John Davis at home in Placitas
John Davis, lawyer/musician, accepts new challenge
Back in the seventies John Davis was a recent UNMgraduate playing pedal steel guitar with Dave Ain’t Here, a country-music band from Albuquerque. Known as one of the best pedal steel players in the state, Davis was unsure what the future might hold. He toyed with the idea of making a career of the music business and was also a pretty good hand at laying adobes. But instead, he applied to the UNMLaw School at the urging of two guitar-playing lawyers in Dave Ain’t Here.
A year working as a public defender laid the groundwork for a career in criminal law. After twenty years of private practice, Davis’s specialty shifted gradually to civil law, dealing mostly with real-estate and business matters. “The need to generate revenue for my own business and that of others gradually just took all the fun out of practicing law. Civil law is all about the money,” explained Davis. “I was getting tired of it and when the new situation presented itself, I went for it.”
Last year, he became Commissioner John Davis, the domestic-violence hearing officer for the Thirteenth Judicial District, which includes Sandoval and Cibola counties. Funded by federal and state government as part of the welfare-reform movement, he directs a program that helps poor families get off welfare by forcing fathers to make child-support payments.
Davis actually has several jobs in one. He hears cases referred by the state human-services division and issues enforceable decrees that require fathers to step up to the plate and make back payments of child support. As domestic violence commissioner, he issues protection orders, determines what relationships exist, and assigns physical custody for children. Several days a week, as Special Master, he hears cases referred by district court and rules on child support and custody issues. He also administers the new mediation program for the district court.
Domestic violence is a big problem in Sandoval County. Four hundred and forty cases were filed in 2003. Fifty cases were filed in January, 2004. If that trend continues, there could be six hundred cases in 2004. Cases are referred to the district office by law enforcement, shelters like Haven House, doctors, and hospitals. Victims go first to the clerk’s office, where they can request an order of protection. They are given a packet containing information and a petition to submit to Commissioner Davis. Davis then determines the nature of the relationship, and can issue a temporary order requiring the alleged abuser to stay away from the petitioner for ten days. After court hearings, more-permanent rulings are issued.
Commissioner Davis’s orders are entered into the computer records used by most law-enforcement agencies. Failure to comply with these orders can result in incarceration. Davis is invested with the authority to issue arrest warrants, issue warrants for contempt of court, and hand down jail sentences. “There is a huge amount of authority concentrated into this one office,” said Davis. “It’s not something I take lightly. I have to balance a respect for people’s constitutional rights with a realization that somebody might die [if I don’t make the right judgement].”
Davis says that he finds his work gratifying because it directly affects the lives of several generations. “Domestic violence is learned behavior. It’s important—both in the short and long term—for the kids’ sake that we identify and stop it early.”
But the responsibility gets a bit “weighty” at times, especially for a guy who grew up in the sixties. He shoveled snow to buy his first guitar after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show when he was just a kid. Davis said he was a dedicated rock ‘n roller until he switched to country in 1975.
You can see him playing pedal steel at McCole’s Pub in Placitas every other Saturday night with a band called Cheap & Easy ... or you can see him at the courthouse if you don’t pay your child support.
Representative Ron Godbey
Representative Godbey will not seek reelection
Representative Ron Godbey announced on February 19 that he will not seek reelection to House District 22 for the 2005-2007 term, a seat he has held for six years. Godbey said that Martha, his wife of nearly fifty years, suffers from a pulmonary disorder that requires them to relocate from their East Mountain home at seven thousand feet to a lower elevation where the air is more dense and easily breathable.
During his tenure in the state legislature, Godbey has successfully worked to pass criminal-justice legislation such as strengthened DWI penalties, lengthy sex-offender probation, and truth in sentencing. He worked to frustrate the reactivation of the old Tex-New Mex pipeline running under Placitas, Paa-Ko, Sandia Heights, and Edgewood.
Godbey is perhaps best known for his work in defeating fellow-Republican Governor Johnson’s efforts to legalize illicit drugs in New Mexico.
The retired Air Force colonel said that representing his district is of prime importance to him and has been the highlight of his career., “But family considerations must come first and preclude another run for office in District 22 at this time. . . . Perhaps at another time and from a lower altitude.”