|Mon, Sep 15, 2014 10:58 PM
|Issue of September 10, 2014
July 16, 2014 | 10:20 AM
Harrison County Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis officially announced that he has filed paperwork to withdraw his name from the 2014 General Election.
Davis, who has served for nearly 18 years as judge and has been elected to three terms, said in a statement released Friday that he is humbled by the confidence his supporters have shown in him and noted that his more ardent supporters "have given their unwavering support and asked nothing in return."
"I have worked hard to earn your confidence. Whatever was accomplished at the Harrison Superior Court was not possible without the professional assistance of those working alongside me. Fond memories of those dedicated public servants go with me. Always I have had in mind public safety and solving the difficult problems the people bring to the Courtroom within the confines of the Constitution and the Rule of Law," the statement reads.
"Growing up in a working-class family, I never imagined I would ever have the high honor to serve the people of Harrison County as a judge. Neither could I have imagined the time would come when I would leave this crucial position," Davis said.
In an interview Monday, Davis said removing his name has nothing to do with his health nor is it to spend more time with family and, perhaps addressing the rumor mill, it has nothing to do with the political opponent he was scheduled to face in November, Republican Joe Claypool.
Davis described Claypool as "the weakest opponent" he would have ever faced in an election.
"He has no connection to this community and hardly any experience with the types of cases that come through this court," Davis said. "Every single person I've faced has been far more qualified. (It's) not because I'm scared I'd be beat or that he's such a strong candidate; the primary reason is I'm pursuing other professional opportunities."
Davis said many people can't give up a profession they've had for a long time and sometimes that's not necessarily a good idea.
"There's a good time for someone else to take over an office, a legislative office or an executive office. I think 18 years is enough for me," Davis said. "It might not be for some people but, for me, the circumstances were enough."
Davis said he made his decision at the end of June and officially informed his party on July 2 at 5:30 p.m., which gave Democrats enough time to fill the vacancy on the ballot by the July 15 deadline.
"I don't have anything to do with who the political party chooses to replace me. I do think there are a number of people who would be qualified candidates, who would have a connection to community. Mr. (Dennis) Byrd is certainly one of those people," Davis said.
The first public announcement of who that candidate would be came during the Harrison County Fair parade on Sunday, where former Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd rode the Democratic Party's float that was adorned with a "Byrd for Judge" sign.
"I'm not promoting anyone. Mr. Byrd has been (in Harrison County) all his life, unlike the person on the Republican ballot," Davis said.
Democrat chair Jim Kincaid said he was shocked at Davis' decision but understands why it was made.
"That job is a stressful job, and you see a lot of the worst of the worst," Kincaid said. "I don't think he wanted to do it for (six) more years. I think he's done a great job, and I'm sad to see him step down. I think he'd have (been re-elected) hands down. I think it's a lot deeper than that. That position wears on people. I think it just finally wore him down and he just wants to change gears a little bit. I wish him the best. He's a good Democrat and has been a good Democrat and has always been loyal to our party. He's a good person."
Regarding the decision to fill the vacancy with Byrd, Kincaid said he believes in his choice. As party chair, he was given the power to appoint a candidate. Other people were considered with Byrd stepping forward.
"I think Dennis is honest, and he's got a good sense of what's right and wrong, and I like how he handled himself as a prosecutor. I think he'll do a good job as a judge," Kincaid said. "People will try to drag him down with what happened with (former Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick) and try to throw that back up, but I don't know how he could have handled it any differently. Obviously, I think everyone, including the party, was disappointed with Mike Deatrick, but Dennis handled it the best that he could after the sheriff wouldn't step down."
Deatrick admitted under oath in 2011 to inappropriately touching and intimidating two female dispatchers, obstructing justice by destroying or tampering with digital recordings of him intimidating the dispatchers and filing a false insurance claim on behalf of a former corrections officer. To avoid the appearance of impropriety and/or a conflict of interest, Byrd, who was prosecutor at the time of the accusations by the dispatchers, asked Davis for a special prosecutor one day after his office received a report from the Indiana State Police regarding the dispatchers' claims.
Byrd said he was shocked to learn of Davis' decision.
"I often tell people I thought he was one of the best criminal judges this county has ever had," Byrd said.
Byrd said yesterday (Tuesday) there were some factors he had to consider before he made his decision to run for judge, including a short time to raise money and campaign and "smear tactics that makes one reluctant to do anything."
"Overall, having been born and raised in Harrison County and sharing the same values as the people who live here and serving the people of Harrison County in the past 25 years, I think I give the people a good choice as judge," Byrd said, adding that he has the support of his wife, Terri, and three children. "I've practiced more than 25 years strictly in Harrison County and concentrated on criminal cases both on the prosecution and defense side. I think my experience allows me to be qualified for that position."
Byrd went on to say that he would encourage Claypool to run a clean race as he intends to run a clean race this fall.
"If (Claypool) allows Republican leaders to do smearing and tactics they've used in the past, then he endorses that and is just as responsible for those tactics as they are," Byrd said.
Davis said whatever occupation he gets in the future, he plans on staying in Harrison County after his final day of service on Dec. 31, 2014.
"Whatever I do, or wherever I go, I won't be gone from Harrison County for good," he said. "It's my home, and I have family here and lots of friends."