Maine’s top federal judge has announced he will retire next year.

Chief U.S. District Judge Jon Levy Courtesy U.S. District Court

Chief U.S. District Judge Jon Levy wrote in a letter to President Biden last week that he intends to retire from regular active status by May 2024, “having attained the age and met the service requirements” of federal law.

Levy was sworn into office as a federal judge in Maine in July 2014, after he was nominated by former President Barack Obama and approved by the U.S. Senate that spring. He has been the district’s chief judge since Jan. 1, 2018, according to his judicial assistant.

Before he became a U.S. District judge, Levy was a member of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 2002 to 2014 and a Maine District Court judge for seven years before that.

Levy declined through his assistant to discuss his retirement Monday. In his short letter to the president, Levy said he would “assume inactive senior status” on the bench. Federal law allows judges who are 65 and older and have served at least 15 years on the bench to effectively retire, earning their annual salary as an annuity and handle a reduced caseload.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Andrew Mead, whose time overlapped with Levy’s on the state’s highest court, said Levy made his mark on Maine’s court systems as “quite a constitutional scholar” and an expert on family law, whose cases “demonstrated competence and humanity.”


“He’s truly distinguished himself in all three courts,” Mead said in an interview Monday. “I think I was always deeply impressed and humbled by his capabilities.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Maine courts were forced to adjust, both Levy and Mead found themselves at the helm of their respective courts. Mead was acting chief justice of Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court in early 2021 and Levy had been chief U.S. District Judge for a few years by then.

“The two of us communicated frequently at that time,” Mead said. “He always had great ideas, he shared resources with us, we compared notes. … He’s extremely organized, and careful and thoughtful, and plots things out in a way that makes sense to keep the courts moving strongly.”

Mead declined to share any hopes or expectations for Levy’s replacement, citing the separation of powers between the judicial branch and the legislative and executive branches tasked with selecting a new federal judge.

The Maine Bar Association said in a statement Monday that Levy has had a “distinguished career” in both Maine and federal court, citing his work as chair of the Justice Action Group and in family law while in Maine district court.

“While it will be difficult to truly fill his shoes, we look forward to the opportunity this offers to bring additional perspectives to the District of Maine’s federal bench, and hope that the chosen candidate for the next judicial appointment reflects and represents the changing face of Maine’s legal profession as it becomes more diverse, equitable and inclusive,” the association said.


Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who follows judicial appointments, said Levy’s notice comes at an “ideal” time because the Senate isn’t backed up with nominees.

Senators will ultimately vote on a nominee announced by Biden, but the president will likely select that nominee from recommendations provided by Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins of Maine.

“If they were to move someone this summer and get a nominee, that person could be confirmed in 2023,” Tobias said.

Communications staff for King’s office did not respond to questions about his reaction to Levy’s retirement. In a brief statement Monday, Collins wished Levy well and thanked him for his service at the state and federal level.

White House officials have said that the Biden administration is intentionally trying to diversify nominees to the bench. An analysis of federal data by the Brennan Center for Justice in April 2022 found that the Biden administration is making historic strides in demographic diversity: 26% of all Black women serving as active justices were nominated by Biden, and roughly 30% were at one point public defenders.

Collins is one of a few Republican senators who has regularly supported Biden’s nominations to various federal courts. In April 2022, she was one of three senate Republicans to support Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Jackson became the first Black female justice.

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: