Probate court series a semi-finalist for Goldsmith Prize

30 semi-finalists for the annual award were chosen from over 170 investigations.
A sign outside an office door indicates the office is a probate office. Text overlayed onto the photo notes the Maine's Part-time Court investigative series is a semi-finalist for the Goldsmith Prize.
The award honors the best public service investigative journalism that has made an impact on public policy.

The Maine Monitor’s investigation into Maine’s probate court system by Samantha Hogan has been named one of 30 semi-finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

The annual award, presented by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, honors the best public service investigative journalism that has made an impact on local, state, or federal public policy or the practice of politics in the U.S. 

This is the second consecutive year Hogan has been named a semi-finalist for the award, following last year’s recognition for her “Eavesdropping in Maine Jails” investigation. 

Hogan spent a year investigating Maine’s probate courts and uncovered that eight incapacitated adults under public guardianship of the state died during the past three years, and that authorities don’t know exactly how.

That news prompted an immediate outcry from state lawmakers for better oversight of guardians and renewed calls for reform to the probate courts that have long been overlooked, despite serving thousands of Mainers.

Additionally, Hogan uncovered that millions of dollars in estates of aging or deceased Mainers are at risk of pilfering from shady lawyers and caretakers, and that young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities are sometimes appointed guardians without a lawyer advocating on their behalf for less restrictive alternatives. 

Hogan’s investigation revealed the probate courts set up to oversee guardianships and estates are so antiquated and understaffed they do not know how many guardianships the state has — much less how to institute a systematic approach that would prevent fraud and abuse.

The series received support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Editing Corps, and Report for America. Hogan joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as an investigative reporter in January.

Other semi-finalist newsrooms included the New York Times; Politico; NBC News; Washington Post with Frontline PBS; Reuters; Business Insider; Los Angeles Times; NPR; Wall Street Journal; Frontline PBS with ProPublica; Bloomberg News; ProPublica; Tampa Bay Times; Miami Herald; Chicago Tribune; Mississippi Today with ProPublica; STAT; WBUR with ProPublica; Texas Tribune, WFAE 90.7 with Frontline PBS; Streetsblog; WANF TV; KFF Health News with Cox Media Group; The Courier Journal with USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism; New Hampshire Public Radio; Mississippi Today with New York Times; Bloomberg Green; The New Yorker and Yale Investigative Reporting Lab’s Felony Murder Reporting Project; and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with ProPublica. 

The semi-finalists were chosen from more than 170 investigations evaluated by the judging committee. In the coming weeks, the finalists for the Goldsmith Prize will be selected from this group, with the winner announced at a ceremony April 3.

Read the full Monitor investigation: Maine’s Part-Time Court

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The Maine Monitor

The Maine Monitor is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that holds Maine state government and institutions accountable. Our team of investigative journalists use data- and document-based reporting to produce stories that have an impact.
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