Stanley Neustadt, advocate for public stations, dies at 87

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Stanley S. Neustadt, 87, a longtime communications lawyer for public stations, died May 30 in suburban Virginia. He had lived with Parkinson’s disease for the past 12 years.

“Anyone who appreciates public radio and TV should give him some credit because he had a large role in preserving and reserving the frequencies for them,” said a friend and law school classmate Herbert Schulkind.

Not long after receiving his law degree from Columbia University in 1948, Neustadt found himself near the center of an unprecedented disturbance at the FCC. He joined the FCC staff as legal assistant to Frieda Hennock, the first female member of the commission and a flamboyant, persistent advocate for reserved educational channels.

In an interview with oral historian Jim Robertson, Neustadt recalled that Hennock, as a New York Democrat, was eager to avoid being labeled as a “pinko,” but wanted to identify herself with an issue she could get behind. After attending a weekend meeting of educational broadcasters in Columbus, Ohio, he said, she returned and told him, “Boy, Stanley, do those educators drink!”

The educational broadcasters gave her the issue and she gave the issue her all. Neustadt said the campaign for channel reservation “needed somebody to kind of dramatize, highlight, scream, be inconsiderate, be irrational if need be.” And Hennock fit the bill.

Neustadt worked two years as Hennock’s legal assistant and then until 1955 for the FCC general counsel’s office before joining the communications law firm of Cohn & Marks, a firm closely associated with the public television movement. Neustadt served as counsel to the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and many individual public broadcasting stations. His longtime clients included licensees for students including Los Angeles Public Schools, Florida State University, Western Illinois University, Iowa State University, Bowling Green State University, Northern Michigan University and South Dakota Educational Broadcasting.

Another Cohn & Marks partner, Roy Russo, described Neustadt as “an amazing talent at brief-writing” who participated in winning cases including Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters (1989) and Melody Music (1965). He retired from the firm in 2000 in his 70s.

Neustadt was instrumental in resolving a non-media legal dispute by losing a case in the U.S. Supreme Court — as a plaintiff, along with his wife, Rose-Barbara Neustadt. Citing structural defects in house they acquired with a Federal Housing Administration loan, the couple argued unsuccessfully that the FHA property inspector had negligently failed to protect them. But in the case United States v. Stanley S. Neustadt et ux., 366 U.S. 696 (1961), the high court disagreed 8 to 1, Schulkind said. The court decision effectively limited federal responsibility for policing construction quality.

A son of Hungarian immigrants, Neustadt grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, received his bachelor’s degree at Columbia and was in law school when he joined the war effort in 1939. He piloted Army Air Corps cargo and troop transports in the region of Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan. Returning to Columbia after the war, Neustadt finished law school and came to Washington to work.

There, on a blind date arranged by Schulkind’s cousin, Neustadt met Rose-Barbara Yohalem, who would become his spouse for 60 years. The couple that night went out to hear Billie Holiday. Ms. Neustadt became active in civic and political affairs, serving as a legislative aide in Virginia and becoming president of the state’s League of Women Voters.

Mr. Neustadt remained proud of his family’s Hungarian heritage, following the achievements of the country’s famed phyicists and mathemeticians as well as composers, according to his son Mark.

Survivors include Neustadt’s wife Rose-Barbara, daughter Irene Neustadt Pearson, son Mark Neustadt and three grandchildren.

A funeral service was held June 1 in northern Virginia.

Information added: This article contains additional details received after publication of the print edition from Ron Russo a partner in Cohn & Marks. Included were dates for Neustadt’s FCC service, for instance.

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