The Honorable Jodi B. Levine is a U.S. Administrative Law Judge at the Social Security Administration and the Office of Disability Adjudication & Review. Judge Levine is an active leader of the Section’s Fair and Impartial Courts and Free Speech and Free Press Committee.
What drives you?
Like most of you I am driven by the oft-misquoted phrase - "to whom much is given..." We who are fortunate enough to be lawyers and Judges, have an obligation to give back and to serve our community. I am extremely fortunate to have been raised by parents (who survived having me as their child) who taught me well to respect others and to embrace the differences of others to help us grow because it would be a boring world if we all were the same. I've often said that they would have punished us more harshly if ever we had said something racist, homophobic, sexist, et al than if I had robbed a bank.
Why is the Fair and Impartial Courts Committee important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
The concept of "Fair and Impartial" is for all who appear before and are served by the judicial system. As I tell those who appear before me, their hearing is not about me but about them. Fairness or fair play is learned by all who played on the playground, It is the idea that if you know what the rules are --- you have a chance to follow them or not, but at least a chance. "Impartial" while important in some ways is not the key alone. Yes, we want those who are deciding our case to not have it decided already (unless it is for us) but, it is more than that. Impartial means a willingness to listen and to decide a case based upon the application of the rules to the facts or circumstances. Hence, we go back to the concept of fairness. Impartial means being ethical. Our committee is dedicated to helping those in the legal community appreciate their responsibilities to the law, to the system, and to the public and is dedicated to helping those in the nonlegal public also to understand their responsibilities to the law and legal system. We hope that through webinars, programs, and other projects to spread that message.
What does economic justice mean to you?
Economic Justice means myriad things and certainly is subject to misunderstanding and misuse from those who bring their preconceived notions and prejudices to it. No matter how it is defined, economic justice is not something that can be solved or addressed solely by the legal system but needs other disciplines such as those in the medical-mental health fields, those in the religious communities, and those in the science and technology fields.
How does economic justice interact with the FIC Committee and how can it accomplish change?
For our Fair and Impartial Commitee, I look to the excellent work that has been done by CRSJ, Judicial Division and the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty amongst others to recognize that one size does not fit all when we look at how to solve the tragedy of those who are on the lower end of the economic scales. My hope is we will find ways to add to their projects to amplify and complement (and compliment) their work.
The opportunity to have been a member of CRSJ (beginning when it was IRR) has been simply awesome.
When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?
It is not for me to say what my advocacy and professional career mean, even though, my ego (that certainly is as large as my birth state Texas) dictates otherwise. My wish is that, hopefully, I have opened doors and helped others to advance and live their potentials and left the landscape better than I found it. (How is that for dodging the question)
Any final reflections?
Let me respond by going back to what we learned from our parents. They embraced the philosophy of Mame Dennis (yes, that Mame) to be kind and welcoming to all and that Life is a Banquet and most poor "suckers" are starving to death and that you should Open a New Window, Travel a New highway and just Live, Live, Live!!