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Law, Politics, and Corruption in New York City

Judge Noah Davis

Judge Noah Davis

Judge Noah Davis (1818-1902) was a grandson of Lt. Noah Davis of Stafford, CT. His father, Noah Davis, Jr., was the son of Lt. Noah Davis and his second wife, Anna Ladd. About 1805, Noah, Jr. left Stafford and removed to Haverhill, New Hampshire, near the Vermont border, where he worked as a druggist. It was here that he married Freelove Arnold and began to raise a family. His first son, Noah, was born in Haverhill on September 10, 1818. In 1825, Noah and Freelove moved with their children to Albion, New York, not far from Buffalo. Young Noah was an exceptional student, attending common schools and Lima Seminary in Buffalo. He studied law in Lewiston, was admitted to the bar in 1841 and practiced in Gainesville and Buffalo for a short period of time.

Noah returned to Albion in February 1844 where he formed a partnership with Sanford E. Church, who afterwards was chief justice of the court of appeals of NY. The parternship continued until May 1858. He was appointed and subsequently twice elected judge of the Supreme Court for the 8th Judicial District and served from 1857-1868, after which he resumed practice of law. He was elected as a Republican to the 41st Congress from the Rochester district and served from March 4, 1869 until July 15, 1870 when he resigned to accept an appointment by President Grant as U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York in which position he served from July 20, 1870 to December 31, 1872 when he resigned, having been elected Judge of the Supreme Court of New York state, a position he held until 1887. In 1901, he resumed the practice of law in New York City and was a member of the Council of the University of the City of New York (now NYU). Noah died in New York City on March 20, 1902, and was buried in Mt. Albion Cemetery, Albion, Orleans County, NY.

Noah Davis was the presiding justice at the trials of William "Boss" Tweed, the New York City Tammany Hall ringmaster. Tweed was indicted on charges of conspiracy, perjury, and larceny on October 10, 1872. He was brought before Judge Noah for trial in January 1873; however, by the end of the month, the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and Tweed was released. However, later that year, Tweed was once again indicted. In November, Tweed's second trial began, again with Judge Noah presiding. Tweed was brought up on 220 separate counts, "more counts than in a German principality," as Noah wryly remarked. This time, it only took two weeks to try him and find him guilty on 204 of those counts. Noah fined Tweed $12,750 and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

In January 1875, it was ruled that Tweed should not have been tried on multiple counts and Judge Noah's sentence was pronounced illegal; Tweed was released from prison. However, Judge Davis immediately had him re-arrested on civil charges with the city of New York seeking to recover $6,000,000 in stolen funds from Tweed. Noah set his bail at $3,000,000, an unheard of figure at that time. In December 1875, while awaiting trial, Tweed escaped from jail and fled to Cuba and Spain. In July of 1876, he was recognized and arrested by Spanish police and returned to New York. Tweed spent the remainder of his life in jail.

You can also visit Noah Davis at The Political Graveyard.