Monday, May 24, 2010

RIP Judge Edward B. Davis (w/ updates)

UPDATE -- A public remembrance will be held from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on Thursday in the Biltmore Hotel's Grenada Ballroom, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations to La Amistad Foundation, Inc., 8400 La Amistad Cove, Fern Park, FL 32730. The foundation supports a community for mentally ill adults. Burial will be private.

UPDATE 2 -- Full Herald obit here.

Update 3 -- DBR article here.

Update 4 -- If you haven't read the comments, you should. There are some great stories about Judge Davis. Also, the Herald published a beautiful (and much longer) story here than the one that was online yesterday about Judge Davis.

Update 5 -- For those of you who were going to Jeff Sloman's going away party tomorrow night, it was changed to 7pm so that it wouldn't conflict with Judge Davis' memorial.

It is with great sadness that I report that Judge Edward B. Davis passed away today. I will post funeral arrangements as soon as I hear about them.

He was -- for a long long time -- the heart and soul of this District. He was old-school in every way.

My clerkship with the Chief was the best job I've ever had. Judge Davis really thought of the District as a small family, and I thank him for bringing me into it. He was the prototypical federal judge and really as good a person there could be. If you were thinking of how to make the perfect judge, Edward Davis would be the starting point. Lawyers practicing before him loved him even when they lost because they knew they were getting a fair shake and knew that they would get treated with respect. He's one of the last of the old guard of the District...

He led such a full life -- from his family to athletics to his career as a lawyer and then as a judge and then back to practicing. He knew how to balance all the different things we are always struggling to juggle. He also knew how to eat well, drink well, and laugh well.

Judges, practitioners, and friends, please post your stories and memories about Judge Davis in the comments. I will probably leave this up for the rest of the week.

I have so many great stories and memories; I'll share a couple of them here that are coming to mind:

-- During one trial, a prosecutor complained that he worked all weekend updating transcripts and he couldn't get in touch with the defense attorney, who the prosecutor said, was at a Heat game. Judge Davis replied: "I was at that game too."

-- When he introduced us law clerks to other lawyers or judges in town, he would always say, "This is my lawyer."

-- I will always remember Friday afternoon scotch with him where we talked about the week -- trials, hearings, orders we were working on, and what was going on next week. He had this calm to him that rubbed off on all of us.

-- Heat tickets in his shirt pocket.

-- Telling us not to worry about moving cases quickly or the case-load stats or getting reversed by the 11th Circuit. He always said to take your time to make sure it was done right. He never really understood why a lifetime appointee cared about whether he or she was first in the case-load summary statistics.

-- Chambers with Mary and Michael.

-- Asking why he couldn't figure out email and telling us not to be smart when we told him that he needed to plug his computer in (really!) before email would work.

-- Writing "to my favorite law clerk" to each one of his clerks on the clerk reunion photos that were handed out.

-- Ned.

-- Gentleman.

-- Fair.

-- Just.

-- A man's man.

Rest in peace Judge.



17 comments:

Anonymous said...

My daughter, seven, who knew him as the large, nice man just a few offices down from mine, cried when I told her tonight. He was as sweet to her when she would wander into his office as he was kind to me when I did. His advice was invaluable and conversations with him always involved at least a sprinkle of humor. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and he will be greatly missed.

Christopher S. Carver

Anonymous said...

the trialmaster tried a couple of cases in front of Judge Davis. He was a big man, with a huge heart and no ego. He was a fair trial judge who was not pro government. we have lost a giant of the bench. They dont make them like Judge Davis and Kehoe anymore. Most of the Judges on the state bench[not stan, kevin or john] could carry his gavel. I tried a non-jury tort claims act in front of him. tough liabity great damages. It took Judge Davis a year to enter his final judgment, but he got it right and was affirmed on appeal. I will miss him. The TRIALMASTER

Anonymous said...

This is Richard Rosenthal writing. David just emailed me the crushing news that Judge Davis has passed away. As a former law clerk to Judge Davis (and David's co-clerk) during the 1997-98 year, I can't help but say a few words here. Please forgive me if I end up rambling. I'm sure much will be written here on the blog about the wise, sensible, humane jurist that Judge Davis was; indeed, every lawyer who appeared before the Judge came away respecting him, no matter which way he happened to rule. But I wish to add a more personal note. Difficult though it may be, forget for a moment that Ned Davis was an exemplary federal Judge. What I'll especially remember is the great man that Ned Davis was. His love for his family, his loyalty to his friends and his extended family of law clerks, his courtesy to his fellow judges and court personnel, his decency, his humor, his even keel (on and off the bench), his zest for life....all of us who knew him should count ourselves fortunate to have encountered such a man. I know I do. He gave me my first real job in the law (first as an intern after my 1L year, and then later as his law clerk after my graduation), for which I'm eternally grateful. And along with my father and my grandfather, he gave me another role model on how a man should act and should treat everyone around him. Today many of us lost a dear friend, the Southern District of Florida lost its heart and soul, and the world lost a great man.

Ruben said...

A sad day for SDFL. David, you're right that we lost a giant. It has been an honor and a privilege to have appeared before him. A fairer and more compassionate judge can not be found. We've been fortunate to have the likes of Davis, Ferguson, King and Highsmith. My condolences to the judge's friends and family.

Michael Feiler said...

I met Judge Davis as a 23 year old law clerk at his original law firm. Over the years, he was friend and mentor. He always had time for advice and a kind word, and never had a hint of robe fever.

To me, he was everything that was right about this profession.

RIP Boomer.

Anonymous said...

Judge Davis also gave me my first job out of law school. Much is said of his even keel and calm demeanor and his ability to instill that in those around him. I remember one of our conversations when I (nervous law clerk in her first real job) received the first "emergency" motion for something or other. The conversation went like this.
Me: Judge, we've received an emergency motion!#*!
Judge: Chuckle, chuckle..."Child, is someone going to be executed?"
Me: No Judge.
Judge: Well then, it's not an emergency is it.

He had a unique ability to put all things in perspective and focus on what was important. He helped guide me through many of my most important life and career choices, and he treated me like his own. I loved him dearly and am lucky to have known him.

Kate

Albert Levin said...

Horrible news. What a great Judge and an even better person. Just a really nice sweet soul. Had the honor of trying a number of cases before him. Recall one case being in chambers going over proposed jury instructions. I requested a certain instruction and cited a case. Judge Davis looked at me and asked what circuit the case was from to which I replied"11th Circuit babe," to the shock of my co-counsel. He didn't blink an eye! It was as if we were having this discussion on a golf course or in some other venue. Just a real, genuine, what you see person. Sad day today for his family, the District and this community. I learned so much from Judge D and am grateful for having had the opportunity to appear before him. He will truely be missed.

Anonymous said...

Much as he loved serving as a district judge, he told me emphatically that it was the second-best job he ever had. Many years ago the young "Boomer" Davis was in the Detroit Tigers minor-league organization, and was called up to the Bigs for a cup of coffee. He traveled with the team on an east-coast swing, and took batting practice in Yankee Stadium right after Johnny Mize and right before Joe Dimaggio. He didn't make it with the Tigers -- in his own words, he couldn't outrun a piano uphill -- but as a judge, and a human being, he was a Hall of Famer. God rest his soul.

Milt Hirsch

Larry Kerr said...

Orange Bowl. Early + mid 1980's. 50 yard line, 25-30 rows up. My father-in-law had great seats + who sat in the seats directly in front of us? Judge Davis. He did not miss many Dolphins games - usually with a "cold one" in his hands. He was just a down-to-earth, plain, simple "good guy."

The South Florida community has indeed lost a "legal legend." My sympathies to his family.

Robert Kuntz said...

"When he introduced us law clerks to other lawyers or judges in town, he would always say, "This is my lawyer.""

That's marvelous, David.

I first met him as a newspaperman, new in town and trying to find my way in and out of Federal Court. He was always gracious and kind, even though he could well have treated me as no more than a nuisance -- which I doubtless was.

A true gentleman.

Marcos said...

Judge Davis was a truly great man, a superb judge and a wonderful person who always brought a smile to everyone's face. I remember one day I ran into Judge Davis at a Heat game during my service as USA for the District. He bent down as he passed by me and yelled in my ear: "Tell [so and so] to stop [messing] with you." It was a very affirming comment that made me feel like I was part of the family David writes about. I replied: "You tell [so and so]!" We had a great laugh together that I will always cherish.

In all my dealings with him both as a prosecutor and lawyer in private practice, and during mediations in my cases, Judge Davis was always a gentleman and a pleasure to be with. I will sorely miss him, and my sympathies goes out to all of his loved ones.

Marc Jimenez

michael hanzman said...

our community has lost one of the greatest human beings i had the privilage to call my friend. I met this honorable gentleman as a young lawyer and got to know him through my friend and partner Danny Ponce. As our frienship grew he was always there for me, professionally and personally, always encouring and supporting my desire to be a District Judge. And when i came up short he always pushed me to try again, usually over a lunch at joes where he would have a scotch, i would drink my diet cokes and we would laugh foe hours He always knew how to make people feel like they mattered to him and they did He was as caring and kind a man as i have ever(or will ever)know. Over the last five years Judge D served as the Arbitrator in a large complex matter i am handling. Despite the ongoing health problems he has faced over this time he continued to do what he always has done-treating the parties and counsel with respect and being the consumate Judge. When i told my client of his passing i recieved an e mail which said"Michael i believe Judge Davis was one of the finest men to ever sit on the bench.While i never had the opportunity too see him in action from the Federal Bench i am certain that he was the same as he was with us;fair,patient,and interested in getting it right. He was a good man and i liked the way he treated people. I am truly sorry that he passed" This client was on the losing end of many Judge Davis Orders, including the last one he entered only weeks ago. But that client, like all litigants before Judge Davis , knew they had been treated fairly by an honorable and just man.And in the end no lawyer or litigant could ever want or expect more.I will miss him and my prayers go out to his family.Rest in peace my friend. Michael Hanzman

Rumpole said...

Along with Jose Gonzalez Judge Davis was THE best trial judge I ever tried a case before. I was a scared young lawyer way over my head and out of my comfort zone when I defended a young man charged with crack cocaine sales in the Grove. Judge Davis let it be known to the prosecution he viewed the case as a waste of resources because the ten year min man was way too much time.

I tried my case and he let me be. He didn't try to interrupt me, or control the case, or embarrass me when I made rookie mistakes. I actually hung the jury the first time and he went out of his way to praise me to my client.

Things didn't work out so good the second time around but Judge Davis could not have been more gracious and decent, even when sentencing my client to a penalty he clearly didn't believe it.

You just don't see that many decent human beings who let their humanity out when working as a Judge.

stanley wakshlag said...

As this afternoon's service at the Biltmore approaches, I too feel a profound sense of sadness and loss of such a uniquely great, kind and wonderful man. At the same time, I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to have known Judge Davis over the years, both as a Judge, a colleague, a friend and a mentor. Whether it was just the two of us together or among others, it just always felt good being with him; something you could tell was also felt by all of the others who spent time with him.
It is a rare person about whom only wonderful things are said and felt, but certainly that is true with Judge Davis--a kind and compassionate man without pretense, with a love for life and for people. We will not see his likes again, and I feel blessed to have known him. Our hearts and prayers go out to Pat and the entire Davis family.

Anonymous said...

Judge D and I were law partners for several years but, as he was to so many others, he was also a mentor, a friend, and a father figure at a time I really needed all of those things. I had brilliant mentors when I grew up as a lawyer in New York and knew the grace that comes with practicing law in a setting where the answer to just about every problem could be found by walking down the hall and talking it through. By the time I moved back to Florida I had kind of graduated from that career phase and was getting used to the far more stressful stage of figuring things out for myself. That’s where I was when Judge D joined the firm. We got to know each other talking about cases. Sometimes he agreed with my instincts about how to deal with a problem. Sometimes not. It took me about 6 months to figure out he was always right. And gentle. And funny. And fair. From then on I was in his office more than mine and we talked about everything. I was back in the zone, working through cases and problems with a road map that reflected a level of wisdom, brilliance, common sense and decency that I never could have mustered on my own. Nothing lasts forever and after several years together Judge D and I ended up in different firms. Time to fly solo again and that went fine until I ended up in a particularly messy case. Judge D’s health was failing but we would talk on the phone when we could and I had picked his brain a little about my messy case. At one point he said, “Son, I think may need to rethink the whole approach to that case.” (his actual words were more colorful). Of course I knew that already and also knew that he had to get off the phone to go see his doctor. I knew he was spending most of his time seeing doctors those days and I was dying of guilt taking up any of his time on my case. I was about to thank him and say goodbye when he said, “you know, when there’s no ballgame on its pretty boring sitting there doing the dialysis, come sit with me if you want and bring your stuff from the case.” And that’s what happened. I would meet him at the dialysis center with all my binders and papers and – while he was literally in the process of undergoing dialysis – we worked up the case just like we used to. The whole thing was surreal. So far beyond the call of duty for him to offer (we were no longer partners; it wasn’t even his case; he refused to bill) and crazy for me to accept. But Judge D made it very easy for people to accept kindness from him. Sadly, the time where we get to sit in a room with the great one himself and talk things through has passed. But we can always still ask ourselves “What would Judge D do?” And then do that.

John F. O’Sullivan

Tucker Ronzetti said...

Here's my favorite Judge Davis story -

While I was clerking, Judge Davis asked me to pick up his car, which was being serviced a few blocks away. I went and got it -- he was like a father to me, and I'd do whatever he asked, happily. Judge Davis was driving a big blue Lincoln in those days. I was used to my little VW. So when I went to park his Lincoln in the basement of the old courthouse, I backed it into its space, and kept backing, and -- crunch. I dented the rear fender.

You can imagine how I felt. I tried to call around to get a quick repair, but it was a Friday and that was impossible. I headed to chambers with the look of a condemned man.

Judge Davis was in the midst of a conference in chambers. He saw me for just a moment and asked, "How'd it go?"

"Judge, we have to talk."

That wasn't the answer he was expecting. "Son," he asked me, "what happened?"

"Judge, I'm so sorry . . ."

More insistent: "What happened?"

"I dented your car."

Instantly he was relieved. He even laughed. "You had me worried," he said. "I thought you'd hit somebody!" Later, I showed him the dent, and he again laughed it off. The Judge didn't for a moment blame me, and wouldn't take a dime for the repair -- though he never did ask me to park his car again.

Judge Davis taught me patience by example. And horsesense and humility too -- "We're not splitting the atom," he'd say about our work. He touched the lives of so many. I am thankful to count myself among them. I will miss him always.

Anonymous said...

As a federal probation officer, I had the pleasure of knowing Judge Davis. The probation officers who knew him didn't just work with him, we were part of his court family, and that is how he made all of us feel, like family. He was such a genuine person with an incredible sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself. I think that most of all made him the incredible judge that he was, he just didn't take himself too seriously.

I have many, many fond memories of him and sitting with him in his chambers discussing a case coming up for sentencing. He always wanted to hear what the probation officer had to say, even when he didn't agree with us, he heard us out. Yes, he occasionally referred to the federal probation officers as the brown coats or the hitler youth group, but that was his humor and we loved him for it. You can rest assured, when he went on that bench, he did exactly what he wanted to do, what he thought was the fair thing to do. And we loved him for that too.

He favorite ploy at sentencings was to stop in the middle of the proceedings, usually as some tense or crucial moment, and call the probation officer up sidebar. He would tell the attorneys, "I need to talk to my probation officer for a minute." We would go shuffling up sidebar with our books, files and manuals, because you never knew when he was going to ask you a real question. Usually though, he would tell you a joke, ask how your kids were, or make some unflattering comment about one of the attorneys. We would laugh together while the attorneys sat on pins and needles wondering what we were talking about, what was the judge thinking, what was the judge going to do. He knew that, he did it just to throw them off their stride or calm a tense moment. And he liked for them to think that he relied on the probation officers and their input, knowing that they would treat us with respect if they knew we had the judges ear. That's how he rolled!

God bless you Judge Davis, we will miss you. There will never be another like you!