“He just was a phenomenal person, and an incredibly talented lawyer,” Cramer & Anderson senior partner William C. Franklin said of his colleague David P. Burke, who died Tuesday, March 15, at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury as the result of injuries he sustained in a cycling accident March 12 on Route 209 (Bantam Lake Road) in Morris.
“He very passionately represented his clients,” said Franklin of his fellow senior partner. “A lot of lawyers try to get ‘just’ results. David was always troubled by the gap between what was judicially appropriate and what was fair. He always tried to bridge that gap. He’d say, ‘Can you think of a way to get a better outcome here?’”
A passion for achieving optimum outcomes, in every aspect of life, was Burke’s trademark, according to his colleagues, who recalled his passion not only for cycling but also for skiing, sailing, photography, woodworking, gourmet French cooking and the French language.
“Everything he did, he was all in—everything from bicycling to skiing, to cooking and photography,” said attorney Dan Casagrande, a partner who worked with Burke in the Danbury office, which Burke is credited with initiating and nourishing as a means of establishing a foothold in northern Fairfield County.
Litigation for Burke was “all or nothing,” added partner John Tower. “He always did everything 100 percent.”
“You have to see some of the accolades we’re receiving from clients,” said another senior partner, Art Weinshank, who called Burke “the heart” of the thriving Danbury office.
A news story in the Republican American of Waterbury said the cycling accident happened at approximately 11 a.m. when the front tire of Burke’s bicycle hit a pothole and he was propelled into a guardrail. Burke, who was wearing a helmet, was flown to Saint Mary’s Hospital by Life Star helicopter.
Burke, who was 63, lived in Redding with is wife, June Anne, a partner with the Global Equity Services Group of Baker & McKenzie in New York City. He is also survived by a son, Gregory Burke, and two daughters, Victoria Burke, a member of the U.S. Rowing team, and Alexandra Burke Vogdes. She and her husband, Brian, have a daughter, Collette.
He is also survived by his mother, Suzanne, and by three brothers, Timothy, Christopher and John.
Burke, who graduated from Miami University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and earned his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from George Washington University in 1978, represented clients in civil, commercial and domestic litigation matters.
Among the notable results he achieved for clients were a multi-million dollar resolution of a breach of trust claim, and a six-figure settlement for client injured in a fall at a hotel.
“He walked the walk and he was one of the best lawyers I’ve had the opportunity to practice with,” said Casagrande. Citing his colleague’s “tremendous devotion to his clients and their causes,” Casagrande summed up Burke by saying, “He exemplified what we all aspire to in trying to be good lawyers.”
Franklin, who brought Burke to Cramer & Anderson, recalled encountering him initially as an adversary in a case—and how that interaction engendered only respect and admiration.
“I met him because he and I were on the opposite sides of a case that went to trial in Litchfield Superior Court,” Franklin said. “Despite the fact that he was very talented and aggressive, and a very prepared attorney, he was also very reasonable and quite a gentleman.”
“During the trial, on a lark, I asked him if he had any interest in coming to Cramer & Anderson. To my surprise he said he was interested,” Franklin said.
Burke’s fellow senior partners offered the same picture of their colleague’s integrity; he fought with passion and commitment on every case, but always fairly and never with any tricks or untoward gamesmanship.
“A lot of lawyers are aggressive, but not smart,” said Franklin. “He was very smart and knew when to be aggressive, but also knew when it was in client’s interest to accept a compromise.”
Those qualities gave Burke an edge with another aspect of his practice, complex matrimonial cases involving significant assets, trusts and other complicated elements.
“It’s a very difficult field because the clients are more emotionally charged,” Franklin said. “He was very, very good at working through those cases, handling people who were emotionally charged in a professional and courteous way.”
Within the firm, Burke was instrumental in launching the Danbury office, and for taking on a leadership role in uniting all of the partners on key issues as the firm grew. “He firmly believed that for us to succeed we had to collectively pull together,” Franklin said.
Burke initially worked in the Cramer & Anderson’s New Milford office, but, living in Redding, he saw the potential to expand and capture the northern Fairfield County market.
“He had been at the New Milford office and he still hadn’t hung one thing on the walls,” Weinshank recalled of a signal that Burke was eager to lead the move southward. “David was instrumental in bringing Dan Casagrande and Kim Nolan on to join him in Danbury. He was the heart of that office. He’ll be greatly missed.”
While remembering the professional side a colleague whom Franklin called experienced, competent, ethical and respected (“all you can ask when you fight with people all the time”), Cramer & Anderson’s attorneys and staff are also mourning the loss of a friend.
“I owe a tremendous debt to David,” said Nolan. “He was instrumental in bringing me to Cramer & Anderson. He made me a better lawyer. Beyond practicing law together, we cycled hundreds of miles together, and during those rides we shared conversations on life, family, politics, and a host of other topics. I will always cherish those memories. He was one of a kind.”
“He was a very caring person,” said Franklin, remembering a time when he was having a medical procedure and Burke stopped by the hospital at 7:30 a.m. to check on him. “My girlfriend thought he was a doctor. He walked in like he was running the show,” Franklin recalled with a smile.
“I felt a kinship to him and a very close professional connection,” said Tower, who spent a great deal of time at Saint Mary’s Hospital after Burke’s accident.
The iconic image of his friend that stays with Tower is the photograph over Burke’s desk in the Danbury office, the one of him on his bike, climbing a mountain in France that’s part of the Tour de France route, with his daughter Victoria riding right behind him.
Burke was born in Pasadena, Calif., on March 15, 1953, the obituary said. He died on his 63rd birthday.
Weinshank said the hardest thing for Burke’s fellow attorneys and friends at Cramer & Anderson is trying to the process the fact that he was “just riding his bike on a beautiful day.”
“He was obviously doing what he loved,” said Tower with a note of hope in his voice.
“I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss him,” Casagrande said.
The obituary in The News-Times noted that Burke was a loving pet owner “and will be sorely missed by David and June Anne’s rescue dogs, James and Ariel.” Memorial contributions, according to the obituary, can be made to the National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org), Danbury Animal Welfare Society (www.daws.org), or the USA Cycling Development Foundation (www.usadcf.org).