Justice Louis Scolnik of Andover, was presented with the ACLU of Maine’s annual award at an event at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine,on June 6.
Justice Scolnik is a founding member and first president of the ACLU of Maine, the state affiliate of the nationwide civil liberties and rights organization.
Gov. Janet Mills presented the award to Scolnik, a retired Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in front of a crowd of over 300 people. Justice Scolnik, who has played the tenor saxophone since he was 12 years old, also entertained the crowd with several jazz standards.
“Justice Scolnik has always been driven by his belief that, together, we can create a more perfect union,” said Alison Beyea, executive director at the ACLU of Maine. “He has always known that our state and our nation are a work in progress, and that we will one day live up to the ideals laid out for us. We are grateful for his lifetime of service.”
The award, which is called the Justice Louis Scolnik Award, was established in 1989 to honor members of the community who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the protection of civil liberties. The ACLU honored Justice Scolnik for his lifetime of service.
Justice Scolnik was active in the local branch of the NAACP, and also served, in the mid-1960s, as chairman of the Maine Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – where he fought to end housing discrimination, including against Black service members stationed at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor who were being blocked from renting or buying adequate housing.
After serving for 16 years as the only cooperating attorney in Maine for the national ACLU, Justice Scolnik joined a handful of local lawyers and activists in forming the Maine affiliate of the ACLU in 1968. Among the organizations earliest victories was a case involving a Belfast (Maine) High School teacher who was fired for discussing issues of gender and sexuality as part of a lesson on Romeo and Juliet, as well as cases concerning prisoners’ rights, sex discrimination, and religion in public schools.
Justice Scolnik was born in Lewiston, Maine in 1923. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and graduated from Bates College and Georgetown Law.