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Published March 20, 2013, 04:16 PM

Fargo judge under scrutiny after complaint

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Cass County judge is accused of making repeated advances toward a court reporter who worked under him even though she made clear that she wasn't interested, according to a formal complaint filed Wednesday.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Cass County judge is accused of making repeated advances toward a court reporter who worked under him even though she made clear that she wasn't interested, according to a formal complaint filed Wednesday.

The complaint filed with the Judicial Conduct Commission against East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin will be heard by a panel comprised of two members of the public, a judge and an attorney, the Forum reported. A hearing date has not yet been set.

The State Court Administrator's Office last spring investigated claims that Corwin had created a hostile work environment by making advances to a female court reporter.

According to the complaint filed by Brent Edison, assistant disciplinary counsel for the disciplinary board of the state Supreme Court, Corwin told the woman in July 2010 that he was attracted to her and "wanted a more personal relationship," but she declined. Over the next year, Corwin repeatedly tried to start conversations with her about their relationship even though she told him several times that she was not interested, Edison said in the complaint.

In June 2011, the woman sent the judge an email saying she did not want to be friends with him and she wanted him to stop harassing her. In her January 2012 performance review, the court reporter received a positive review from one judge, but Corwin said she was reluctant to accept work assignments and sent him emails with an insubordinate tone, according to the complaint.

The court reporter has since been reassigned.

Corwin, who was elected to his current post in 2008, said with formal charges being filed, he'd finally had a chance to see the specific accusations against him. He said he has prepared a formal response that will be filed with the commission.

"I made mistakes — but I certainly didn't do any of the serious misconduct alleged," Corwin said. "The fundamentals haven't changed a bit — I thought it was behind us."

Edison said that he had not seen the judge's response to the case. He said a hearing date would be set once that response was filed.

Edison said the burden of proof is on prosecutors to prove with "clear and convincing evidence," which he said is somewhat higher than the "prepondance of evidence" required in a civil case but lower than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" required in a criminal matter.

Possible sanctions included censure by the Supreme Court, a recommendation to limit the judge's duties, suspension, removal or retirement.

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