under Maine's equitable division statute.)

Representative decisions:

  • State v. Sheri Johnson (2/95) (decision not to bind over for trial as an adult a 14-year old girl accused of murdering her elderly aunt by stabbing her 106 times).
  • Doucette v. Washburn (1/99) (divorce decision exploring the uncertain relationship between an award of alimony and the equitable distribution of property).


  • Upcountry Justice, DOWN EAST (Dec. 2000) p. 112. (A description of the funniest drunk driving case I ever heard.)

Work in Progress:

  • Cloud-Busting (A 2,000 word essay about psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich for the 50th anniversary of the death.)
  • Thinking Outside the Box about Pro-Se Litigation (An unorthodox approach to the problem of legal unorthodoxy.)


  • A Proposed Uniform Statute on Surrogate Motherhood, American Association of Adoption Attorneys, Nashville TN (Oct. 23-25, 2002) (offering the statute I wrote to accompany my 2002 article about surrogate motherhood).


  • Maine State Bar (since 1978)
  • Virginia State Bar (since 1975)




John C. Sheldon
Maine Dispute Resolution
88 Starlight Way
Westbrook, ME 04092
Office 207-591-5365
Cell 207-712-9585
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