Steve Swander

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.

7 Responses to Steve Swander

  1. annonymoosee says:

    “Texas – hostile territory for someone on his side of the fight.”

    Indeed as a resident of Texas I can attest to the ultra-conservative staunch Southern Baptist mentality that governs most of our legislative decisions – thanks in part to our current Governor.

    We will all miss Steve who fought the good fight and hope others will step up to fill the void.

  2. D says:

    Steve Swander has represented me and my business for many years. I am devastated by his passing. He was a dear friend, attorney and mentor. His loss is felt by so many from coast to coast. He was one of the best at protecting our First Amendment rights. Thanks for everything Steve. Love always

  3. Wayne B. Giampietro says:

    Marc: What a wonderful tribute to Steve. You have expressed eloquently the feelings of all of us who knew him. Thank you personally, and on behalf of all of the FALA members.

    Wayne Giampietro

  4. joe morris says:

    I testified for Steve on numerous cases regarding first amendment rights. He was a teacher and student of the law. I will miss him but more importantly those who value their rights to free speach, and are againt law enforcement havlng a John Wayne attitude will miss him the most. I will miss him and think of him every time I pass an SOB establishment. He is with the angles and haven is a better place because of him.

    joe morris

  5. Randy Butler says:

    Steve was my attorney since 1994. Great guy. Don’t think I’d still be in business today without him. I will be forever grateful.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Steve was opposing counsel in some of my cases and was always a pleasure to work with. I was saddened to hear of his passing.

  7. C. E. Cole says:

    Steve represented me on a minor issue many years ago, where a company I had resigned from decided not to pay wages and vacation pay still owed, not just to me but other employees. After being contacted by Steve via letter, they paid immediately. He then helped me with contacting a company regarding an invention, including all follow-up.

    I’m only just now finding out about his passing because even though I live in Oregon now, and even though it was 25 years ago that he assisted me, Steve is the first person I thought of in terms of obtaining an attorney to help me pursue the marketing of another invention. His ethics were unquestionable. As I mulled over in my mind what I would say if he asked why choose him instead of an Oregon attorney, my response would have certainly been, “Because I know I can trust you.”

    I’m so sorry to discover that this unswerving sword of justice now lies still.

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