Thursday, May 27, 2010

Judge Altonaga remembers Judge Davis

There are so many great comments about Judge Davis that were posted, but I thought I'd share with everyone on the front page, this letter from Judge Altonaga:

May 27, 2010

Dear David:

On Monday, May 24, 2010, you shared the story of U.S. District Judge Edward B. Davis, following his passing as a result of complications from open-heart surgery. I write you this letter in the event you would like to share some of my thoughts in the Southern District of Florida Blog.
I had the extraordinary good fortune of being hired by Judge Davis to be his February term law clerk, or "even" clerk as we were known, and worked for him in 1987. Since then, he has been my mentor, advisor, and kindest of friends. Words cannot describe the goodness and compassion of the man or his depth and integrity. Among the counsel and advice he would give his young law clerks or young lawyers as he would call us, was not to be "mean." I don’t believe Judge Davis had a mean bone in his body. Over the last 24 years I have never seen him angry at or impatient with anyone.

Judge Davis was always thoughtful and generous. I remember one time when he offered then-U.S. District Judge Stanley Marcus to share his office and chambers when the Dyer Courthouse was closed for asbestos removal. We shared chambers for several months with Judge Marcus and his law clerks, and while space was tight, the mood was always light and welcoming. On another occasion, when the late Senior Judge Joe Eaton had need of a law clerk for a particular assignment, Judge Davis asked me if I would mind being on loan to Judge Eaton to help him with that assignment, and proceeded to share me with Judge Eaton.

I clerked for Judge Davis during the days when memory typewriters and word processors were all the tools we had and files were brimming over with paper. The Judge would be in the courtroom every day with trials and all manner of hearings. It was his custom to bring in lawyers after the trials and talk to them privately, giving them encouragement and advice on trial practice. In the late afternoons, the chambers was filled with the sound of his laughter and that of the late Judge Eugene Spellman, for they were good friends and at the end of the day Judge Spellman would come to the Judge’s office where stories were shared and a moment of relaxation seized. When the Judge hired us, he would make clear the work day started at 8:00 a.m. and we were to stay with him until he left, which was usually after 7:00 p.m. He worked very hard, and while we all did as well, it was without undue pressure. Certainly I never felt any pressure from him; he always gave assurances that it would all work out.

Whenever I had occasion to travel with the Judge to Key West for trials, he and his wife Pat would include me in their dinners at the end of the work days. In keeping with the Judge’s casual and informal manner, the Courtroom Deputy, Michael Beck, and I would join the Judge and his wife in their hotel room, and from there we would all go together to share a meal.
I, along with countless of his law clerks, have had the extraordinary good fortune of having been offered the opportunity to share Judge Davis. We each became a part of the Judge’s family, so much so, that when after one reunion he sent me a copy of a group picture and signed it, "To Cecilia, my favorite law clerk and judge," I believed it. I came to discover later that he signed copies of the picture in the same way for each of his law clerks, letting each know he or she was his "favorite!" That picture, and another of the two of us in his chambers so many years ago, rests beside my computer where I am reminded daily of the "gentle giant" who has had such an impact on my life.

Judge Davis was my source of inspiration and I credit him with my desire to become a judge. He administered my oath as judge on three separate occasions, the last of which was as a federal district judge. When I joined the Southern District of Florida in 2003, I was humbled to occupy his former office and courtroom.

Judge Davis was the face of kindness, fairness and compassion in our court. May God bless and keep him.


Cecilia M. Altonaga


South Florida Lawyers said...

What a beautiful letter.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful thing tonite. Boomer would have loved it.

Anonymous said...

This letter explains why Judge Altonaga is herself such an even-tempered and fair judge.