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In Memoriam: David W. Brown, July 8, 1975 – October 15, 2022
October 17, 2022
The Paul, Weiss community mourns the loss of our beloved friend and partner David W. Brown, who passed away on October 15, 2022, at the age of 47. There are no words to describe the pain we are experiencing after his untimely and unexpected passing.
A graduate of Harvard College (’97) and Harvard Law School (’00), where he served as Notes Editor of the Harvard Law Review, Dave joined Paul, Weiss as a summer associate in 1999 and returned to the firm’s Litigation Department in the fall of 2001, following his clerkship for Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Dave quickly established himself as indispensable for his work ethic, first-rate legal work, dedication to clients and absolute professionalism. He was elected as a partner in October 2008 at the age of 33—an unusually rapid rise to the partnership.
Dave was a brilliant lawyer, a dogged investigator and a gifted writer. But above all, he was a cherished member of Paul, Weiss, respected and admired by everyone within the firm. Dave was a leader of our community and stood up for what was right and just. He was kind, generous, empathetic and passionate; he reflected the very best values of our firm, and his loss is irreplaceable.
Dave’s career at the firm was extraordinary. He handled some of the highest-stakes litigations and most sensitive, high-profile investigative matters for the firm’s most important clients, and was recognized repeatedly for his extraordinary accomplishments. Dave was named to The National Law Journal’s inaugural “Minority 40 Under 40 List” in 2011; to the New York Law Journal’s “Rising Stars” list in 2013; and to the Crain’s New York Business’ prestigious “40 Under 40” list in 2014.
Among myriad other matters, Dave played a key role on behalf of 21st Century Fox in investigations concerning allegations of misconduct against Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly; the National Football League in an investigation concerning workplace conduct at the Miami Dolphins following the departure of offensive lineman Jonathan Martin; a special committee of the National Basketball Players Association in internal and governmental investigations concerning allegations of misconduct against the NBPA’s former executive director; and Scooter Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, in his trial for perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice. Dave also represented the National Music Publishers’ Association, the Songwriters Guild of America and the Nashville Songwriters Association International in a landmark copyright litigation. In 2008, after a 28-day trial featuring testimony from 46 witnesses, Dave and the Paul, Weiss team secured a ruling from copyright judges, later affirmed on appeal, that rejected requests by record companies to slash, by approximately $1 billion, royalties paid to music publishers and songwriters for the sale of their works. He handled many other highly confidential matters.
Dave was a champion for social justice and worked to improve our criminal justice system. He dedicated thousands of hours of pro bono work on behalf of incarcerated clients. In a case he said was among the most rewarding of his career, Dave helped lead a team representing Pablo Fernandez, who spent 24 years in prison in New York for a murder he did not commit, winning reversal of Mr. Fernandez’s conviction in February 2019. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office dropped all charges later that year. Dave then led a team seeking redress for Mr. Fernandez’s wrongful imprisonment, recovering $12 million from the City of New York in May 2022. Dave’s work on behalf of Mr. Fernandez was featured on the podcast “Wrongful Conviction” earlier this year.
In 2016, after Dave met with officials in the Obama White House, who asked the firm to consider representing federal prisoners who were eligible to be considered under the administration’s executive clemency program for nonviolent drug offenders, Dave spearheaded an effort that led Paul, Weiss lawyers to take on more than 30 of these matters. Five Paul, Weiss clients were subsequently granted clemency, including one serving a life sentence.
Dave counseled a number of incarcerated clients seeking parole release after decades of imprisonment, resulting in several clients winning release. Dave and teams of Paul, Weiss lawyers worked closely with these incarcerated clients to prepare them for their interviews with the state Parole Board, to develop compelling submissions supporting their release, and to bring successful court challenges overturning Board decisions that denied release.
Dave, likewise, represented pro bono clients seeking resentencing under the First Step Act, legislation intended to provide relief to individuals previously sentenced under draconian sentencing laws for certain narcotics offenses. In June 2019, one of these representations resulted in a precedent-setting victory, holding that a prior sentence reduction under the 2014 amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines is not a bar to further sentencing relief under the Act.
Dave believed in giving back and paying it forward. He was a valued mentor to countless law students and Paul, Weiss associates, providing them career advice and helping them to develop their legal skills. He frequently spoke on college and law school campuses about his career path, his pro bono work and issues of social justice.
Dave was extraordinarily engaged in the community, serving on multiple public interest boards, including the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Harlem Link Charter School and the Council of Urban Professionals, among many others. During Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, Dave served on NYC’s Panel for Educational Policy. He was also an avid supporter of Village Health Works, a joint Burundi-based nonprofit with a mission of providing high-quality, compassionate health care in Burundi.
Dave was devoted to his family. He leaves behind his wife, Claire Evans; their infant daughter, Fiona; his mother, Monika Brown; his father, Wycliffe Brown; three brothers, Michael Brown, Wycliffe Brown and Paul Brown; and a sister, Maureen Brown.
Dave left us far too soon and will be deeply missed. We are grateful for everything we learned from him as a leader, partner, mentor and friend.