Michael J. Davis

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Michael James Davis

Michael James Davis (born 1947) is an American lawyer and United States federal judge. He has sat on the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota since 1994.

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Davis received a B.A. from Macalester College in 1969 and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1972.

Davis served as a law clerk for the Legal Rights Center from 1971 to 1973. He was an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel for the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, Maryland in 1973, and a criminal defense lawyer for the Neighborhood Justice Center in 1974. He returned to the Legal Rights Center as an attorney from 1975 to 1978. He then served as an attorney and commissioner at the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission from 1977 to 1981 and as an attorney for the Hennepin County Public Defender's Office from 1978 to 1983. Davis served as a judge in Hennepin County Municipal Court from 1983 to 1984 and a judge of the Fourth Judicial District of Minnesota (Hennepin County) from 1984 to 1994.

Federal judicial service[edit]

On November 19, 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Davis to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota vacated by Harry H. MacLaughlin. Confirmed by the Senate on March 25, 1994, Davis received his commission on March 28, 1994. In May 1999, Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed Davis to serve as a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. His term on this court expired on May 18, 2006. In 2008, he became Chief Judge of the District of Minnesota.

In October 2007, Davis presided over the case of Capitol v. Thomas. The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group of recording companies, filed suit against Jammie Thomas for copyright infringement for 24 songs that she had shared on Kazaa. The jury returned a verdict against her in the amount of $222,000 ($9,250 per song file). However, Davis granted motion for a new trial on September 24, 2008 when he ruled that the jury was given flawed instructions, and that this constituted a "manifest error of law."[1]

The federal judge had overturned the $222,000 copyright infringement verdict against Jammie Thomas. He also called on Congress to fix the Copyright Act so that the RIAA can't get six-figure judgments for P2P use. Thomas was granted a retrial, later she received a fine of $80,000 per song leading to a sum of $1.9 million. Thomas, a single mother of 3, has not stated how she would repay the record companies.

Davis has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School since 1982 and at William Mitchell College of Law from 1977 to 1981. He has also been an instructor at the Minnesota Institute of Legal Education since 1990.


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