On June 30, N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue appointed Judge Eric Levinson to the seat of Resident Superior Court judge for Mecklenburg County. Levinson is replacing Judge David S. Cayer, who has accepted a position as U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.
Levinson isn’t a newcomer to the state’s judiciary and he does have some great judicial experience. According to the governor’s release:
“Levinson recently spent time in Iraq as a Justice Attaché for the U.S. Department of Justice. He also has consulted with the Supreme Court of Afghanistan to help develop its civil court system. Prior to his judicial service overseas, Levinson spent five years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Before joining the court he served six years as a District Court Judge in Mecklenburg County and four years as an assistant district attorney for Cabarrus and Rowan counties.”
The jurist has been praised for his past judicial work. Writes Jack Betts of The Charlotte Observer, “Levinson was widely regarded as a highly capable, effective judge when he served on the N.C. Court of Appeals and as a district judge in Mecklenburg.”
But, does Perdue’s appointment of this Republican judge cause any concern for the LGBT community?
Levinson — a conservative Jew — has rarely indicated his personal views on matters pertaining to LGBT equality. He’s also rarely discussed other views near and dear to the hearts of anti-gay fundamentalists, such as abortion or euthanasia. But, he has spoken out about his strong faith, in somewhat curious ways.
In December 2002, he told the anti-LGBT American Family Association’s AgapePress, “My faith is something I rely on day to day, something I try to be mindful of whether I’m in the courtroom or out of the courtroom. [Faith] is an important part of my life.”
He also told the mock news network that America has a “strong religious foundation.”
From the article: “One of [the] strengths of our institution as a democracy is its separation … but at the same time our country has religious foundations ….” he says. “Religion is an important part of this nation and its fabric. We can’t ignore that one of this country’s strengths is recognizing that we have a strong religious foundation …. There is a point where the courts can go too far with respect to trying to maintain separation of church and state. There is a balance that must be considered.”
On Aug. 26, 2006, Levinson declined to answer a candidate questionnaire from the conservative, Focus on the Family-affiliated N.C. Family Policy Council, including specific questions on LGBT issues such as adoption by gay parents and the Lawrence v. Texas (2003) decision on sodomy laws. Levinson instead sent a written response explaining why he couldn’t answer specific questions.
“As part of my commitment to the integrity of our judiciary, I cannot answer the specific questions you presented,” he wrote. “These exact questions — or ones very similar to them — will very likely be presented to me in my role as an appellate court judge. Any advance comment on them can have a negative impact on the public’s confidence in these decisions and the judiciary.”
Highly respectable. But, in the same letter, Levinson called himself a “conservative jurist” and told the anti-gay group that, “Like you, I believe the genesis of our great nation and our body of statutory law can be found in the teachings of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
In his 2006 race for the state’s supreme court, Levinson received an endorsement from the North Carolina Republican Party, whose platform, legislative caucuses and other bodies have routinely discriminated against LGBT North Carolinians.
“It is an honor to have such outstanding candidates for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals,” said NCGOP Chairman Ferrell Blount said in an April 13, 2006 press release. “North Carolinians want conservative judges who interpret and uphold the law, not legislate from the bench. Our Republican candidates will do just that.”
There doesn’t seem to be any problematic or anti-gay rulings made by Levinson, and the record of his public statements seems to be pretty much clear of any outright, anti-LGBT bias. But, considering the company he keeps and the language he uses concerning religion and America, there is cause for concern. One can only hope that he keeps his promise to uphold a judiciary of integrity by keeping his conservative personal views from clouding any decisions he might make.
— Originally published July 1 at Q-Notes’ blog, assembloge (blog.q-notes.com). View story.