Maine supreme court Justice Levy nominated to federal bench

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PORTLAND — A Maine Supreme Judicial Court justice was nominated Thursday by President Barack Obama to be a U.S. District Court judge, the White House announced.

Justice Jon David Levy has been an associate justice of the state’s highest court since 2002.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Levy, 59 of Portland, will replace U.S. District Judge George Singal, 67, of Portland, who announced last year that he would take senior status July 31, but continue to handle cases.

Levy, through Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the Maine court system, declined to comment on his nomination.

U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree sent Levy’s name, along with the names of attorneys William D. Robitzek of Lewiston and Jeffrey N. Young of Topsham, to the White House in March.

“The diverse screening panel we convened did a thorough job, and we’re pleased that the president has chosen one of the names we forwarded to him for consideration,” the Democrats said in a joint statement issued late Thursday afternoon. “All three of the candidates we recommended to the White House have extraordinary legal backgrounds.”

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King also praised Levy in a joint press release.

“During his long and distinguished career as both an attorney and a judge, Jon has had a significant impact on the Maine judicial system by virtue of his intelligence and service to the court,” they said. “Jon’s qualifications and contributions to the Maine legal community make him an ideal candidate for this judgeship. His nomination deserves bipartisan support, and we look forward to introducing Jon to our colleagues in the Senate as soon as possible.”

The confirmation process is not expected to take as long as it did for Judge William Kayatta Jr. who was confirmed in February to replace now-senior Judge Kermit Lipez as a 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge after a 13-month wait.

“The process should be much more expeditious because the senators believe there is less at stake for district judges that appellate court judges, so they get less scrutiny,” Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond, Va., School of Law and  an expert on the federal judicial nomination process, said Thursday in an email. “My sense is that Levy, like Kayatta, is well-qualified and uncontroversial, so he should be easily confirmed. He also will not confront the presidential-year politics Kayatta met.”

Tobias said he expected Levy would be confirmed by spring.

If Levy is confirmed, he would be the only full-time judge in the federal District of Maine who came from the state bench. Chief Judge John Woodcock, nominated in 2003, was in private practice prior to his nomination by President George W. Bush. Judge Nancy Torresen was a federal prosecutor before her nomination by Obama in 2011.

“Diversity of experience is good on a district court,” Tobias said. “Each brings special expertise and they can help one another and I expect they will work together to deliver justice in Maine’s federal court.”

Levy’s elevation to the federal bench could allow Gov. Paul LePage to appoint a state supreme court judge. The governor has appointed judges to the district and superior courts, but not the supreme court.

Levy previously served as a Maine District Court judge from 1995 to 2002. Before being appointed to the bench, he worked in private practice in York from 1983 to 1995.

Levy began his legal career by clerking for U.S. District Court Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. of West Virginia.

Levy earned his undergraduate degree in 1976 from Syracuse University and his law degree in 1979 from the West Virginia University College of Law.

Sidebar Elements

Judge Jon D. Levy of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court speaks May 15, 2013, during oral arguments in Portland. Levy was nominated to the federal bench on Thursday, Sept. 19, by President Barack Obama.