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It is with great sadness that Best Best & Krieger LLP announces the passing of Washington, D.C. partner Joseph Van Eaton. Van Eaton led BBK’s nationally recognized Telecommunications team.

“Joe was a dedicated leader, very talented practitioner and strong advocate. He had an unwavering passion for excellence and a great sense of humor,” said BBK Managing Partner Eric Garner. “He will be greatly missed by everyone here and we offer our heartfelt sympathies to the Van Eaton family.”

In a career spanning more than 45 years, Van Eaton dedicated himself to giving a voice to local government interests on a broad range of communications law issues before the FCC and state agencies, in federal and state courts, and at the negotiating table. He helped countless communities meet the communications needs and improve the lives of their residents, by drafting communications ordinances, negotiating franchises for cable and telecommunications service providers, or assisting communities in developing their own communications networks. Also a federal registered lobbyist, he was a leading advocate for local governments and played an active role in all major regulatory and legal debates on cable, internet and wireless regulation.

Van Eaton’s significant litigation and appellate experience includes successfully arguing cases in most of the U.S. Courts of Appeal and before several state Supreme Courts.

Van Eaton’s BBK colleagues fondly recall his unwavering commitment to excellence and his ability to unite others around a common goal. He was a “great lawyer, man and mentor” and an educator who “excelled at distilling multifaceted legal and industry developments.”

“Joe made me a smarter and more thoughtful lawyer, and I know many others who heard him speak, read his writings, worked with him as a client or colleague, and even his adversaries on the industry side, would say the same,” said BBK Partner Gail Karish. “He was always approachable and encouraged discussion. He actively sought out others’ views, which enhanced his ability to offer new and inspiring ideas. He had an amazing talent for seeing a creative way forward to resolve a given issue where others saw no path.”

Van Eaton was widely recognized for his talents and successes. He served as a special appointee to the board of directors of the Alliance for Community Media and was honored with the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) Lifetime Achievement in Municipal Law Award and President’s Award, the George Stoney Award, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Ovation Award.

“If one really wanted to understand just how much Joe dedicated his professional life to municipal law and municipal lawyers, one need only attend an annual IMLA softball game,” said BBK Partner Gerard Lavery Lederer. “Almost every player on the field was there because of Joe – not his softball skills, but because every player on the diamond knew just how much they and their communities meant to Joe.”

Van Eaton graduated cum laude with a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and magna cum laude with a B.A. from Syracuse University. Before joining BBK in 2011, he was a founding partner at Miller & Van Eaton, a nationally recognized telecommunications law firm.

“Joe was deeply committed to the public interest. We are all better attorneys and his local government clients serve their citizens better because of Joe’s talents and commitment to legal ideals and better results. And he was a great friend.” said Nick Miller, his partner and colleague at both Miller & Van Eaton and BBK.

Van Eaton’s full obituary can be seen here. His passing was also announced by Communications Daily and TR Daily. Contributions in Van Eaton’s memory may be sent to the World Central Kitchen.

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