Allen Judge Levine joins Surbeck in retiring; 7 to be interviewed

With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, Allen Superior judges John Surbeck Jr. and Stanley A. Levine will retire December 31, having devoted half of their careers to the bench in Fort Wayne.  

Levine announced his retirement Monday, almost two months after Surbeck informed the court of his similar decision on in June. Seven candidates have applied to the Allen County Judicial Nominating Commission to succeed Surbeck and will be interviewed by the commission Aug. 28. They are: Anthony S. Churchward, Jason S. Custer, Steven O. Godfrey, Jamie M. Groves, Samuel R. Keirns, Michelle F. Kraus and David M. Zent.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb will appoint Surbeck’s replacements from three finalists to be identified by the commission, which also will accept applications for Levine’s replacement later.

Here is a look at the legal legacies of judges Levine and Surbeck.  

Judge Stanley A. Levine

Levine, administrative judge of Allen Superior Civil Division, will have completed 20 years on the Allen County bench, capping his 55-year legal career, upon retirement. He was appointed by former Gov. Frank O’Bannon in January 1999, then retained on the bench in 2002, 2008 and 2014.  

He is a graduate of Indiana University and the IU Maurer School of Law. Before becoming a judge, Levine was listed in an annual publication of “The Best Lawyers in America” and was selected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

During his time on the Civil Division bench, Levine adjudicated a variety of cases including personal injury and medical malpractice, products liability, contract and employment, and estate, guardianship and trust litigation. His judicial tasks involved consideration of multiple motions filed in lawsuits and presiding at numerous motion hearings, bench trials and jury trials each year.

Levine was President of Legal Aid of Fort Wayne, Inc., the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation and the Allen County Bar Association, also serving as legal adviser to the City Council of Fort Wayne from 1984 to 1995.

He has been an elected member of the Board of Managers of the Indiana Judges Association and serves as vice-chair for the Saint Joseph Hospital Board, of which he has been a member for 10 years.  Levine was recognized as a Distinguished Barrister by The Indiana Lawyer in 2010.

“A good Judge has to have maturity, legal experience, life experience, wisdom and common sense,” said Allen Superior Civil Division Judge David A. Avery. “Judge Levine has all of those. After being a well-respected attorney in the Allen County Bar, he brought considerable experience to his role as a judge. He has worked hard to educate litigants and the public alike on the role of the courts. His contributions to the judiciary will be missed.”

In his retirement announcement, Levine thanked the people of Allen County for the opportunity serve.

“Being a judge was an aspiration for me and countless other attorneys who have taken the bench,” Levine said. “It has been an enormous responsibility which I have strived to fulfill to the best of my abilities, but an even greater privilege.”

Judge John Surbeck

Surbeck graduated from Indiana University in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in business and earned his J.D. from IU Maurer School of Law in 1971. After he was admitted to the Indiana bar, he served as law clerk to the Allen Superior Court, engaged in private practice, and served as a deputy public defender for 16 years.

Surbeck has been retained five times since his appointment as judge for the Allen Superior Court Criminal Division in 1988. During a legal career spanning more than 47 years, he has overseen a traffic and misdemeanor court of approximately 40,000 cases per year. He also oversees a criminal felony court of approximately 1,800 cases per year, holding responsibility for the adjudication of a full range of criminal cases.

“Judge Surbeck’s contributions to the Allen County judiciary cannot be overstated,” said Judge Frances C. Gull, administrative judge of the court’s Criminal Division. “He has presided over some of the most difficult and complex cases the Allen County courts have witnessed during his career.”

One of the highest-profile recent trials Surbeck oversaw was that of former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer David Bisard. His trial was venued to Fort Wayne due to extensive media coverage of Bisard’s drunken-driving crash that killed a motorcyclist and injured two others. Surbeck sentenced Bisard to 13 years in prison in November 2013 after a jury convicted him of multiple counts related to the fatal crash.

Gull said his colleague brought a steady hand and calming voice to maintain order despite chaotic circumstances during his time as a judge.

“Judge Surbeck will be missed long after he has left the courthouse,” Gull said.

In addition to his work on the bench, Surbeck designed and launched the Allen Superior Court Re-entry Court in 2001, providing intensive supervision and resources to returning offenders, including drug testing and monitoring of their whereabouts.

Surbeck received the 2012 William Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, presented by Chief Justice John Roberts, for his leadership and exemplary service. He was also appointed by then-Chief Justice Brent Dickson to chair an Indiana Supreme Court committee to study evidence based pre-trial release in 2013. His efforts culminated with the pending Indiana Criminal Rule 26, mandating that arrestees who do not pose a risk of flight or danger to the community, as determined by an evidence-based risk assessment, shall be released without money bail. The rule will go into effect in all 92 counties on January 1, 2020.

“It has been one of my life’s great privileges to be a part of the judiciary, doing a job I love in a community I love,” Surbeck said in his June retirement announcement. “Many young lawyers aspire to a judgeship, and I’m one of the lucky few who got the opportunity. There is no more fulfilling work than that of delivering justice fairly and impartially. I’m grateful for the chance to have served.”Those selected to replace Levine and Surbeck will complete the remainder of their terms, which end Dec. 31, 2020. More information about Allen County judicial selection is available here.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}