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Posted on Thu. Aug. 21, 2014 - 12:45 am EDT

Superior Court judge apologizes for ‘extremely tasteless’ remarks

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Allen Superior Court Judge Stanley Levine finds himself in hot water with his colleagues and staff after a string of sexually charged comments at a public retirement reception Friday.

Levine, a 15-year veteran of the court’s civil division, took the microphone in the middle of a retirement and award reception for longtime court executive Jerry Noble and two members of his staff.

During Levine’s remarks in front of a packed courtroom filled with family, friends, co-workers and some children, he suggested that one of the women retiring would have a lucrative potential second career as a phone-sex operator.

Levine mentioned the woman’s husband might be OK with such a job once he saw how much money she could make.

Other than a few head shakes and dropped jaws, no one said anything or noticeably reacted to Levine’s comments, which were followed by an a capella rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

After he left the microphone, the ceremony resumed, and Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Paul Mathias presented Noble with a Sagamore of the Wabash award.

But by Monday morning, Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis, serving as the county’s chief judge, was fielding questions and complaints from people throughout the expansive building downtown.

And since the event, Levine has appeared contrite.

“First of all, I wanted to state that I have made a sincere and heartfelt apology to the woman about whom I made inappropriate remarks by talking to her personally, and she has accepted my apology,” he said Wednesday. “I have also apologized to the judges that I have talked with, and I apologize … anyone else who heard what I said; and also to the public.”

In an email circulated Wednesday afternoon to courthouse staff, the Allen County Board of Judges – comprising the court’s nine judges – said they, too, found Levine’s comments to be inappropriate and that a number of people present during the reception found his comments offensive.

The email reminded all courthouse staff that anyone who feels he or she has been harassed has the option to report the conduct to a supervisor, the court executive or any Allen Superior Court judge.

Levine, appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon in December 1998, is up for re-election this year and faces challengers James Posey and Dan Borgmann. Borgmann is the husband of Allen County Clerk Lisbeth Borgmann.

Levine said he was shocked by his words. “I have always conducted my private and public life without demeaning or mistreating any women with whom I worked or employed or interacted in any manner. Therefore, with the benefit of hindsight, it is hard to believe what came out of my mouth, but it did,” he said.

“What I quite mistakenly meant to be humorous was in truth extremely tasteless. I am, to say the least, deeply troubled by what I said, and I deeply regret having said it. No one in this world is perfect, least of all me. Since that is abundantly clear, I am truly sorry.”

Davis said she could not comment on personnel matters or the actions of another elected official.

“Actions have been taken to reinforce that we value our employees and we are a great place to work,” Davis said Wednesday.

It’s unclear whether Levine will face disciplinary action from the Indiana Supreme Court.

“The Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to uphold the integrity of the judiciary,” said Kathryn Dolan, state Supreme Court spokeswoman, in an email. “Certainly sexual harassment of an employee is not appropriate conduct. However, I cannot state whether a specific situation violates the code of conduct.

“Only the five members of the Supreme Court have the authority to determine what (if any) judicial misconduct has occurred in a specific situation. A litigant, member of the press or public or a judicial officer can report alleged misconduct to the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission.”

While complaints and allegations made to the commission are not public record, Dolan said that, should the commission believe misconduct occurred, it can file a disciplinary charge against a judge. Any charge would be a matter of public record.

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