[Politech] Stefan Presser, RIP [fs]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Oct 11 2005 - 08:30:46 PDT

I had the pleasure of meeting Stefan nearly a decade ago during the 
legal challenge to the Communications Decency Act, which began in 
Philadelphia and in which he was deeply involved. He will be missed.


-------- Original Message --------

From: John Morris <jmorris@private>
Date: October 11, 2005 1:17:17 AM EDT
To: David Farber <dave@private>
Subject: Stefan Presser


I thought it would be appropriate to send to IP a brief remembrance
of Stefan Presser, the former Legal Director of the ACLU of
Pennsylvania.  The Internet has lost a good and long-time friend with
Stefan's passing, at age 52.  See the obit at

Although Stefan would have been the first to disclaim a deep
knowledge of the inner workings of the Internet, he played an
instrumental part in Internet free speech cases for as long as there
have been such cases.  Stefan was on the ACLU's legal team in the
1996 legal challenge to the Communications Decency Act, resulting in
the seminal Reno v. ACLU decision by the Supreme Court in 1997.
Stefan continued as the ACLU's local counsel in the critical Internet
free speech cases filed in Philadelphia following the victory in the
CDA case (including the still on-going challenge to the COPA
statute).  Most recently, I was privileged to be co-counsel with
Stefan in the 2004 CDT v. Pappert case (involving the blocking of 1.5
million innocent web sites in a misguided Pennsylvania effort against
child pornography).  That case would prove to be the last that Stefan
tried -- his diagnosis with and initial treatment for cancer occurred
toward the end of the 13 days of evidentiary hearing spread out from
January to June of 2004.

Stefan's work reached far beyond the Internet, and addressed some of
the most fundamental human rights.  Among his successes over his 25+
year legal career, for example, was a landmark restructuring of the
care provided by the City of Philadelphia to abused and neglected
children.  But Stefan worked equally hard in cases not expected to be
seminal or landmark -- cases that involved a single injustice, or
that vindicated only one person's rights.  He took great pleasure,
for example, in an early victory against the Transportation Security
Administration -- in that case, an 18- or 19-year old college student
had (with no justification) ended up on the TSA's watch list, and she
had been repeatedly detained at airports while attempting to return
home for the holidays in the middle of a year of study abroad. Before
she flew back out of the country, Stefan prepared a complaint and
motion for a temporary restraining order against the TSA, and then
without even filing the lawsuit he convinced the TSA and the
Department of Justice to back down.  The end result was that a DOJ
attorney personally went to the Philadelphia airport to ensure that
the student was able to board her flight without delay.

The Philadelphia stories give a richer flavor of Stefan and his work,
at http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/12857056.htm and http://
www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/12863484.htm.  With his passing, Stefan
joins two other other great lawyers -- Bruce Ennis and Ron Plesser --
who made important contributions to the protection of rights on the
Internet, but who died far too young.  As with Bruce and Ron, Stefan
will be sorely missed.

John Morris

John B. Morris, Jr.
Staff Counsel
Center for Democracy and Technology
1634 I Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 637-9800
(202) 637-0968 fax

Politech mailing list
Archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (http://www.mccullagh.org/)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.3 : Tue Oct 11 2005 - 08:51:36 PDT