A Democrat named to the federal bench by a Republican President, Judge Stephanie Davis is poised for elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Davis was born Stephanie Renaye Dawkins in Kansas City Missouri in 1967. Davis received a B.S. from Wichita State University in 1989 and her J.D. from the Washington University School of Law in 1992.
After graduation, Davis joined the Detroit office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. In 1997, Davis joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan as a federal prosecutor. In 2010, newly appointed U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade chose Davis to be Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.
In 2016, Davis was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Michigan. In 2019, at the recommendation of Michigan’s Democratic Senators, President Trump nominated Davis to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Davis was unanimously confirmed to the position on December 19, 2019. She currently serves as a U.S. District Judge.
History of the Seat
Davis has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The current holder of the seat, Judge Helene White, another Democrat nominated by a Republican President, has announced that she will move to senior status upon the confirmation of a successor.
Davis has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career. From 1992 to 1997, Davis worked at the Detroit office of Dickinson Wright PLLC, where she focused largely on commercial litigation. Then, from 1997 to 2016, Davis worked as a federal prosecutor, including as the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, the second in command to then-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, from 2010 to 2016.
Notably, as a prosecutor, Davis prosecuted Sohrab Shafinia, a Farmington doctor, for writing prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for cash payments. She also helped prosecute Detroit officials for taking bribes and kickbacks and conspiring to defraud retirees.
Davis’ political activity has exclusively been in support of Democrats. For example, Davis served with the transition team of Detroit mayor Dennis Archer in 1993 and volunteered to conduct election protection for the Obama campaign in 2008. She also gave $250 apiece to the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Furthermore, Davis was a member of the American Constitution Society, an organization of left-leaning lawyers and law students, from 2008 and 2016, and served on the Board of the Detroit Chapter of the group between 2012 and 2015.
Davis served as a U.S. Magistrate judge from her appointment in 2016 to 2019. In this role, she handled settlement, discovery, and made recommendations on dispositive motions. She also presided over cases where the parties consent. Between 2016 and 2019, Davis presided over sixteen civil cases that proceeded to judgment. Davis’s more prominent trials include a Computer Fraud Act case against a former employee who stole information before setting up a competitor, and a bench trial arising from a traffic collision at Fort Meade. Additionally, in another matter, Davis denied summary judgment against Muslim plaintiffs who argued that they were denied calorically equivalent meals during their fasts for Ramadan.
Since her confirmation in 2019, Davis has served as a U.S. District Judge on the Eastern District of Michigan. Among the notable matters that Davis handled as a district judge, she was assigned to review a Michigan law that criminalized the practice of hiring drivers to transport voters to the polls. Davis granted a preliminary injunction against the law, finding that the statute was pre-empted by federal law. However, Davis’ decision was subsequently overruled by a 2-1 decision of the Sixth Circuit, although Chief Judge R. Guy Cole supported Davis’ decision in dissent.
Davis has already been unanimously approved by the Senate less than three years ago. While she is unlikely to repeat that feat, some of the gloss from her earlier confirmation is likely to carry over to this one. Davis’ background as a federal prosecutor and magistrate judge makes her a fairly traditional nominee, and is unlikely to draw significant controversy. For senators who oppose Davis, her reversal by the Sixth Circuit in the voter transportation case is bound to be closely cited.
 Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 114th Cong., Stephanie Davis: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 58.
 Michigan Physician Guilty of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance, Targeted News Service, Sept. 3, 2009.
 Jury Convicts Former Detroit City Treasurer, Pension Officials of Conspiring to Defraud Pensioners Through Bribery, U.S. Fed News, Dec. 8, 2014.
 Id. at 40.
 Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=stephanie+davis&cycle=&state=MI&zip=&employ=&cand= (last visited July 9, 2019).
 See Davis, supra n. 1 at 4.
 See id. at 12.
 Am. Furukawa, Inc. v. Hossain, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161650 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 29, 2017).
 United States v. McNeill, Traffic Violation No. 2359730.
 Conway v. Purves, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128171 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 1, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127648 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 20, 2016) (Parker, J.).
 See Marshall Cohen, Michigan Judge Blocks Law That Banned Paid Transportation to Polls, CNN.com, Sept. 17, 2020.
 See id.
 Colin Kalmbacher, Conservative Appeals Court Allows Michigan to Enforce Ban on Paid Transportation to the Polls in Loss for Voting Rights Advocates, Newstex Blogs, July 21, 2021.