Thursday, May 16, 1996
David Davis: judge, father, sound bite

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Judge David Davis told me he was quoted out of context. Ha. I've heard that one before. I've been accused of that one before.

On top of that, I heard that it was a sexist quote, something about women belonging at home with their children or some such incendiary drivel. That does it. The Glass Ceiling, the Mommy Track, blouses that button up the back, shoes that pinch, and now this.

So I headed down to the county justice center to jump on Judge Davis with both feminist feet. Never mind that he is rather widely regarded as a good guy and a friend to women. Not to mention that he is a capable and honest judge. Heck with that. I think we've got the goods on him this time. Let's fry him.

Who's jammin' whom

Maybe you've heard that Judge Davis, of Hamilton County Municipal Court, was given the unenviable task of sorting out the Pepsi Jammin' on Main festival Monday morning in his courtroom. Maybe you've heard that promoters scheduled a popular rock band at 10:45 at night in the middle of 20,000 people at an event in Over-the-Rhine where alcohol was an important component.

Then they skimped on security for the event and were shocked - shocked - that things got out of hand. (By the way, none of them has been charged with anything.)

Police showed up in full riot gear, spewing Mace. Eleven people were arrested, and that's how they wound up in Judge Davis' court.

The judge lectured them first, telling them they could have started a riot, that people could have been hurt. He gave them a good bawling out. It has been my experience that for most judges, this is their favorite part of the job. It surely would be mine. Then he sentenced three women to 30 days in jail and handed out fines and court dates to the rest.

Judge Davis, who has been elected to his third term as presiding judge by the 14 other judges, handles about 10,000 cases a year, about 50 a day. Monday, he asked Nicole Lindsey whether she was aware that she could get 30 days in jail and a $250 fine for disorderly conduct.

She said she was and that she did not dispute the facts of the case as presented by the prosecutor: "She climbed up on stage in Jammin' on Main Street and refused to comply with the officers' repeated request for her to leave the area."

The judge said, "Tell me a little bit about yourself."

Context to burn

To which she replied: "I'm 22. I have a 4-year-old son. And I was in that crowd. It was - I was getting trampled on. I work. I have two part-time jobs. I work through the week at a - I work the register at a drive-through, and I'm a bartender on the weekend."

Then Judge Davis said, "OK. What - what are you doing down here at this Jammin' on Main when you got a 4-year-old kid?"

Yowza. A sound bite.

David Davis, a judge for 16 years, suddenly found himself on the receiving end of irate talk-show callers and radio "personalities," full of noisy - and perhaps genuine - concern that the judge was not showing proper respect for women. It might be worth noting that one such station is now running billboards of men dressed as women, which replaced the billboards of men dressed as pregnant women.

"I never meant that just because you're a woman with a child, you shouldn't be allowed to go anywhere," he told me just before reducing the sentences of two other women in the fracas. "I wasn't thinking male-female. I was just talking to her as a parent. And I do think parents have an obligation to set an example for their children. I certainly would have said the same thing to a father."

His own daughter, a teen-ager, defiantly wore her "Re-elect Judge Davis" T-shirt to school yesterday.

So, I hope you have enough information to make up your own mind about who you think is unfair and who's worthy of your rage. And if you hear that I was irreverent, irresponsible and irritating, then I think you know what has happened.

I was quoted out of context.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.