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Judge Faces Charges for Harassing Court Reporter

Judge Faces Charges for Harassing Court Reporter

Court reporters face ethical challenges on the job every day. One North Dakota court reporter made the news recently after charges were filed against a judge alleging he made repeated, unwanted advances toward the court reporter and intimidated her.

Cass County District Judge Wickham Corwin is facing formal charges from the North Dakota Judicial Conduct Commission amidst allegations he sexually harassed a court reporter who worked in the same court.

Nature of contact questioned

A North Dakota judge is accused of pursuing an unwanted relationship with a court reporter (source)

A North Dakota judge is accused of pursuing an unwanted relationship with a court reporter (source)

According to the charges as reported in the Dickinson Press, the court reporter stated she was not interested in a personal relationship after Corwin approached her and the two kissed.

Despite this refusal, the charges say Corwin continued to contact the court reporter personally and attempted to meet with her. The court reporter said she felt threatened by these repeated attempts to contact her and thought he was trying to intimidate her. But Corwin asserts he was just trying to “clear the air.”

From the Dickinson Press report:

“Corwin also suggested to the woman that she could transfer to another team, and that if the events happened at a private law firm, he would have “taken care of the problem by now,” the charges state.”

Supervisory role questioned

The court reporter alleges the judge had a say in her performance review (source)

The court reporter alleges the judge had a say in her performance review (source)

The situation’s further complicated by the working relationship the two had. According to the charges, Corwin had daily supervision over the court reporter’s work and also had a say in whether or not she got a pay increase based on her performance review.

In another report from the State Court Administrator’s Office released last spring, investigators said the judge didn’t intend to intimidate the court reporter, but his actions had that effect anyway.

Judge responds

In a statement, Corwin denied the allegations that he harassed the court reporter and said his efforts to contact her were meant to maintain their working relationship. He also denied being her supervisor.

The Dickinson Press report included this statement from Corwin: “At no time did I desire or pursue any form of intimate relationship” with the court reporter.

Court reporters must be professional

Working as a court reporter can feel like an ethical minefield. You’re constantly exposed to exclusive information. And you’re working with — or for — powerful people, including judges and attorneys.

This court reporter probably didn’t want to find herself in this situation, but some ethical dilemmas aren’t so cut and dry.

Luckily there are industry guidelines covering many of these tricky situations.

In fact, the National Court Reporters Association has an online game called Courting Disaster that presents exactly these kinds of complicated situations and gives you a chance to play them out and see if your responses are appropriate.

The preceding was a guest post written by Shannon McNulty, a Philadelphia tax attorney out of Pennsylvania.

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