Cass Co. Judge Accused of Sexual Harassment
by Kiersten Cooley, KVRR Reporter
July 09, 2012
A Cass County District Judge lands himself in the middle of a sexual harassment investigation.
Judge Wickham Corwin is accused of creating an uncomfortable work environment for a female court employee, lasting for nearly a year.
The allegations unfolded after Corwin expressed negative issues regarding the victim's performance during a biennial performance review.
The North Dakota Supreme Court Administrator's Office spent nearly two months looking into the relationship between Corwin and one of the court employees.
According to the investigators' final report, Corwin's actions between July of 2010 and June of 2011 caused the victim to "dread coming to work and created a fear that she would lose her job" after "she turned down his request for an affair."
Documents say Corwin and the employee originally had a friendly relationship, but after a few lunches together, group happy hour outings, and a bike ride, Corwin invited the victim into his home, where he "indicated that he was attracted to her and wanted a more personal relationship." The victim "expressed reservations. They kissed and then he took her home."
This is when the alleged sexual harassment began.
Investigators say Corwin contacted the victim several times regarding their relationship.
Corwin told them, "He didn't like the awkwardness between them and tried to talk to her about it [...] He wanted their relationship to return to what it had been before the incident at his home."
He attempted to talk with her and invited her to lunch frequently. He would get angry when she refused, once sending her an expletive email saying, “Stop being so f***ing difficult."
To which she responded, "You told me to 'Stop being so f'g difficult.' I'm not being difficult. I'm trying to nicely tell you to back off. Please stop trying to 'plan' things to get me alone."
In another conversation he threatened her job saying, "If this was a private law practice, he would have taken care of the problem by now."
But the victim emailed him saying, "I avoid you because you won't stop trying to have ‘conversations’ with me about something that I dearly have told you more than once to just leave alone. We are COWORKERS. Start acting like it! [...] There is no 'problem,' other than that I didn't go along with your advances so now you are trying to make up problems to try and get rid of me."
The victim kept a written account with dates of all of their unusual encounters, saying at times, "I was scared, wanted to run."
She told investigators "She felt very uncomfortable in Judge Corwin's office and physically felt sick. That at one time she had to run to a bathroom to calm herself during a trial because she was having a panic attack because she felt so uncomfortable around him."
After speaking with both parties, and other employees and judges at the courthouse, investigators concluded that, "While Judge Corwin did not intend to threaten [the victim] or to make her work environment uncomfortable, his actions had that effect." And that his "repeated conversations and suggestions continued despite her explicit instruction to him to stop."
Judge Corwin and the victim have since been separated from working with each other, and plans have been made to move his chamber away from her office once courthouse construction is complete.
The victim does have the right to issue a civil complaint through the court if she desires.
The Supreme Court Administrators Office says they legally could not charge Corwin, as he is an elected official and not an employee.
The Cass County State's Attorney's Office says it has not received a criminal complaint on the matter.
Phone calls to Corwin were not returned.