Fourth Circuit Senior Judge Andre Davis to Become Baltimore City Solicitor
There is some bittersweet news out of Baltimore. Senior Judge Andre Davis, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, will be resigning his commission to become the new Baltimore City Solicitor, effective September 1, 2017. He has heard his last Fourth Circuit arguments and will be finishing work on opinions over the summer.
Whether you agree with him or not, Judge Davis is a terrific writer. One of Judge Davis’ final concurring opinions, a poetry-quoting tribute to transgender teen Gavin Grimm, received significant national attention. In retrospect, that concurrence now reads like a valedictory, from a judge who began his career as an appellate attorney with the DOJ Civil Rights Division.
In a 2000 interview (at least according to Wikipedia), Judge Davis said that “I want the loser – and I know there’s always going to be a loser, that’s the nature of the beast – but I want the loser to be able to say, ‘I lost, but I was heard, and I believe that judge gave me every consideration in hearing my side.'”
Perhaps my favorite such opinion was one that Judge Davis wrote as a federal trial judge in United States v. Mitchell, 405 F. Supp. 2d 602 (D. Md. 2005). He took the time to address a “sovereign citizen” argument from four capital defendants. (If you’re not familiar with “sovereign citizen” theory, Judge Davis’ opinion will educate you.)
“It is truly ironic,” Judge Davis wrote in Mitchell, “that four African-American defendants here apparently rely on an ideology derived from a famously discredited notion: the illegitimacy of the Fourteenth Amendment.” He urged the defendants “in the strongest possible terms, to desist from their disruptive behavior and resume cooperation with their counsel, who want desperately to save their lives.”
It’s easy to respond with snark or derision when marginalized elements of society bring frivolous theories into court. I, like so many Twitter users, am guilty of such snark at times. Instead, Judge Davis responds by giving some individuals more respect than perhaps they’ve ever received from an authority figure.
The Fourth Circuit’s loss, however, will be Baltimore’s gain. Godspeed to Judge Davis in this new chapter of his career.