Steve Swander

Steve Swander

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Steve Swander, R.I.S.

We lower the Satyricon’s flag to half mast today in honor of Steve Swander, the Immediate Past President of the First Amendment Lawyers’ Association. Mesothelioma took his life at 3:45 AM today.

His practice was based in Fort Worth, Texas, where the local weekly described him as an expert at fighting authorities in the State of Texas over “morals laws.” (source) Swander was a much-respected soldier in the ongoing battle to preserve civil liberties and freedom of expression. (source) And, he did so in Texas – hostile territory for someone on his side of the fight. (source)

The Dallas Observer wrote of him:

Swander is a professorial type who speaks carefully and almost winces when he comes to the more colorful details of what obviously is a specialty, the relationship between body parts and free speech. He spiels off the history of clear latex pasties: the court decision that caused the clubs to switch to non-latex pasties in order to change their status to Class A dance halls and escape location limits, followed by a new ordinance in 1997 focusing on the breast beneath the nipple, struck down by the court, thereby allowing clubs to operate with non-flesh-colored pasties as dance halls rather than sexually oriented businesses. (source)

That might not be a typical selection for a eulogy, but Swander wasn’t a typical guy. I see that quote and a big smile breaks out across my face, as I remember Steve.

And, it isn’t just me… my inbox is bursting with expressions of respect and sorrow from fellow members of the First Amendment Bar. If you knew Steve, this would be of no surprise to you. If you didn’t know Steve, and you saw the list of names in the “from” lines on those emails, you would think that a Supreme Court justice had just passed away. This was a bona-fide First Amendment Bad Ass.

Normally, I wouldn’t share FALA emails with the rest of the world, but I think I can make a limited exception in this case.

The current president of the organization, Daniel Aaronson, wrote about observing Steve as he prepared to take over the FALA helm.

I saw a man who conducted himself with a quiet calm grace that made all respect him. I will truly miss Steve and on behalf of all of FALA I will take the liberty of saying that we will all miss him.

Thank you Steve for your dedication to the First Amendment, to our organization and for just being you. You will be remembered.

The usually irreverent Paul Cambria, provided this particularly somber expression of respect:

When a person dies there is a set of numbers on the left of their tombstone representing the day their life began then a dash and a set of numbers on the right representing the day their life ended, but the dash represents their life. In Steve’s case that dash was filled with good things, good friends and good accomplishments great guy will be missed by all of us.

In honor of our fallen friend and colleague, I lower the flag to half mast and award Mr. Swander a posthumous First Amendment Bad Ass award.

If there is an afterlife, I am certain that Steve has already gotten to work there making sure that the place is more fun for the rest of us when we arrive. When you get there, if the angels are bare-breasted, and not wearing bikini tops, you can probably thank Steve.

Rest in slack, Steve.

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