UPDATE: Maine high court Justice Levy of Portland 'thrilled, honored' to join federal bench

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PORTLAND — After a seven-month confirmation process that culminated with strong U.S. Senate support for his nomination to the U.S. District Court, Judge Jon D. Levy said he is eager to shift from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to the federal bench.

“I am both thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to serve as a federal judge,” Levy said in an email Thursday. “The United States District Court for the District of Maine deals with important questions arising under the U.S. Constitution and federal statues.”

Levy, a Portland resident, was confirmed April 30 by a 75-20 U.S. Senate vote. After President Obama issued his commission, Levy was sworn in Friday, May 2, by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen. A Maine high court justice since 2002, Levy replaces Judge George B. Singal, who has taken senior status.

Levy’s confirmation was praised by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, an independent, in a joint news release. King and Collins voted for Levy’s confirmation.

“Justice Levy has had a long career as an attorney and a judge in Maine, and his experience makes him well qualified for Maine’s federal district court,” Collins said.

King said Levy’s qualifications appealed to Democrats and Republicans.

“With today’s strong bipartisan vote, it’s clear the U.S. Senate shares my belief that Justice Levy’s sharp intellect, impartial judgment, and extensive legal experience, both in private practice and as a state judge, make him extremely well-qualified to join the federal bench,” King said.

The shift to the federal bench takes Levy from a collaborative role in deciding appeals of state cases to the solitary role of presiding over federal trials.

“I am returning to trial work, where I began my judicial career. This will allow me frequent contact with members of the public, attorneys, law enforcement officials, and others,” Levy said.

As governor in 1995, King nominated Levy to the Maine District Court bench, and then to the Supreme Judicial Court.

“One of the great joys and great challenges of working as an appellate judge is the group decision-making process,” Levy said. “Although I will miss that process, I am excited to re-engage in the individual decision-making and case management skills required of trial judges.”

Levy was nominated for the federal court last September by President Obama.

“The confirmation process was long, demanding, and, at times, arduous. As an example, I had to identify all of the important written work and speeches I generated during a 35-year legal career, as well as during college and law school,” Levy said.

A 1979 graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law and a 1976 graduate of Syracuse University, Levy worked in private practice in York from 1983 to 1985. Before that, he served as a clerk for Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. of the United States District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia from 1979 to 1981.

In 1981 Levy served as a court monitor in a Texas prison conditions class action suit. He was appointed by U.S. District Judge William Justice.

Recounting the body of his work was time-consuming, but important, Levy said, because it ensures “that judges who receive lifetime tenure under the Constitution are qualified and have the right temperament for the position.”

Levy said he expects his work as a federal judge will lead him down new legal avenues.

“The federal courts are at the forefront of addressing a host of legal questions arising from how new technologies affect commercial relationships, the rights of individuals, and the environment,” he said. “I am looking forward to addressing these and other cutting-edge issues.”

His new legal approach and requirements will be different, but Levy said he valued his tenure as a high court justice.

“I have spent the last 12 years working closely with a small group of extraordinary people,” he said. “I will miss my colleagues and the cooperative spirit with which we worked together.”

Levy will be replaced on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court by a nominee to be selected by Gov. Paul LePage, and requiring confirmation by two-thirds of the state Senate.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Judge John D. Levy of Portland, the newest member of the federal bench in Maine, is congratulated by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen after she administered the judicial oath on Friday, May 2.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.