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PUBLIC PROFILE: Job Interview for a Judge

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Joe Davis, 2017

Although the recent confirmation hearings for Supreme Court placed bipartisan pressures on the judiciary, it is not common that judge elections are highly political events. Often judges for circuit courts run unopposed, as is the case with five of the seven elections for judges represented on the upcoming Jackson County ballot.

But, this past May, four candidates pushed into the May primaries, with two emerging as candidates in the November general elections when Joe Davis will square against Jackson County District Attorney David Orr for a seat on the 1st District Circuit Court.

In the primary, Orr secured a touch over 40 percent of the general vote; Davis trailed at 30 percent, placing him as the underdog for the November election.

Even so, Davis clearly has wide base of support for his candidacy, and is a hometown kid. He grew up in Medford, went to college at Northwestern and returned to University of Oregon for law school. As well, he has served on various Board of Directors with community organizations.

The Messenger recently caught up Davis.  


Rogue Valley Messenger: Is it fair to think about a panel of judges as a portfolio or a team, in that each should bring his or her own philosophies and expertise? And within that framework, what do you currently feel that the current “line up” for the Circuit Court has as its strengths—and what gaps do you fill in?

Joe Davis: It is important that our judges, as a group, have the diversity of experience and expertise to meet all of Jackson County’s legal needs. Former prosecutors and public defenders currently make up a large percentage of our judges. My years of experience in family law and representing people in business matters will help fill a significant need at the courthouse. With that said, my experience as a prosecutor early in my career will allow me to hit the ground running and handle whatever types of cases I am assigned.

RVM:  Running for judge seems like a tricky route to maneuver, in that the position should not be political yet, by its very nature, a campaign is political. Have you felt a tension there?

JD: I feel very lucky to have the support of people from all types of political backgrounds and I welcome that support. This broad bipartisan support removes the traditional political tension there might be in some campaigns. The right experience, a dedication to service, and the desire to build a safer community are not partisan issues. If elected, the law, not politics, will guide me.

RVM: Do you have a favorite Supreme Court case, and/or favorite Justice? 

JD: My favorite Supreme Court Justice is Louis Brandeis. He was ahead of his time in standing up for the individual’s right to privacy, what he called the “right to be let alone.” He often found himself in the minority position while on the Supreme Court but many of his positions later gained acceptance and became law. His willingness to stand for the principles of individual liberty inspires me.

RVM: A non-legal question: Favorite beer or wine?

JD: A cold beer on a hot summer day hits the spot.

RVM: And, as an Oregonian, beaver or duck?

JD: I was raised going to Duck games, went to U of O for law school, and have some good friends who played for the Ducks so I count myself an Oregon fan. I would be happy for Oregon State to win all their games every year, except when they’re playing against Oregon.


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