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A Tribute to Ed Davis

The partners, counsel, associates, and staff of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP note with profound sorrow the untimely death of our beloved partner, Edward J. Davis, on June 27, 2016, after a valiant battle with cancer.

Ed’s brilliant mind and zealous dedication to his clients’ interests made him a highly prized advisor and litigator. He had a particularly strong interest in media and intellectual property law, and enjoyed the loyalty of many internationally known clients in the digital media, television, publishing, and film industries, as well as in finance and consumer products.

In a 2012 DWT video discussing his wide-ranging practice, Ed remarked:

Sometimes people say that, in a business dispute, it’s only about money. But I’ve generally found that it’s not always only about money. In fact, it’s usually not only about money. There’s someone’s rights involved. There’s some feeling of justice and truth at the bottom. That makes for a compelling pursuit, no matter what the subject.

Ed was a passionate defender of the First Amendment, and his many successes included defending defamation cases, preventing end-runs around constitutional safeguards, extending the protection of the journalist’s privilege, and ensuring public access to government documents.

He had a particular enthusiasm for the visual and performing arts. In 2000, he and DWT partner Victor Kovner assembled a coalition of leading art museums and other cultural institutions across the country to serve as amici in defending the Brooklyn Museum of Art from the efforts of then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, who sought to withdraw municipal funding and evict the museum from its city-owned building, to punish it for displaying "disgusting" works. The museum prevailed.

Earlier this year, Ed was honored by the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund for his successful pro bono work on behalf of playwright David Adjmi, who satirized the television show Three’s Company in his play 3C and was accused of copyright infringement. Introducing Ed at the Dramatists Guild of America’s annual meeting, playwright J.T. Rogers described him as a "super lawyer" and a needed champion for artists and free expression in the dramatic arts.

Ed’s support for the free exchange of ideas extended beyond U.S. borders. In 2007, representing a coalition of writers and publishers, he and DWT partner Linda Steinman successfully challenged the U.S. government’s policy of restricting U.S. publication of books and articles originating from Cuba, Iran, and the Sudan, which were then subject to U.S. trade embargoes. Ed also spoke regularly on Chinese media law and provided advice on publishing and newsgathering activities in China for international media clients. He was co-author of the chapters on China and Hong Kong in the International Libel & Privacy Handbook (Bloomberg Press, 2d ed. 2010).

Ed was devoted to public service and was honored in 2013 with DWT’s Willard J. Wright Award, given to a partner who demonstrates a commitment to the community.

He maintained a decades-long commitment to the Legal Action Center in New York, which is focused on improving public health and society by helping people with criminal records, histories of addiction, and HIV/AIDS rebuild their lives. He first worked for LAC while a law student and later returned as a staff attorney, litigating test cases for almost five years. He joined LAC’s board in 1998, chaired its development committee for many years, and was honored with the group’s 2014 Arthur Liman Public Interest Award. Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent of The New York Times, introduced Ed at the award ceremony and praised his "towering talent and doggedness."

Ed was also the longtime chair of the Advisory Board of the Pre-Law Institute at John Jay College, and he held many leadership roles in the New York City Bar.

A New Jersey native, Ed graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. As a Marshall Scholar, he received masters degrees from the University of London’s School of Economics and Political Science and its School of Oriental and African Studies.

Among Ed’s numerous clients were: Abrams Books,, AMC Networks, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bloomberg LP, Cablevision Systems, Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, Consumer Reports, The Daily Beast, Forbes Media, the Ford Foundation, IAC/InterActiveCorp, Madison Square Garden, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mobile Commons, The New Press, The Nielsen Company, The Onion, Participant Media, PEN American Center, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, The Public Theater, and Spotify USA.

Ed is survived by his husband, Tom Phillips, his mother, sister, niece, extended family, and a wide network of devoted friends.

His humility and generosity of spirit made him a mentor to all who had the privilege and good fortune to know and work with him. We will miss him deeply.