Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The New York Times > Obituaries > Ronald L. Plesser, 59, Lawyer, Is Dead
Ronald L. Plesser, 59, Lawyer, Is Dead
By JENNIFER BAYOT
onald L. Plesser, a privacy lawyer who helped ease access to government records and shape policy on access to personal e-mail messages, customer databases and other innovations of the electronic age, died on Nov. 18 at Washington Dulles International Airport. He was 59 and lived in Washington.
His death, apparently caused by a heart attack, was announced by the law firm of Piper Rudnick, where Mr. Plesser was a partner and chairman of the electronic commerce and privacy practice group.
For three decades, first as a litigator for a group started by Ralph Nader and later as a corporate lawyer, Mr. Plesser helped civil liberties advocates, policy makers and businesses negotiate privacy matters. He influenced policies and statutes restricting the use of cable subscriber information, video-rental records, cellphone conversations and e-mail messages, among other things.
"It is very difficult to think of a privacy statute that's been enacted over the last 25 years that Ron didn't have some responsibility for," said Jerry Berman, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a public policy group in Washington.
In the 1970's, as a trial lawyer for the Nader group, the Center for Study of Responsive Law, Mr. Plesser listed what he saw as flaws in the Freedom of Information Act, which provides public access to government records. His report prompted Congress to amend the statute in 1974, and in 1976 he became general counsel of the Privacy Protection Study Commission, which monitored compliance with the revised act.
Later in his career, Mr. Plesser represented corporations like Time Warner, MCI, Viacom and Netscape in electronic privacy cases, often persuading them that protecting their customers' information was in their interest. Meanwhile, he convinced privacy advocates of the benefits of information technologies.
He represented clients in shaping at least a dozen federal statutes, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, the Can-Spam Act, the USA Patriot Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Ronald Louis Plesser was born May 28, 1945, in Queens. He received a bachelor's degree and law degree from George Washington University.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara Gould Plesser; two children, Jeremy Daniel and Michelle Dianne; a brother, Andrew, of Great Neck, N.Y.; a sister, Lori Brennen, of Spotsylvania, Va.; and his mother, Eunice Plesser, of Rockville, Md.