Wednesday, March 25, 2020
By a MetNews Staff Writer
John G. Davies, who served as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California from 1986-98, has died.
Davies succumbed yesterday morning after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 90.
Retired U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Bonner (who is also a former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and former commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection) said of his former colleague:
“He was one of the best federal judges ever to serve, and to my knowledge the only Olympics gold medalist to become a federal judge. In my view, he was ‘the Judge who saved L.A.,’ with his superb handling of the federal civil rights trial of the police who beat Rodney King. We have lost a great judge and a good friend.
“He was also a masterful trial lawyer before his appointment to the bench.”
Retired Judge Dickran Tevrizian, who also served with Davies in the Central District, remarked:
“What a tragic loss to the legal community. I am shocked and extremely sad. He was my across the hall neighbor in the Roybal Building when we colleagues on the federal bench.
“He was a good friend and outstanding jurist.”
Born in Australia, Davies came to the U.S. in 1949 to study at the University of Michigan. During that time, he won an Olympic gold medal for Australia at Helsinki in 1952, at age 23, in 200-meter breaststroke competition. He set a world in short course competition and tied the world record for long course.
District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., who served with Davies and for several years had a courtroom next to his, noted that Davies—whom he termed “a wonderful member of our court”—had “kept swimming all his life.” He related:
“He kept in good shape, mentally and physically.”
After earning his undergraduate degree, Davies returned to Australia to study law, then came back to the U.S., earning his law degree from USC in 1959, and becoming a naturalized citizen.
Davies was in private practice from 1961-86. He was a partner in the Beverly Hills law firm of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman when he was nominated to the District Court by President Ronald Reagan on April 22, 1986.
Confirmation by the Senate came on June 6, 1986.
Hatter pointed out that Davies was the first Australian American to become a federal judge.
Davies presided over the trial of two Los Angeles Police Department officers who were charged with assaulting motorist Rodney King. The acquittal of them in Los Angeles Superior Court had set off three days of rioting in 1992.
They were convicted in Davies court. He sentenced them, leniently, to two-and-a half years in prison, saying:
“There is no doubt that the situation of each defendant is fraught with sympathy. There is no doubt about that. But the court is bound by law.
“I would say that the conduct of Mr. King which began in the suburb of Altadena with a remarkable consumption of alcoholic beverage and included a high-speed chase and resisting arrest...falls clearly within conduct that contributed significantly to provoking the offensive behavior.
“Neither Laurence M. Powell nor Sgt. Stacey C. Koon are dangerous individuals. Albeit they have been convicted of a dangerous and violent offense, they constitute no threat to society whatsoever.”
The jurist retired on July 18, 1998.
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