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Judge facing suspension for sexual harassment decides not to run again

FARGO – A Cass County judge facing a possible two-month suspension after a disciplinary panel found he sexually harassed his former court reporter will not to seek re-election.

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Judge Wickham Corwin sent a letter to the Cass County Bar Association Wednesday announcing his intent not to seek office after his current term expires on Dec. 31, 2014, said Bar Association Vice President Connie Cleveland.

Corwin was the focus of a state Judicial Conduct Commission case this summer in which the hearing panel found he sexually harassed his former court reporter. In a recommendation issued in October, panel members called for Corwin to be suspended for two months without pay.

The North Dakota Supreme Court has the final say on what punishment the judge might face.

“I have enjoyed the job, but not the publicity,” Corwin wrote in the letter.

On Tuesday, Corwin filed an appeal of the hearing panel’s recommendation with the state Supreme Court, including its findings of sexual harassment.

The brief argues that the case against Corwin was “the only significant black mark on a life of accomplishment that spans more than 63 years.” It also states that the case destroyed his plans for a second term in office and damaged his reputation and community standing.

“None of the media coverage will ever be retracted, just as there is no way to control the internet ‘gripe sites’ that have been established in reaction to his judicial decisions,” it says.

Corwin maintains in the brief that the court reporter misunderstood his attempts to fix their working relationship after she rejected his sexual advances in May 2010, about six months after he began as a Cass County judge.

The state Supreme Court is set to hear the case during its January term.

The nine-judge East Central District Court, which includes Cass County, already has a vacancy due to Judge Lisa Fair McEvers being chosen to fill a spot on the state Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Mary Muehlen Maring.

Cleveland said judges who have chosen to step down in the past have also notified the bar of their intentions.

“I think it’s a really nice way to do it,” Cleveland said. “Giving members of the Bar Association time to decide whether to run.”

Corwin could not be reached for comment for this story.