The New Press Remembers Ed Davis

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The New Press mourns the loss of Edward J. Davis, counsel to The New Press, partner at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and, most importantly, dear friend and colleague.

A trusted and highly valued advisor to all of us, Ed was also a huge cheerleader for The Press and broadened our circle of friends and supporters in invaluable ways. Ed was a tireless champion of free expression and the rights of the creative community, generously giving his time and talents to nonprofit boards and through pro bono assistance. Ed was recently recognized with a Defenders Award by the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund and the Arthur Liman Public Interest Award by the Legal Action Center. The New Press will pay tribute to Ed’s enormous contribution to our organization at our Social Justice Awards on December 5th.

We extend our deepest condolences to Ed’s family, friends, and colleagues. 

Read tributes from the partners and staff of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and the Legal Action Center. Adam Liptak’s remarks introducing Ed as he received the 2014 Arthur Liman Public Interest Award are provided below.

Tribute to Ed Davis, October 21, 2014:

I’m Adam Liptak, and I cover the Supreme Court for The New York Times. I’m here to introduce my old friend Ed Davis, who is a fine lawyer and good and decent man. I’m a reporter, so I’ve spent the last week calling around for colorful stories. What I got instead were what I started to call “Saint Ed” stories—how he went to extraordinary lengths to help a family member, or a friend, or a client, or a stranger. For all I know he would go out of his way to help an enemy.

In the stories I heard, Ed was usually on vacation on a remote island where the only cell service was on the edge of a sheer cliff. He would spend hours on the phone patiently solving a complex problem for some poor soul eight time zones away, while Tom waited at home, not always patiently. It was generally late at night. As often as not there was a hurricane.

Ed made it to the pinnacle of his profession based on pure merit coupled with grace and grit.  A college friend at Harvard, one who was not a stranger to privilege, told me that “Ed was the first person I'd ever met who'd gotten every job without any sort of pull.”

You cannot ask for a more devoted lawyer. Ed has been known to make notes on his Blackberry during yoga class. There are stories, probably apocryphal but too good to check, of Ed with a briefcase at the beach.

He uses his towering talent and doggedness in the service of the values that animate the Legal Action Center. As a staff attorney at the center, he litigated important cases challenging discrimination based on addiction, criminal convictions and HIV. 

He now works at Davis Wright Tremaine, and if you think the Davis in the firm’s name is Ed Davis I’m not going to correct you. The firm has his back in a way that is not universal among big law firms in New York City. It does not tolerate, it encourages, Ed’s heroic pro bono work on behalf of groups like the ACLU, PEN American Center, The New Press, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and the Legal Aid Society.

Ed repays that support by being a fabulous colleague. He sends out poetic “sunset alerts” each night. I have one here: “Sparkling splashes of silver on the sides of buildings in the Meadowlands.” I’m not sure such a thing actually exists, but it sounds lovely. The need to send out sunset alerts also makes me think that not everyone at Davis Wright gets an office with a window.

Years ago, when Ed and I were both media lawyers, we used to have lunch in the Edison Hotel’s coffee shop. You probably know it as the Polish Tea Room. Then as now, he was always in the middle of an interesting case—Is the TV show Three’s Company capable of being parodied or does the original have that under control? Can Martha Stewart sell Hallowe’en wine bottle labels called “Vampire Vineyards”? Is it libelous to say of a basketball player named Dwayne McClain that he had confessed to being high on cocaine when he visited the White House? Does it matter that the confession had actually come from a teammate named Gary McClain? 

I’m pretty good at getting people to tell me stuff. But over all of those lunches Ed, to my frustration, told me nothing that was not on the public record or that cast his client in a bad light.

Let that be a lesson to none of you.

But please join me in congratulating Ed on his extremely well deserved Arthur Liman Public Interest Award.