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Day 2 of Sexual Harassment Hearing for State District Judge Corw - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Day 2 of Sexual Harassment Hearing for State District Judge Corwin

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Judge William Heraul Judge William Heraul
Brent Edison, who represents a court reporter, right, and Judge William Heraul Brent Edison, who represents a court reporter, right, and Judge William Heraul
© Ronald McLean, Wickham Corwin's attorney, Tuesday, June 25, 2013 © Ronald McLean, Wickham Corwin's attorney, Tuesday, June 25, 2013
© Brent Edison, Disciplinary Counsel for the Judicial Conduct Commission © Brent Edison, Disciplinary Counsel for the Judicial Conduct Commission

UPDATE: 06/25 5:40 p.m.The day's events started out just as Monday's finished with Judge Corwin's testimony. Corwin showed a lot of repetition, saying an affair is not what he wanted. He thought he and the court reporter had a miscommunication that could not be fixed, so he switched teams to not have to work with her.

UPDATE

The formal hearing for Judge Wickham Corwin, accused of sexually harassing a court reporter that worked with him began Monday at the Holiday Inn in Fargo.

 

It is at the Holiday Inn because it is not involving criminal charges, but rather if Corwin violated the cannons of judicial code with the alleged harassment. If he did, the Judicial Conduct Committee will determine what penalties will be applied.

 

The court reporter worked on a team with Judge Corwin and Judge Wade Webb. She alleges that he made several passes at her, trying to propose an affair.

 

An attorney representing Corwin, Ronald McLean, says Corwin never wanted anything more than a cordial relationship with the court reporter.

 

McLean said in opening statements that these allegations only came to light because Corwin brought them forward to the Court Administrator. He said the accusation is "inflammatory" and only hurts Corwin.

 

The court reporter took the stand Monday morning.

 

Brett Edison is Assistant Disciplinary Counsel for the Judicial Conduct Commission. He spent the morning going through several incidents between Corwin and the court reporter.

 

Edison discussed a specific incident where Corwin invited the court reporter on a bike ride. The court reporter said after the ride he invited her inside for a glass of wine. It was in the kitchen that she says Corwin hugged her and tried to kiss her.

 

She said during their glass of wine he proposed an affair. Right away, she says she made it clear it was not a good idea.

 

In her testimony, she says several times Corwin brought up the relationship asking if she thought any more about it.  She says he also asked her to go to lunch multiple times, but she refused many of those when she was able to.

 

She says she "had the impression that he was not going to take no for an answer." The court reporter added that she thought he knew she was uncomfortable, so he tried to initiate discussions that were not work related.

 

E-mails between Corwin and the court reporter were also introduced. They showed her saying she did not want to be involved in any relationship whatsoever.

 

At one point the court reporter said Corwin told her, "If we were still at the law firm, I would have taken care of you a long time ago." She said this referred to him wanting her removed.

 

She said Corwin did several things trying to make her quit, but in the end he ended up switching to a different team to no longer have to work with her.

 

Judge Wade Webb also took the stand. He said the court reporter was always "prompt, courteous, a good professional."

 

Webb had testified that he started to see a change in her personal demeanor. He said she wanted to use him as a reference because she was applying for new jobs.

 

At a later time Webb indicated that she told him, "Corwin is bothering me."

 

McLean then questioned Webb. He noted that Webb had never spoken to Corwin or made a complaint about what was allegedly happening.

 

McLean then cross-examined the court reporter. He read an email that showed Corwin attempted many times to clear things up. He said Corwin had known there were communication problems.

 

In the email Corwin said, "I have no desire to hurt you or your job."

 

McLean made it known that there was no overt talk about sex after the bike ride incident. He says Corwin admits he made a mistake in that instance.

 

The court reporter also said, "We got along fine as long as work was the only thing discussed."

 

McLean argued that there was no grievance or complaint filed at the time of the incidents, and that Corwin was only trying to create the cordial relationship between the two since they worked together.

 

The court reporter is now working with a different judge along with Webb, and she says, "Things are excellent."

 

 

Testimony continued through the afternoon. Court Administrator Rod Olson testified that Corwin had brought up needing to talk to him about an issue, after addressing issues with the court reporter in a bi-annual review.

 

Olson said Corwin told him about the night of the bike ride with a conversation of where to take the relationship with her next. Olson said Corwin told him, "I said things I wish I had not said."

 

Corwin admitted to Olson several instances where he approached the court reporter trying to fix communication issues. In the end, he said it was best to move Corwin to a different team to work with.

 

McLean pointed out that from 2009 to 2012, there were no formal complaints filed by the court reporter. He also wanted everyone to know no one else has come forward to complain.

 

Sally Holewa, the State Court Administrator testified next. She said, in interviewing Corwin, he told her an affair "could be implied given (his) the marital status."

 

But she said Corwin told her he never made any openly sexual moves or tried to touch the court reporter inappropriately.

 

Final testimony on Monday came with Judge Corwin. He said of everything, "It was a mistake of mine, one that I regret."

 

He testified that the night of the bike ride, he and the court reporter talked about her divorce. He said she had mentioned it is a mistake to get involved with a boss. He responded that not all office romances end in disaster.

 

Corwin said it was getting late, and he said he would take her home. In the kitchen, he said, "We put our arms around each other and we kissed."

 

He continued to talk about the mistake he made with her and added he probably made things worse by trying to fix them.

 

He said he told her if there were any lingering concerns about him making a move and wanting a relationship that they should talk about it. He said she shrugged it off as if they had moved on.

 

Corwin said there was no excuse for his actions. He said a judge is not expected to interact in the way he did with staff, especially with some of the things he said to her.

 

Testimony ended for the day at 3:45 p.m., but it will continue Tuesday morning with more witnesses to be called.

 

It will also be decided Tuesday morning how final arguments will be presented and where the hearing goes from here.

 

Stay tuned for more updates.

 

 

 

ORIGINAL STORY

 

The North Dakota Judicial Conduct Commission has scheduled a public hearing for a state district judge in Fargo facing a complaint that he sexually harassed a court reporter.   

The commission is set to hear the case against East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin Monday and Tuesday, if more time is needed. The hearing will be at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

Corwin has denied the allegations. He says he made mistakes but is not guilty of serious misconduct.

 

A disciplinary hearing on sexual harassment accusations against Cass County District Court Judge Wickham Corwin entered its final day Tuesday.

Corwin is being reviewed on whether or not he sexually harassed a court reporter and three other charges involving his conduct as a judge.

 

 

When the attorney representing the Judicial Commission, Brent Edison, questioned Corwin, Corwin admitted that the court reporter may have thought, by his actions, that he wanted an affair.

That could prove to be important because the panel only needs to see that the actions could be perceived as sexual harassment.

Several other witnesses, who know Corwin, also testified. They said he never showed anger, and they never felt uncomfortable around him.

Testimony has concluded, but the case is far from over as final arguments still need to be written before the panel gets to decide.

Edison says, "The panel will then take it under advisement, and they'll exercise their options to dismiss this case, or impose discipline, make a recommendation to the North Dakota Supreme Court, and then the court has the potential to review that."

 

It could be months before a decision is announced on whether or not Corwin broke judicial code.

The attorneys will have nearly two months to write their final arguments, and the panel will have two months to review everything. Even at that point, the case could be argued before the State Supreme Court.

 

The judiciary panel will get to decide whether or not to dismiss the case or apply penalties. If the panel decides discipline is necessary, it can recommend measures, but the Supreme Court would need to approve the measures.

Penalties range from the Court expressing disapproval of Corwin's actions to the Supreme Court removing him from the bench.

 
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