2016 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Hon. Stephanie Dawkins Davis

Stephanie Dawkins DavisF. L. Schlagle High School, 1985

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Lindbergh Elementary, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle

Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis has a picture of her inspiration for becoming a lawyer in her office. It is a photo of the first African-American to serve on the highest court in the land – former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  “The arc of his career and the substance of his work are impressive from his years with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (as director of the Legal Defense Fund) to his landmark cases, such as Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education,” she said.

Like Marshall, she is carving an impressive path in the judicial arena. On January 4, 2016, she was appointed as a United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. In this position, she is responsible for civil and criminal cases. Prior to being appointed to her current position, she was a federal prosecutor for 18 years in the United States Attorney’s Office – first serving for three years in the office’s civil division before transferring to the criminal division. 

As a criminal prosecutor, Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis practiced in both the general crimes unit and the controlled substances unit, where she served as the deputy chief and high intensity drug trafficking area liaison.  She prosecuted cases at both the trial and appellate levels, including those involving money laundering, fraud, violent crime and public corruption. 

When she is not working, she is often found mentoring law students to prepare them for their journey in the profession. “She along with fellow law professionals engage in role play activities to expose students to the skills they will need as a lawyer.” 

With her impressive background, it is hard to believe she almost did not become a lawyer. She had changed her mind about a career in the field of law and was pursuing a career in the medical field through her studies at Wichita (Kansas) State University.  However, her college advisor convinced her to take the LSAT to see how well she would do. Once she had taken the test and was satisfied with her score, he told her she should apply to law school to see what happens. She applied to three law schools and was accepted by them all. 

She chose to study law at Washington University in St. Louis, which offered her a full tuition scholarship. She graduated with her juris doctorate from Washington University in 1992.  She also has an associate’s degree in math and natural sciences and a bachelor’s degree in health care administration from Wichita State University received in 1988 and 1989, respectively.

Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the Federal Bar Association and has held memberships with the Wolverine Bar Association and the American Bar Association. 

She is the recipient of several recognitions for her work including the United States Attorney’s Award for Outstanding Service, the Bridget Vance Vision of Service Award for her work with youth violence prevention, the State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Award, and the Executive Office for United States Attorney Director’s Award. 

She is married to Grant Davis and they are the proud parents of three children, all young adults now. 

Her advice to students: “The principal thing is to be well-read because it will allow you to develop critical thinking and analysis. There are no short cuts, particularly when it comes to the legal profession.”