WASHINGTON (CN) – André Maurice Davis is making a second run as as a black nominee to the traditionally conservative 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has belonged to a conservative, free-market group that believes global warming may be beneficial to humanity while, in his most publicized decision, he ruled that a wheelchair-bound girl should be allowed to race with other girls.
The sixty-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland was unsuccessfully nominated in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton. The seat was vacated near the end of Clinton’s final term and Davis was never confirmed. The George W. Bush administration tried to fill the seat three times, but was completely unsuccessful.
Now Davis has been nominated by President Barack Obama to fill one of 15 vacancies on the federal Court of Appeals. As a black candidate, he fits into President Obama’s effort to diversify the bench, with his final hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for Thursday.
The 4th Circuit is widely considered the most conservative federal appeals court in the nation. With five Democratic-appointed judges and six Republican-appointed judges, the addition of Davis would balance political affiliations on the court. But even after the confirmation, the circuit would have three vacancies, leaving Obama with the opportunity to further shift the court’s direction.
The American Bar Association has given Davis a well qualified rating from a substantial majority of the organization’s rating group, but a minority rated Davis as simply qualified.
A limited amount of controversy surrounds Davis. He served on the board of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment before quitting in response to accusations that such a membership violated judicial conduct codes.
FREE is a conservative, free-market group that describes itself as an environmental organization. The organization has said that nations should grow their economies to react to global warming, instead of restricting carbon emissions. The wealthier a nation, the easier it adapts to climate change, the group advocates, adding that global warming may even have positive effects.
The group also hosts seminars for judges and other public figures
In one of Davis’s more publicized cases, Tatyana McFadden v. Howard County, he ordered in 2006 that the school district allow a paralyzed girl to race in her wheelchair alongside the contestants running on two legs during school track meets.
McFadden was paralyzed from the waste down, and had been forced to race in special wheelchair races, usually by herself.
Davis took a strong stance in favor of the girl. “The more I hear your argument, the more transparently arbitrary and capricious it becomes,” the judge said to the lawyers representing the district.
“She’s not suing for blue ribbons, gold ribbons or money,” he said. “She just wants to be out there when everyone else is out there.”
Medical News, a pro-choice organization, has ventured into guessing how Davis will vote on abortion cases and hailed Davis as a judge who will make the 4th Circuit more favorable to abortion.
Davis grew up in East Baltimore. His father was a teacher, and his stepfather was a steel worker.
He earned a scholarship to Philips Andover Academy, a private high school, and attended as one of only four black students out of 800 kids.
For community service, Davis would tutor and mentor troubled youth at a juvenile detention facility on Saturdays.
He went on to University of Pennsylvania and earned his B.A. in American history in 1971. In 1978 he earned his J.D from the University of Maryland School of Law, and graduated cum laude.
While attending law school, Davis served on the Moot Court Board and as chair of the Honor Board and of the Black Law Students Association. And at graduation, the faculty honored Davis with the esteemed Roger Howell Award.
He began is career in 1978 as a law clerk for Frank Kaufman, of the Maryland district court, and worked later as the law clerk for Francis Murnaghan of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 1980, Davis became an appellate attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Just a year later, he moved to a postion as assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.
Davis then took a job as assistant professor of law at the University of Maryland Law School and entered private practice in 1983.
In 1987 he became a district judge in Maryland and in 1990 took a position as an associate judge for the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, Maryland and was later appointed to the U.S. District Court in Maryland in 1995.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski strongly endorsed Davis. “Judge Davis possesses great integrity, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to public service. He holds uncompromising views on judicial independence, being an independent thinker and dedicated to rule of law. Judge Davis is well-respected by his colleagues.”