Sarah A. McDaniel, Maine Land Law LLC, PA
Imagine the scenario: a year after your land trust acquires a new preserve or a conservation easement, your volunteers or staff head out for annual monitoring of the property only to find that the woods road you always used to reach the property has been barricaded by large granite boulders. Or, worse, during monitoring the staff finds that a narrow woods road you have used as a trail through the property has been widened to 50' and trucks are preparing to lay down gravel. How can this happen?
Unfortunately, it is all too common in Maine for landowners and their neighbors to have disputes about access rights that escalate to the point of litigation. It is legally possible for someone to own land but have no legal right to access the property - and discovering this fact makes many landowners irate. How can you avoid these disputes in the first place and resolve them once they arise?
Because each parcel of land has a unique history - both in the language of its deeds and the way it has been used - it is impossible to provide a blueprint or checklist to identify whether any particular preserve has legal access. Consequently, this publication describes the different ways that access can be obtained, and identifies ways to attempt to resolve a dispute.
Part 1: Access Easements Generally
Know what you are getting. When a landowner offers to donate ecologically or scenically valuable land, it is understandable for a land trust to gratefully accept whatever is offered without question. In fact, many landowners may not know that they have an access issue. Oftentimes it is only after the land changes hands (or a new neighbor moves in) that the problem presents itself. As the "grantee" in the transaction (regardless of whether the land is being donated or purchased, easement or fee), the land trust is responsible to confirm that it is acquiring adequate access to the property and to learn who else may share rights in the property. See Land Trust Standard 9 (evaluating projects), Practice K (evaluate risks) and Standard 9 (ensuring sound transactions), Practice H (title investigation). So long as someone actually reviews the "title commitment" document, the research involved in purchasing a title insurance policy can reveal the most egregious of access issues - lack of record access.
How are access rights created? In the best of all possible worlds, land comes with either direct access via frontage on a public road or an express easement. Express easements are created by clear language in the deed conveying the access rights from someone who has the right to convey them. Many people, reading a deed, think they can tell whether it includes any access rights. For example, the deed to a preserve may read:
Grantor conveys to Grantee a parcel of land in Small Town, Maine more particularly described on Exhibit A, together with a right of way from Main Street.
That certainly seems clear enough! And yet, while the language of this deed appears to convey access, mistakes can be made. If the Grantor had sold the land between Main Street and the preserve prior to deeding the preserve, then this easement may provide no access rights! Real estate agents and landowners typically rely on this type of deed language, yet even the most skilled attorney could miss this problem if they only read the one deed.
Once the validity of an express easement is determined, the next questions are what is its scope (that is, the nature of the use that is allowed under the easement) and its location. The scope and location of an express easement will be governed first by the language of the deed, and only if that language is vague will additional evidence be considered by courts. In the example above, the easement description does not clarify whether access is by foot only or by car, or if installation of utility lines is allowed and it does not specify the precise route of the access. In these instances, courts would look to evidence on the ground at the time the easement was granted to help determine the appropriate scope and location. The goal is to determine what rights the parties to the deed actually intended to convey. If there is no evidence to the contrary, the easement will be extended to include access for every reasonable use for which the land may legally be devoted. There are myriad facts that could come into play in determining the scope and location of an easement, so a detailed discussion with an attorney will help identify what the rights on your own preserve may be.
A common scope of easement question for preserve owners is whether an access way through a residential subdivision that is not expressly defined as being for "recreational use" can be used by a land trust to allow the public access for nature recreation - hiking, bird watching, and the like. The Maine courts have not yet ruled on this precise issue in relation to easements expressly specifying "residential use only" on the face of the deed. Again, the specifics facts will govern the answer because the scope and purpose of an express easement when not otherwise stated in the deed is to be determined by the intent of the parties who made the grant in light of the circumstances when the grant was made. Every subdivision, like every preserve, has different facts surrounding its creation, so there is no uniform answer. For example, there will be a different answer if the preserve was donated as the open space portion required for approval of a subdivision (more likely to be found to allow access for nature recreation) than if the preserve was pieced together by the acquisition of several numbered 1-acre lots that would otherwise have been sold for single-family homes (more likely to be limited to residential access), and yet could also be different if the preserve was pieced together by acquisition of several 10-acre lots in a larger subdivision (more likely to extend access to all uses that a 10-acre lot of land could reasonably and legally be put - including nature recreation). The human history of the land is inextricably connected with the legality of its future uses, making land conservation all the more interesting of an endeavor!
If the deed is silent, can there still be access? Just because your deed does not expressly contain a right of way does not necessarily mean that your neighbor can block your access. Likewise, just because the deed to your preserve did not describe your land as subject to a right of way benefitting your neighbor does not mean that you can keep them off your property. There are four alternative ways to obtain access rights, some of which may be more familiar to you than others:
- Implied easement by necessity;
- Implied quasi-easement;
- Implied easement by estoppel; and
- Prescriptive easements (similar to adverse possession)
Whether any of these easements exist is, again, a very fact-specific inquiry and the legal standards make it very difficult for anyone claiming these easements to prove their access rights. Because the burden of proof lies with the person asserting one of these easements, if a proposed preserve lacks frontage or an express easement and must instead rely upon an implied or prescriptive easement, your transaction warrants heightened review. See Land Trust Standard 9 (ensuring sound transactions), Practice A (legal review) (recommending that land trusts obtain review by a real estate attorney appropriate to the complexity of the transaction). To better understand these types of easements so that you can raise pertinent questions in deciding whether to engage a real estate attorney, a very introductory discussion of each follows.
The three categories of implied easements are all based on the concept that both the grantor and the grantee intended to create these easements, but simply forgot to write them into the deed. Because a grantor can only convey land or rights that he actually owns, each of the implied easements requires evidence that the grantor had the right to convey these easements - just like when an express easement is granted. Typically, this means that the original grantor simultaneously owned both the land subject to the easement (for example, the road bed) and the land whose owner is now claiming benefit of an easement when the implied easement was created. It is not uncommon to search into the 1800s or earlier to find this unified title! In contrast, the prescriptive easement category is based on the concept that someone can steal the right to another person's land under specific circumstances. The figure below demonstrates how common ownership can affect whether any express or implied easements can be claimed.
FIGURE 1: Ownership Matters: express and implied easements can only be created by a person who owns the land that is burdened by the easement at the time it is established. See below for comparative examples.
Assume that Smith owned all of Lot 2 then sold Lot 2A to Jones with an express easement "for access to Main Street." Because Smith continued to own Lot 2B when selling Lot 2A to Jones, the express easement will be located across Lot 2B even if Jones prefers the straight driveway across Lot 1. Because Smith cannot sell his neighbor's land, Jones' access cannot be across land that Smith never owned or had a right to access. If Smith never owned Lot 1, Jones cannot access Lot 2A via the straight driveway on Lot 1. If Smith used to own Lot 1, Jones can only access his lot via the straight driveway if, when selling Lot 1, Smith reserved in the Lot 1 deed an access easement to benefit Lot 2.
Easement by Necessity:
Assume that Smith owned all of Lot 2, then sold Lot 2A to Jones, retaining Lot 2B but did not include an express easement in the deed. Jones can claim an easement by necessity for Lot 2A across Lot 2B. The courts assume that Smith agreed to that burden on Lot 2B to help him sell Lot 2A. However, if Lot 2A's rear boundary is the shore of a Great Pond or coastal shore instead of woodlands, the courts are likely to find that Jones does not have any easement by necessity across Lot 2B because he can access his land by boat!
Now assume that Smith sold Lot 2B to Jones, retaining Lot 2A. Whether the rear boundary is upland or shore, Smith cannot claim an easement by necessity for Lot 2A across Lot 2B. The courts will not assume that Jones agreed to that burden when buying Lot 2B!
Now assume that, before Smith sold Lot 2B to Jones, Smith had built his home on Lot 2A, constructed the access drive across "winding route", and used that driveway to access his home. Now, when Smith sells Lot 2B to Jones, although he has no easement by necessity across Lot 2B, he can claim a quasi-easement to use the winding route drive in its current location across Lot 2B.
However, if when Smith built his home on Lot 2A, he constructed the access drive across the "straight route" on Lot 1, Smith cannot claim a quasi-easement to continue using the straight route unless he constructed the driveway at a time when he owned both Lot 1 and Lot 2A. If he didn't own Lot 1 when the driveway was constructed, Smith would have to obtain a prescriptive easement over Lot 1 by 20 years of non-permissive use of the straight route.
Easement by Estoppel:
Assume that Sullivan owned Lots 3A, 3B and 4 when he created and recorded a subdivision plan that depicts the three lots and Maple Road. If Sullivan sold Rourke Lot 3A and the deed referenced that plan ("selling Lot 3A on the Subdivision Plan"), Rourke would have an easement by estoppel to use Maple Road. Even without a plan, if the deed instead described Lot 3A as being bounded by Maple Road ("beginning at a point on the side of Maple Road, thence by Maple Road twelve rods, thence westerly ten rods to a post, thence northerly twelve rods to an old oak tree, thence easterly ten rods to the point of beginning"), Rourke would have an easement by estoppel to use Maple Road.
Now assume that Sullivan never owned Lot 4. Even if Lot 3A was sold off in reference to that plan, the courts will not find any implied easement by estoppel to use any portion of Maple Road that lies on Lot 4. There is a presumption that each owner owns to the centerline of the roadbed, but in some instances a survey may be required to determine if the bed of Maple Road is actually located on Lot 4, on Lots 3A and 3B, or if it meanders unevenly across both lots.
Many people who first hear of "easements by necessity" assume it means that there must be legal access to all parcels. That is not so. Easements by necessity only exist when a landlocked parcel of "backland" was sold off by a grantor who retained ownership of the "frontland" - the property between the backland and the public street over which the easement is claimed. In Maine, if the "backland" parcel has frontage on a navigable waterway - the ocean, or many ponds, rivers and lakes - the courts still apply an ancient (and many would say, outdated) assumption that the property can be accessed by the water to conclude that no land-based access is necessary. As one other hurdle, courts will only find easements by necessity to benefit the land that the common grantor first sold off, but they will let the parcel retained by that same grantor be landlocked. This is because courts will not assume that the grantee agreed to be burdened by the access rights. A clear understanding of the record history of ownership is needed to determine if your preserve is benefited by, or subject to, an easement by necessity.
The quasi-easement arises when the feature in question (most often a woods road for access, although quasi-easements also arise in the case of a septic system or drinking well located on neighboring land) existed on the face of the earth at the time that the two parcels were owned by one person. Unlike easements by necessity, the parcel in question can have other means of access or can be on the water and still be found to have quasi-easement rights across an existing roadway. With quasi-easements, the courts assume that the grantor and grantee intended the sold parcel to continue to use and benefit from the physical easement. This entails not only research in the registry of deeds, but also an understanding of the land's historical use and review of old aerial photos or other evidence of use.
Easements will also be implied by estoppel. Most commonly this arises where the land is described in a deed as being bounded by a private road (see box accompanying Figure 1 for sample language), - an easement in that private road (if the grantor owned the road) would then be implied. Similarly, if the deed describes land by referencing a plan (often by reference to a certain numbered lot in a subdivision plan), then any common areas shown on that plan and owned by the grantor, including roads and shorefront, will by implication be available to each lot owner. With these easements, the court concludes that it is fair to hold the grantor responsible to provide easements that the grantee had reason to believe would benefit the sold parcel.
Lastly, many are somewhat familiar with the concept of adverse possession: that a person can, in essence, "steal" someone else's land if they use it as their own it for 20 years without interruption. There is a similar doctrine that allows a person to acquire a prescriptive easement after 20 years of continuous, uninterrupted use. With both of these theories, the courts impose a very high standard -you must have "clear and convincing" evidence that you or your predecessors have used the right of way in an "open and visible" manner for 20 years and that your use was "under a claim of right." This means that, if there is evidence that the record landowner ever gave permission for the access, that permission interrupts the 20-year clock and resets it. For example, if the neighboring parcels were owned by people in the same family, the courts will presume that the family members gave each other permission to use each other's property, making it harder to show a prescriptive easement. Likewise, Maine courts will presume that any individual's recreational use of wildlands is with the landowner's permission. If a person has been given permission (either presumed or actual), it is even harder to show a prescriptive easement because they must show that their use exceeded the scope of the permission or that they otherwise denied the authority of the record landowner to grant such permission. The law also allows landowners to have a sheriff serve notice upon someone who is using your property - if done correctly and once every ten years, that notice will prevent them from gaining any prescriptive rights in your land. 14 M.R.S.A. §§ 812, 812-A and 812-B.
With prescriptive easements, the scope and location of the easement is limited to the historical use. For example, if your neighbor crossed the land by foot in August every year for 20 years to go pick blueberries on a neighboring parcel, then any prescriptive easement would be limited to seasonal, pedestrian access and so would not support someone building an access road for a subdivision on the old blueberry barren. If no one is alive to testify to past use, documents such as diaries, old photographs, and sometimes the road bed itself can help evidence the use. While the deeds in the registry may provide circumstantial evidence about the use of the property, in a prescriptive easement case, the factual investigation is of primary importance.
Part 2: Public Access
What about public access rights?
Public access rights may be expressly conveyed or obtained by prescription (it would be very unlikely for any implied easements to be found to benefit the general public.) As with all express easements, the scope of the access rights will be governed by the language of the deed. In a prescriptive easement context, however, use by the public poses some interesting twists.
Most of the twists relate to the public obtaining access rights on and to your preserve. However one important twist affects the land trust's ability to obtain a prescriptive easement to access its preserve. In Latin, the saying is: nullum tempus occurrit regi (or, "time does not run against the king.") This legal doctrine holds that no one can obtain rights across publicly owned property by prescription. So if you need to rely upon a prescriptive easement to access your preserve, but the land providing the access was owned by the State, town or federal government at any point within the 20-year window, the governmental ownership interrupts the 20-year period and the clock will need to be reset. The remainder of this discussion pertains to the public obtaining prescriptive access rights:
Who is the public? At the outset, to obtain public prescriptive rights, the historical use must be by the public in general, not any specific subset of the public. Typically, use by abutters and people in the immediate neighborhood is not enough to support a claim of use by the general public.
Public recreational access does not generally support a public prescriptive easement. In Maine there is a presumption that recreational use of wild and uncultivated land - for hiking, hunting, etc. - is permissive. This means that it is extremely difficult for the general public to acquire a prescriptive easement based on historic recreational access. The public claiming a public prescriptive easement for recreational use would have to show that the landowner denied permission but then never enforced it and continued to allow the general public to have recreational access for the 20 year period. (This also applies to hinder any individual from claiming a prescriptive easement based only on past recreational use.) Consequently, if your land trust does not try to keep the general public off a preserve, any public recreational access is unlikely to form the basis of a public prescriptive easement, no matter how long it continues.
In contrast, if it is the intent of the land trust to keep the public off of a preserve, then a generic posting of the land against trespass would not be sufficient unless you also enforce your no trespassing rules with some regularity. If you have the property posted against access, but do not enforce it for 20 years while the public continues to use the land, then the public could make a case for prescriptive easement because the act of posting could negate the presumption of permissive recreational use. However, there is a law that allows landowners to post notice expressly denying the acquisition of a public prescriptive easement. Once every ten years you must have the sheriff post a notice in a conspicuous place on the land for 6 consecutive days, and then record the sheriff's certificate of posting in the Registry of Deeds (the statute identifies the specific content of the notice, which must be followed to get its benefit). 14 M.R.S.A. §§ 812, 812-A and 812-B (notice to prevent acquisition of easement).
Public recreational access cannot be prohibited in many (but not all) old town roads. After 1976, municipalities retained a public recreational easement interest in every town road that was discontinued. This means that, if your preserve is bisected by an old town road that was discontinued or abandoned after 1976, you may not have any right to keep the public off the road - whether hikers, snowmobilers, or ATVers - even if you follow the statutory notice procedure described above. Importantly, this easement is limited to the roadbed itself - it does not give the public any right to leave the road and use the rest of your property. It also does not give the public the right to use the road for non-recreational purposes, nor does it give any private citizen (for example, an abutter) the right to use the road for access to their neighboring property. If the town road was discontinued prior to 1976, however, the retention of this public easement was not automatic. In that case, detailed review of the road laws in effect will be necessary to assess whether the public retained any rights in the road.
Public access to the water cannot be prohibited. Since the 1600s, the public has a right to access Great Ponds (over 10 acres) and certain areas of the seashore, because the Great Ponds and the sea are part of the public commons. Yet, because access to these water resources crosses private lands, the public rights are limited and, as you may imagine, hotly contested.
For access to freshwater, it has long been clarified that the public has a right to access Great Ponds by foot for the purpose of fishing and fowling. The private landowners who own the shore surrounding Great Ponds cannot prohibit the public from walking to the water over unimproved land. 17 M.R.S.A. § 3860. Notably, it is very common for areas of the shore of Great Ponds (particularly where there are naturally sandy beaches) to be subject to private easement rights - both express and implied - giving neighbors certain rights to use the beach areas. Although beyond the scope of this note, determination of the scope and location of those shorefront easements will more-or-less follow the analysis described herein for access easements. Before acquiring a preserve with such features, a land trust should pay extra attention to historical use patterns to identify any possible third-party rights.
Access to salt water poses more complex issues. Here, land ownership is divided into three zones: the State owns the submerged lands below low-water; private landowners own the fee in the lands and sand down to the normal high-water line ("uplands"); and private landowners (typically, but not always, the same person who owns the adjacent uplands) own that area between low-water and high-water subject to the public trust rights ("intertidal" or "flats"). How those public trust rights in the intertidal are defined has been - and will continue to be - the subject of much litigation.
Unlike a Great Pond, the seashore has multiple public access points, so owners of the seaside uplands are not required to provide public foot access over the uplands - instead, public access is often secured by municipalities who rely upon express or prescriptive easements for public access across the uplands. And like the lands surrounding Great Ponds, the plethora of private easement rights over and on the uplands to access and enjoy the seashore (much of which includes large portions of popular beaches) also pose issues beyond this note but which should make any land trust scrutinize the historical use and address stewardship issues prior to acquiring a preserve.
Of greater concern for waterfront owners is the public use of the flats. Ever since the Colonial period, the public retains rights in the intertidal for "fishing, fowling and navigation" - the so-called "triumvirate" of uses historically describing the public trust. Over the years, the Court has found that public use of the flats includes passage by foot or boat along the intertidal while actively engaged in bird hunting, fishing, commercial boating, recreational boating, ice skating, or scuba diving. However, there is no certainty about any other uses. To avoid this piece-meal extension, the Legislature in the mid 1980s attempted to extend these public trust rights to include general recreational uses but the Court rejected that law as an unconstitutional taking of private property. (The Public Trust in Intertidal Lands Act remains on the books, and some suggest that the Legislature is waiting for the Court to correct their interpretation. 12 M.R.S.A. §§ 571-573.)
More recently, in a split decision issued in August 2011, the Court makes clear that the precise bounds of these public trust rights must await case-by-case resolution. McGarvey v. Whittredge, 2011 ME 97, -- A.3d - (providing an extensive review of the history of the public rights in the intertidal zone). It remains without doubt that, if a public use can be reasonably characterized as within the "triumvirate" of public uses - fishing, fowling and navigation - then it is likely to be upheld. Half of the Court in McGarvey found scuba diving to be a permissible form of navigation. Yet even for those activities that are stretched beyond reason to fit into those three categories, the other half of the Court will give consideration to whether that public access to the ocean across the intertidal zone may yet be found permissible. In light of this decision, it may be difficult to come to a settlement with public users who are trying to push the envelope and extend the public uses of intertidal lands.
Part 3: Avoiding and Resolving Access Disputes
How can the land trust avoid access disputes?
Being an informed buyer is your best defense. Ask the sellers about the historical and seasonal use of the property. Ask for old photographs of the property. Walk the property and look for signs of use: are there old trash heaps, tire tracks, favored fishing holes, walking paths, fence lines? If there is any suggestion that someone may be using the property on a regular basis, make sure to ask for more information from the landowner: Who uses the land? For what purpose? How often and for how long? Do they have your permission? This information is critical to assessing whether anyone may have a claim to either quasi-easement or prescriptive easement in the land.
For express easements and easements implied by estoppel, title insurance can help. I find the benefit of title insurance is not so much in paying valid claims (due to my line of work, I most often interact with title insurance companies when they are denying a landowner's claim), but in making sure landowners know what they are getting in the first place. In the process of issuing a title insurance policy, the insurance company has a title lawyer conduct a thorough review of the record title. Such searches should reveal those access issues divulged in the records in the "title commitment" document. Realtors and title agents are not obligated to discuss these issues if the landowner doesn't raise questions, so be sure to read this document closely, and to ask questions about any items you do not understand, particularly those matters identified on "Schedule B" as exceptions to the policy.
Title insurance will not protect you from (nor will it identify risks of) claims of prescriptive easements. The best means to prevent individuals or the general public from obtaining a prescriptive easement on your preserve is to follow the statutory scheme for serving and posting notice once every ten years.
But many times, the conservation values of the property may be worth the risk of an access dispute or, more commonly, you have already acquired the property when the problem arises.
Once we have an access problem, how can the land trust resolve it?
If you've already acquired property with an access dispute, or if the conservation values of the land are so significant that any access problem is worth risking, then you have two options for resolution: take action to enforce your rights or come to a settlement.
To decide which is the best approach, you must understand the strengths and weaknesses of your position. Because each property is unique, having a real estate attorney help you review the records and other evidence is your best assurance of understanding your legal rights. Then you must assess the risks of enforcing your rights - the economic and public relations costs of litigation, risks of losing, and costs of settlement. It will almost always be less expensive to settle an access dispute with a neighbor instead of litigating it. However, the temperament of the person with whom you have the dispute will also guide your strategy - some folks simply will not come to the negotiation table until a lawsuit has been filed. Nevertheless, even if you must sue your neighbor for trespass or for your own access, the courts will require the parties to try to settle the case before bringing it to trial. The specific qualities and values of the land that may be threatened by the access dispute, and the land trust's reputation for integrity and fiscal responsibility within the community should guide the land trust's ultimate decision.
In settling an access dispute, there are four main elements that provide opportunities for negotiation: permanence of the access, location of the access, scope of the access and cash. If taken to trial, most parties are seeking permanent access. Any settlement granting permanent rights must be expressly stated in an easement deed recorded in the Registry of Deed. However, some disputes can be resolved with limited access - a revocable license, or lease for a period of years - and these documents do not always need to be recorded. Importantly - granting permission to a neighbor to use the access will interrupt a 20-year prescriptive easement claim, so a written letter of permission can have strategic benefits in the long term as well as maintaining peace with a neighbor in the short term.
Location of the right of way also presents opportunities to resolve a dispute. Relocating the roadbed away from sensitive natural resources may be an efficient way to protect the conservation values of a preserve while avoiding litigation costs. If it is the preserve's access that is in question, sometimes relocating the access point away from a neighbor's home, planting a buffer along the road edge, or agreeing to increased stewardship to manage visitors who use the preserve access can resolve the concerns.
Very often negotiations center on the scope of the access - pedestrian or vehicular?, seasonal or year round?, residential, recreational or commercial? The options for restricting scope are limited only by the parties' willingness to brainstorm. For example, seasonal access to a neighbor for five house lots may be less intrusive to the scenic values of the preserve than year-round access for 20 house lots that the neighbor might otherwise seek in court.
At the bottom of many disputes - land disputes being no exception -- there is always the issue of money. Not only the costs of hiring an attorney to help identify your rights, draft settlement documents or bring the case to court, but the costs of relocating an easement, opportunity costs of agreeing to restricted access, and the costs of purchasing access rights. As a rough estimate, the costs of bringing a very fact-specific dispute such as a prescriptive easement case to trial in Maine Superior Court in 2011 can easily reach (and likely exceed) fifty thousand dollars and take two years to resolve. In Maine, each party to a lawsuit will have to bear their own legal fees - the very limited exceptions where the winning party gets their legal bill paid by the losing party are almost never applicable in access disputes. While title insurance can help pay attorney costs, it can also generate a new lawsuit if the insurance policy declines coverage. Even with the recent creation of Terrafirma Risk Retention Group LLC (the conservation defense insurance entity established under the leadership of the Land Trust Alliance and currently awaiting full capitalization) to provide a potential source for assistance with these disputes, the years that the land trust's board spends focusing on litigation distracts from the proactive conservation mission and risks generating animosity in the community. With this context, paying your neighbor cash to secure your needed access rights - even if the facts suggest that you could prevail in court - is almost always the most fiscally conservative way to resolve the dispute.
In sum, conservation values are not the only unique element to a property. The title and land use history that defines your legal rights in and to access the land varies by each property. The sooner that you can fully understand your legal rights, the better positioned you will be to find an amicable resolution to any dispute with your neighbors.
***This article is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice pertaining to any particular property or landowner. For assistance finding a real estate lawyer, please contact the Maine Land Conservation Attorney Network or the Maine Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Information Service.