CINCINNATI — For the first time in more than a decade, a former convicted felon has been admitted to the Ohio Bar. 

Damon Davis took the oath during the May Ohio Bar Admissions ceremony.

What You Need To Know

  • Damon Davis was arrested in 2007 for drug and gun charges

  • While in prison, he learned about case law

  • He later went to college and finished law school, earning a juris doctorate in law

  • He's now a public defender, helping others like himself

Davis got a job as a Hamilton County Public Defender more than 15 years after being convicted on drug trafficking charges. 

“Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and there was also a gun charge, so I was sentenced to a little over four years in federal prison,” said Davis.

It was during his time there that he was connected with an inmate who worked on appeals for himself and others. And he offered Davis an opportunity to study case law. 

“I thought he was crazy at first like nah, but he was like, 'Hey you can make some money doing it,'” he said. “I was like, 'Okay.' He was really good. He was great. In fact that he winded up getting ten years off his sentence.”

So Davis took up his fellow inmate on his offer and he soaked up as much knowledge as he could. After finishing up his sentence, he landed a job offering tuition reimbursement, and he decided to enroll in college.

“I would go to work, get off, have to take a class in the morning, and then there was a three -hour break where I had between classes, but I lived in another county,” he said. “So I would just have to stay there and work on some stuff.”

Balancing work and school, he said, was no joke. But he was determined to provide a better life for himself and his family. More importantly, he wanted to be able to help others like himself. 

“I knew even then in 2007 I didn’t get the representation that I should have,” he said. “So I was determined to be the representation for other people that I didn’t have.”

All the hard work paid off. Last May he graduated with a juris doctorate in law from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and shortly after landed a job at the Hamilton County Public Defender’s office. He said he hopes his story will help inspire others and show that the sky is the limit.

“If you’re determined, all you need is a plan and to execute it,” he said, “It’s not easy. But you’d be surprised with the people who will be willing to help you.”

In Ohio, anyone who has been convicted of a felony needs to petition the justices on the Ohio Supreme Court to show they can meet the state's ethical standards that are required of attorneys.