Judge Wendy Davis

A life on the bench

Judge Wendy Davis, photography by Neal Bruns

To say Allen Superior Court criminal division Chief Judge Wendy Williams Davis is a fighter is an understatement. To say she cares passionately about keeping her community safe from those who would violate its laws is not an understatement. Davis grew up in Allen County, moved to Texas with her then-Army doctor husband and then returned to the Fort to work both in private practice and with the prosecutor’s office before unseating longtime Judge Ken Scheibenberger in a contentious election battle in 2010. She relinquishes her chief judge role at the end of this month, but she’ll still be on the bench. Find out what she wants for Christmas as we play 20 Questions.

1. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened while you were on the bench?
A lot of crazy things happen in a felony criminal courtroom every single day. There was one young defendant who jumped over the (table) and tried to escape. A bailiff had to pull his gun, but a citizen of Allen County brought him down. He was young and scared, I think. A criminal courtroom lends itself to a lot of emotion. I have to take the bench and always be in control, and stay wise and calm.

2. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve had to do as a judge?
Every day is the most difficult thing. Today is the most difficult thing, and what I had to do today won’t be as difficult as what I have to do tomorrow. Judges have historically been the decision makers, but judges now in Indiana, we’re change agents. We’re trying to solve the drug problem. We’re trying to solve the violence problem. I owe it to the community to make decisions that are the best for the community.

3. Should judges be elected or appointed?
I think they should be elected because we represent our community. We deal with the problems of our community, and if the community doesn’t like the decisions I make, they should have a voice in that.

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of for your first term?
The HOPE probation program, where we take low-level, nonviolent drug offenders and get them services. I’m their chief probation officer, and we help them get them their GEDs, get them to parenting classes, addiction services. And being appointed to Gov. Pence’s drug task force. I can be a voice for Northeast Indiana.

5. What’s the most fulfilling part of being a judge?
Knowing at the end of the day that I’ve made good decisions for the community.

6.  What role does your Christian faith play in your decisions?
When I was elected and sworn in, I quoted God’s promise in Proverbs: “With great humility comes great wisdom.” I’m humbled by the position I’m in. I believe in a God of grace (and) the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer is that God gives me wisdom.

7. Has there ever been a TV courtroom drama that gets it right?
I don’t think I’ve ever watched one! I just want to sleep at the end of the day!

8. Do you have a quote you rely on to get through tough days?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

9.  If you could change one thing with a bang of your gavel, what would you change?
No more crime. I wish I could gavel myself out of a job.

10. What do your three children, Madison, Carter and Jackson, think of your job?
I do think there’s a real sense of pride. Oftentimes, (out in public) everyone knows who I am, but there’s times I think my kids just want me to be Mom. I think they have gained a great respect for what we do, a great respect for elections and public officials.

11. Why is it important for Fort Wayne to have Indiana Tech’s law school?
I’m on the board of Indiana Tech, and the law school they’ve set up is a very different law school. It’s experiential. And we need diversity in our bar. One of the things this law school (wants) is to have more diversity. If you look at our bar in Allen County, it needs more diversity, and I really hope I can be a part of that.

12.  How does one develop judicial temperament?
I think it’s a discipline, like everything else. You have to work at it every day.

13.  What do you want your legacy to be?
That I was a very fair, smart and wise judge, and as a person, a leader with integrity and humility.

14. What is one thing you can’t live without?
Aside from my faith? All my kids’ Halloween candy.

15. Who are your heroes?
My dad, L.D. Williams and my mom, Joyce. My dad came from absolutely nothing, living in the Ozarks, and he didn’t even have indoor plumbing until he was a teenager. He truly lived the American Dream. He (became) a vice president of Central Soya. My father taught us there were consequences to our actions. He showed us hard work  and how to make difficult choices  with integrity.

16. If you could have one  superpower, what would it be?
Have more time in the day to spend with my family and trying to make this community a better place.

17. What three adjectives would your family and friends use to describe you?
Feisty. Hard driver. Energetic.

18. What scares you?
The future of our country as a whole and the breakdown of the family, which is why we need good people stepping up for public service.

19. What would you do with an unexpected day off?
Have a date with my husband, Scott.

20. What do you want for  Christmas?
That my entire extended family is gathered around the Christmas table. And maybe a little bling from my husband.

First appeared in the December 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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