Biography of Judge Manuel Levine
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

JUDGE MANUEL LEVINE, of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Ohio, has attained some of the highest dignities of American citizenship, though he did not come into contact with the language, customs and economic conditions of this country until he was sixteen years of age.

He was born in Maresh, Russia, May 25, 1880, son of David J. and Michela Levine. Both his parents died in their native village a few years after Judge Levine had come to America. His father was a clergyman, a man of exceptional learning, though never rising above the poverty common to his countrymen. The mother of Judge Levine possessed both a strong mind and a fine character, and she cherished for years an ambition to have her son on reaching proper age come to America to realize the great opportunities in store for those with good natural gifts and a willingness to work. Thus from childhood America was to Judge Levine a land of promise. At home he had the advantages of good private tutors. When he was thirteen he left his native village to go to a university town. By work in spare hours and at night he supported himself while a student. A kindly German professor and other friends taught him the meaning of freedom in other lands, and at secret meetings he heard the American Constitution read and learned to recite the Declaration of Independence by heart in three different languages, a fundamental training in American ideals such as few native Americans could boast. These influences increased his determination to come to America. At the age of sixteen he crossed the ocean, reaching Cleveland a stranger, without money or friends, but with dreams and ideals that all the experiences and struggles of his later years have never tarnished:

Soon after coming to Cleveland he was attracted to Hiram House, and there began to understand the ideas and spirit underlying American life: He borrowed a German-English dictionary, joined a social reform club, and occasionally tried to join in the debates in English. He was helped to get pupils to instruct in German, and in this way earned a scanty living. He worked all the day, attended night school, and later gave every hour to the study of law. Friends assisted him to take special work in 'Western Reserve University and ultimately he was qualified to enter the law department and was graduated Bachelor of Laws in 1902.

Judge Levine was admitted to the Ohio bar in June, 1902, and at once set out to build up a practice. The following year Newton D. Baker, then mayor of Cleveland, appointed him assistant city solicitor, being guided in this selection by the desire to have a young attorney of just such qualifications as those 'possessed by Mr. Levine to assist the law courts in cases involving the foreign born citizens. No better selection could have been made. He proved invaluable not only to the officers of the law courts, but also to the very class of people who needed assistance when they were involved in legal difficulties. In the twenty years since his appointment as assistant city solicitor Judge Levine has had a career of uninterrupted progress to important service and higher responsibilities. Served under Newton D. Baker four and one half years as police prosecutor, having been assigned to that post immediately upon his appointment as assistant solicitor. In the fall of 1907 he was elected judge of the Police Court, was on that bench three years, and from January, 1912, to December 15, 1914, was judge of the Municipal Court. In November, 1914, he was elected Common Pleas judge, and served the full six year term and in 1920 was reelected. Midway in his second term he resigned January 5, 1923, to qualify as judge of the Court of Appeals. He was appointed to the Appellate bench the previous day by Governor Davis. This brief outline of his public service inevitably suggests the impressive abilities and qualifications that have justified every appointment and election to office. It is a wonderful record for a man still young, and who had obstacles and handicaps to overcome that would have discouraged anyone less persistent and ambitious. However, Judge Levine refuses to take the credit altogether to himself, and describes his advancement to his friends, an appreciative public, and in a more general way to the conditions and opportunities of American institutions.

Since the great war much has been done under the name and idea of Americanization, particularly to educate the foreign born to a proper understanding and appreciation of American life and its fundamental principles. Judge Levine was doing that work in an individual way twenty years ago. Few men have a better understanding of the vital issues involved. He has realized what many later and more superficial converts to the plan have not, that it is as important to assist the older American stock to an understanding of the emigrant as for the emigrant to assimilate American ideas. For many years he has continued his interest in this program on the theory of the trial balance, that the credit and debit pages, involving the relations of the emigrant to the native stock and the native American to the emigrant, must be balanced and stand side by side.

During the past twenty years there has been no movement for the correction of justice, the wiping out of graft and extortion, with which Judge Levine has not enthusiastically identified himself and on several occasions has been the important leader in such movements. He was a powerful factor in the fight against correction and extortion in the police courts of Cleveland and also in the justice courts of the county. One of the strongest influences enlisting Judge Levine in such reforms is his fundamental faith in the wholesomeness of American society and politics and his desire that the corrupt features shall not be allowed to poison the minds and ideals of the foreign born acquiring his first knowledge of American conditions. Judge Levine was largely responsible for the establishment of a probation system in connection with the police court, this being the first in Ohio. He had much to do with instituting the Municipal Court system in Cleveland, also the Conciliation Court of Cleveland, and the Domestic Relations Bureau of the Common Pleas Court.

While social settlements and other organized efforts had been doing something toward solving the relations of foreigners and natives and educating the former for life in this country, for a number of years before Judge Levine came to Cleveland, he put himself enthusiastically into the Americanization program within a few years, and has since been one of the ablest leaders of the movement. During the winter of 1908 he taught the first class in citizenship at Hiram House in Cleveland. This class is generally conceded to have been the first of its kind in America. He was and is a worker in the Citizens Bureau, which performs an effective service in preparing foreigners for meeting the tests of naturalization. One of his last official acts while in the Common Pleas Court was to throw open the doors of the new courthouse at night for the benefit of the hundreds of applicants for citizenship, permitting them to be examined after regular hours. Of the number that applied during his term fully 98 per cent were found prepared and qualified and were accordingly admitted to citizenship.

Since his childhood America has been to Judge Levine a Utopia, and he is "still fighting against disillusion." While he has had to deal officially with many disagreeable conditions affecting the welfare of municipal and county politics, Judge Levine has lost none of his optimism and his unalterable faith will undoubtedly make him an unwavering fighter for the right until the end. In what he has achieved of a personal success and in his work for others his guiding motto can perhaps best be expressed in his own words: "I will not build my castles upon the ruins of others, but will rise with them if I can."

Judge Levine is a member of the Cuyahoga County Bar Association, the Americanization Council, the Legal Aid Society, and is a Mason and Knight of Pythias. He married Miss Jessie Bialosky, who was born in Cleveland. She is a graduate of the Women's College of Western Reserve University. They are the parents of three children: Robert M., born in 1911; Alfred D., born in 1916, and Marjorie R., born in 1922.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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