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Dave Olson, Published March 01 2012

Judge Davies to step down after 40 years

FARGO – Judge Thomas A. Davies, a fixture in Fargo’s Municipal Court for nearly 40 years, announced Thursday he is hanging up his robe when his current term expires.

Davies, who has been away from the bench since he began battling severe pancreatitis last spring, said in a letter to city officials he will not seek re-election in the June municipal election.

Davies became a Municipal Court judge on April 4, 1972, his 33rd birthday.

He is the son of former federal Judge Ronald N. Davies, who is known for a landmark ruling in 1957 that racially integrated schools in Little Rock, Ark.

In his letter to city officials, Davies said he didn‘t realize how much he loved his job until he fell ill last year.

“I will have major surgery this month; and while I contemplate a full and complete recovery over time, it is prudent that I will not (seek) re-election,” Davies wrote.

“I have truly enjoyed my time in office and expect to return to work to finish my current term as my health permits,” he added.

Sue Thompson, who as clerk of court has worked with Davies for nearly 35 years, described him as a colorful judge whose rulings reflected firmness as well as humor, when appropriate.

“I feel he was a great judge,” Thompson said.

“He was very caring about the people that appeared in court,” she added. “He was very concerned about alcohol offenses in particular and trying to help those people that needed help. At the same time, he was very tough.”

Municipal Court hears cases of alleged violations of city ordinances, such as traffic offenses and many drunken-driving charges.

A 2006 Forum story described a day in court when Davies handled 37 citations issued during a concert.

Davies gave this advice to an 18-year-old college freshman cited for urinating in public: “If it goes in, it’s going to come out; just plan ahead.”

In his letter to the city, Davies voiced high regard for those he has worked with and dealt with as a judge.

“I enjoy and appreciate the work of the men and women of our outstanding police department; working with the best lawyers in the country; working with the most competent court staff any judge could wish for,” Davies wrote.

Fargo attorney Steve Dawson was appointed alternate judge in Davies’ absence and has been presiding over Municipal Court in Davies’ absence.

Attorney Andrea Smith is also serving as an alternate municipal judge.

Dawson said Davies has done much for the city of Fargo.

“He brought a lot of innovation to municipal court in regards to sentencing options that focused in large part on education and treatment,” Dawson said.

“This is a very modern court, a very efficient court and so much of that is due to Tom’s effort,” added Dawson, who plans to seek election to the Municipal Court bench in June.

Dawson said he would try to emulate Davies’ approach to sentencing, including a focus on treatment and education programs.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said Municipal Court won’t be the same without Davies.

“There’s absolutely no question, Judge Davies will be difficult to replace, Ternes said, adding that Davies brought a strong sense of passion to his court.

“I hope people who found themselves in front of him appreciated what he was trying to accomplish,” Ternes said.

“I really believe that deep down in his heart what he was trying to do was teach people a valuable lesson,” Ternes said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555