Maine supreme court Justice Levy nominated to replace Singal on federal bench

Judge Jon D. Levy of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court speaks May 15, 2013, in Portland to arguments in the appeal of Jeffrey Cookson, who was previously convicted of murdering Mindy Gould, 20, and 21-month-old Treven Cunningham in December 1999.
Judge Jon D. Levy of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court speaks May 15, 2013, in Portland to arguments in the appeal of Jeffrey Cookson, who was previously convicted of murdering Mindy Gould, 20, and 21-month-old Treven Cunningham in December 1999.
Posted Sept. 19, 2013, at 6:11 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 19, 2013, at 7:05 p.m.

A Maine Supreme Judicial Court justice was nominated Thursday by President Barack Obama to be a federal court judge in Portland, the White House has announced.

Justice Jon David Levy has been an associate justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial 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.”

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 William Kayatta Jr., an expert on the federal judicial nomination process said Thursday in an email. Kayatta was confirmed in February to replace 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, said. “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 District Court judge who came from the state bench. John Woodcock, nominated in 2003, was in private practice prior to his nomination by President George W. Bush. 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 Maine’s highest court.

Levy previously served as a Maine District Court Judge from 1995 to 2002. Before being appointed to the bench, Levy 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 the United States West Virginia.

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

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