Justice Jon David Levy
In May 2014, the Maine Judicial Branch said goodbye to Justice Jon D. Levy as he became a federal district court judge. Justice Levy was nominated by President Barack Obama to a position on the federal court in September 2013. After a Congressional Hearing, and with the support of Maine's Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, as well as Representatives Michaud and Pingree, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm now-Judge Levy to a position as a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Maine.
Almost twenty years ago, in 1995, after practicing law for thirteen years in York County, Justice Levy was appointed to the Maine District Court by Governor Angus King. Chief Justice Daniel E. Wathen named Judge Levy to the position of Chief Judge of the District Court in January 2001 where he did yeoman's duty as a Trial Court Chief until 2002 when he was appointed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court by Governor King.
Justice Levy was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court on March 8, 2002. He filled the vacancy left by Chief Justice Wathen's departure on October 4, 2001, and upon his appointment, Justice Levy became the first judge ever appointed to the Court directly from the Maine District Court. Although there had been justices appointed directly from the Superior Court, directly from private practice, and directly from academia, there had never been a judge of the District Court appointed directly to the Law Court. Accordingly, that form of appointment has become known affectionately as the "Levy Leap." To date, Judge Levy remains the only jurist to have accomplished the Levy Leap.
Beginning in 1988 and continuing during his tenure on the Maine courts, Justice Levy wrote, and updated, the respected treatise, Maine Family Law. He spoke regularly on the development of Family Law in Maine and is considered one of the State's foremost experts in the area.
Shortly after joining the Supreme Judicial Court, he was tapped by Chief Justice Saufley to head the new Judicial Resource Team (JRT), charged with consolidating, streamlining, and improving judicial process in Maine's trial courts. The JRT's report, entitled "TheNew Model for Scheduling," was presented to the Supreme Judicial Court in September 2003. It focused on the creation of a regional structure, better objective measures of court process, consolidation of scarce resources among the courts, and improved certainty of scheduling for the public's benefit. The New Model still guides the Maine courts in providing judicial services to the public.
Among Justice Levy's many accomplishments on the Maine courts was his passionate advocacy and support for the work of the Justice Action Group (JAG). JAG serves as Maine's access to justice advocacy group, and it brings together under one umbrella the many stakeholders involved in assuring meaningful access to justice in the Maine Courts.
Justice Levy's leadership on JAG helped invigorate community efforts, and led to organizational improvements and governmental responses to help secure legal representation for individuals in Maine who are elderly, have low income, or have a disability. Justice Levy was regularly invited to speak to the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary regarding the need for increasing legal services for impoverished Mainers facing challenges such as eviction, litigation over child contact or child support, or mounting medical bills and related debt.
As Justice Levy so eloquently summarized, "There are countless stories [demonstrating] that even a modest amount of legal assistance can change a person's life." Under his leadership, the Supreme Judicial Court adopted the Katahdin Counsel Recognition Program to recognize lawyers who have donated their time to people in desperate need of a lawyer's assistance. In 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court recognized the volunteerism of Maine lawyers through the Katahdin Program and thanked those lawyers for providing free legal services valued at approximately $2.4 million in a single year. Without Justice Levy's active and passionate support for access to justice, these milestones would never have been reached.
During his tenure on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Levy was well known for his clear and direct questioning of appellate arguers on every aspect of process. Some suggested that he filled the very large shoes of Justice David Roberts in reminding us all that due process must be synonymous with fair process. In all, Justice Jon D. Levy authored 265 majority opinions, 17 dissents, 16 concurrences, and 4 opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Judge Levy began his new career on the federal bench less than a year ago, and his absence on the Supreme Judicial Court bench is keenly felt. His intellect, compassion, and urgency for fairness will serve the people of Maine well as he settles into his job on the federal bench.